iPad 4 vs iPad 3: spot the difference

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Apple has launched the iPad 4, surprising and irritating many an iPad 3 owner. But is it really that much different?

If you have bought an iPad within the last month, and haven’t trashed the thing, you’ll be able to exchange your iPad 3 for a new iPad 4. Apple has upped its usual 14-day exchange period to 30 days in an attempt to appease Apple iPad buyers.

iPad 4 vs iPad 3 – What’s the same?

It’s a good job Apple didn’t make too much of a hoo-hah about the launch of the 4th Generation iPad. If it had, this would have been labelled the most disappointing iPad launch of all time.

Most of the tablet remains the same. It looks the same, it feels the same, and it weighs the same amount too. The screen is identical to the iPad 3’s, the battery seems to be exactly the same unit and the black and white finishes are as they have always been.

If you’re anything but the most hardcore of technophile iPad user, you really don’t need to worry too much about the iPad 4.

Bought one within the last few weeks? Trade it in for the younger model by all means. But if you snagged an iPad 3 three months ago and are deeply upset by the announcement of the iPad 4, you’re caring a little too much.

That’s our opinion, anyway. However, here are all the changes Apple has made in the new 9.7-inch iPad tablet.

Read our iPad mini preview >

iPad 4 Camera

Apple has made a minor, but useful, tweak to the iPad camera setup in the iPad 4. The rear camera sensor remains the same, with a 5-megapixel sensor and no flash at all. Bah humbug.

It’s the user-facing camera that has changed. The iPad 3 used a VGA sensor, which is about as basic as camera sensors get.

The iPad 4 camera has been upgraded to 1.2 megapixels, letting you record video at 720p resolution as well as take better-quality photos. The main reason for this upgrade is a bit political – the iPad mini has a 1.2-megapixel sensor, and the full-size iPad can hardly be seen as slumming it next to the cheaper model.

Apple’s main use for the user-facing sensor is as a video chat camera, for use with FaceTime, which is Apple’s take on Skype.

iPad 4 CPU

The biggest upgrade in the iPad 4 is the new CPU. Apple calls it the A6X processor, where the iPad 3 used the A5X chip.

The full tech specs of the new processor have not been revealed, but Phil Schiller says that the core CPU and GPU performance have both been doubled. This is likely in response – in part – to some developer claims that the A5X processor didn’t quite have the grunt to make the Retina display screen fly with high-performance games.

The new processor should hopefully mean the iPad 4 can roughly level-peg with the iPhone 5, which uses the lower-powered A6 chip.

iPad 4 Lightning Connector

One update to the iPad we were expecting was the Lightning connector. Apple is a company that likes to keep things fairly clear and simple, and not having the latest iPad “on-message” simply would not do.

The Lightning connector replaces the 30-pin connector that was used in Apple devices for around a decade. It’s smaller, but is capable of the same sort of functionality, including connecting to an SD memory card or HDMI connection when used with the right adaptor.

This is the change we’d say people need to worry about the least. While 30-pin accessories will slowly die out, they’re not going to be whisked off the face of the earth too soon. Apple has sold 100 million iPads, and all of them use the 30-pin connector. That doesn’t take into account the million and millions of iPhones and iPods either.

iPad 4 4G Connectivity

The iPad 3 was only available in the UK as either a Wi-Fi only tablet or a Wi-Fi plus 3G tablet. Having a 4G options would have been a bit pointless anyway, as there isn’t a publically available 4G network.

However, EE’s 4G network is launching to the public on 30 October, changing all that. The iPad 4 adopts the same 4G standard used in the iPhone 5, which will let it connect to EE’s 4G offering. Apple calls it the Wi-Fi plus Cellular model.

4G is a pretty exciting new tech, letting your mobile internet speeds rocket into the stratosphere (as long as the network doesn’t become hopelessly clogged) but at present it’ll cost around £10 a month more than a 3G connection. And EE’s plans are subject to the same sort of download limits as most carrier deals.

If you’re after a Wi-Fi only iPad, this upgrade won’t mean much.

iPad 4 vs iPad 3 Summary

iPad 3 owners don’t need to worry too much about the iPad 4. Yes, if you bought an iPad 3 two months ago, we don’t doubt that you’re annoyed and want to wave a finger in Tim Cook’s face. But let’s all take a deep breath – we’re not missing out on much.

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