All you wanted to know about iPads – at a glance

By Enrique Serrano and Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.

Technology is moving at a breakneck pace. With the release of the 4th generation iPad and the iPad Mini, accompanied by the discontinuation of the so-called “new iPad,” it is easy to get lost among all the different iPad models. What are their names? What are their most distinctive features? Are they worth the upgrade?

To answer these questions — and shed light on the latest improvements — we plugged the key information into the following time-saving chart.

iPad 4 and mini compared

What Are the Main Improvements of the 4th Generation iPad?

These are the key improvements and features of the newest iPad, the “iPad with Retina display”:

  • The A6 processor on the new iPad was a good step forward when compared to the Dual-core A5 processor of the iPad 2. However, the newest iPad 4 comes with an Apple A6X dual-core processor with an enhanced quad-core graphics processing unit. According to Apple, the processor performance of the iPad 4 is double the performance of the previous “new iPad.”
  • The enhanced processor doesn’t imply less battery life, which should still last around 10 hours, as stated by Apple.
  • In spite of being the only iPad officially named “with Retina display,“ the high resolution screen of the 4th generation iPad is the same Retina screen that came with the 3rd generation “new iPad,” offering a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution at 264 ppi.
  • The size and weight of this latest model remain unchanged from the previous version, and they aren’t very different from the dimensions and weight of the iPad 2.
  • The 4th iPad comes with a so-called Lightning connector that replaces the 30-pin dock connector of the previous iPad versions. That means that if you owned docks, cables and peripherals for other previous iPad versions, they will be incompatible with the new iPad models released from now on.

Is It Worth Upgrading to a 4th Generation iPad?

iPad with Retina display

The main question, though, is whether the iPad 4 (officially dubbed “iPad with Retina Display”) is worth purchasing as an upgrade of your previous iPad. It depends. Chances are that you can safely skip that upgrade without missing much if you already owned a “new iPad.” However, each one of the previous upgrades made sense under specific circumstances:

  • The iPad 2 introduced a noticeable difference in size and weight when compared to the iPad 1. If you liked the portability of the iPad, the weight difference made the upgrade worthwhile. The new version also came with a welcome processor upgrade.
  • The “new iPad” 3 first introduced the high-resolution Retina screen which is its most distinctive feature. However, the screen of the iPad 2 was already easy-to-read, so an upgrade was not mandatory. That said, images and texts look stunningly crisp and clean on the Retina screen.
  • The 4th generation iPad with Retina display doesn’t improve the display when compared to the previous (and now discontinued) 3rd generation “new iPad”. Its most noticeable improvement is the upgrade of its processor, with two times more performance according to Apple.

Therefore, if you already own a 3rd generation iPad and you feel it works slow, then upgrading to the 4th generation “iPad with Retina display“ could be a good idea. And there will be apps in the future that take advantage (or even require) that enhanced processing power.

But until that moment arrives, chances are that a 3rd generation iPad would work well for you: it has a great screen, it usually works fast enough, and it won’t make your previous dock obsolete. If you are on a budget and care more about functionality over screen resolution, an iPad 2 can still be a good choice for you.

Key Facts about the Apple Mini iPad

iPad mini
  • The iPad Mini is the smallest and lightest iPad. You can hold its 7.87 x 5.3 inches in one hand and it approximately weighs half an iPad 2 (0.68 pounds.)
  • The A5 dual core processor is the same processor used on the iPad 2.
  • The display has the same screen resolution as the iPad 2 (1024 x 768 pixels) but it only measures 7.9 inches in diagonal (vs. the 9.7 inches on the screen of the iPad 2.) That means that your old apps will still work perfectly on this iPad Mini, but you will see them inside a smaller screen, with a higher density of points per inch (163 vs. 432 ppi.)
  • The camera on the iPad Mini is the same as the camera on the iPad 4 – a 5 MP iSight camera capable of 1080p HD video recording, better than the camera of the iPad 2 (which has a more basic 960 x 720 camera.)

Is the iPad Mini Good for You?

If your smartphone falls short for some tasks, while you still find the standard iPad too bulky, then the bigger and more powerful iPad Mini might be a good option for you. However, we don’t see the iPad Mini as a replacement for a smartphone (as you would still have to carry that gadget with you to pick up your calls) and, according to our experience with smaller tablets, the bigger size of the display in the other iPad versions is useful and welcome when reading, browsing or working with professional apps, specially with continued usage.

The iPad Mini is a compact tablet that is good for casual browsing and reading on the go. Although it is a more expensive tablet than its competitors (starting at $329 USD at the time of this writing,) it is still the cheapest iPad currently available, and has a screen slightly bigger than the new $159 Amazon Kindle Fire and the recently confirmed $199 Google Nexus 7 tablets.

There are competitive alternatives with an edge over the iPad mini. The 7″ Amazon Kindle Fire HD, sold at $199, is cheaper than the $329 iPad Mini and has a higher resolution display (at 216 ppi vs. the 163 ppi on the iPad Mini). Indeed, Amazon claimed achieving record Kindle Fire HD sales the day after the iPad Mini was introduced. Even the 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD, with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels at 254 ppi, is less expensive than the iPad Mini, retailing at $299.

If you prefer bigger, high-resolution screens, apart from the other obvious Apple iPad alternatives, the recently announced $399 Google Nexus 10 with 2560 x 1600 pixels at 300 ppi is another good option to take into account. It has even a bigger size and resolution than the iPad with Retina display.