New iPad 4 Review
Introduction and design
There was much umbrage at the launch of the new iPad 4, as it basically rendered the iPad 3 obsolete mere months after launch. However, with only a minor CPU and front camera change, is there really any point thinking about upgrading?
The question most people ask us when it comes to the new iPad 4 is: what’s different from the old one? Or the iPad 2, for that matter?
Well, in this case it’s pretty easy: there’s a Retina Display that makes everything look superbly crisp, an updated A6X processor with much superior performance, the same 5MP camera on the rear with a 1.3MP HD sensor on the front now to replace the VGA effort.
Oh, and the new iPad 4 is now running iOS 6 out of the box (well, it’s also on the likes of the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, but hey, we’ve already reviewed those, and you don’t really care unless it’s a new iPad, do you?)
The design of the new iPad 4 isn’t really anything different from the original duo from Apple’s tablet range. Actually, while we’re thinking about it, it looks almost identical to the iPad 2 – to the point you’d struggle to tell them apart when turned off.
However, in the hand, there’s a little bit of a difference, especially when it comes to the weight. The new iPad is nearly 60g heavier than the second iteration, and while it’s not terrible, it does add a little arm strain during a marathon movie session.
Sometimes you become accustomed to the weight of a device if you use it enough, and then the whole debacle becomes a completely none issue.
However the weight of the iPad 4 is still noticeable even a few months after first get
ting it – pick it up and hold it for the duration of a movie and that unmistakable heft is still there to haunt you.
Before we get onto all the normal insight over the frame of the new iPad 4, it’s worth talking about one top feature: the Retina Display.
Apple has packed a huge amount more pixels into the 9.7-inch screen – 1536 x 2048 to be exact. However, despite the fact that the Cupertino brand makes a big thing about the 330 PPI density of the iPhone 4S, we’re looking at a screen that’s technically a lot less sharp than its smartphone brethren – around 264PPI.
Apple has got around this fact by stating that the screen is meant to be held 15 inches from the face, rather than the 10 inches the iPhone is supposed to be from your eyes, and as such the sharpness is the same.
Given the fact the term ‘Retina Display’ really isn’t a legally binding term, we don’t care. What matters is the effect – and it’s one of the most impressive we’ve seen on a tablet to date. If someone took an iPad, printed out a really hi-res image of an iOS system and stuck it on the front, we’d struggle to tell the difference – it’s superb, and even squinting up close you’ll be hard pushed to notice any pixelation.
The colour reproduction will also appeal to many, as it’s pretty close to reality – it lacks the punch of the Super AMOLED HD screens seen on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for instance, but it will depend on personal preference as to whether that’s a good thing.
We like the vivid colours of Samsung’s screens, but we know plenty of people that loathe them too.
The main thing is things like internet browsing; photo viewing and movie sessions are all much, much improved over the iPad 2, and is one of the main reasons to pick up the new iPad.
The new iPad, as we said, is only marginally thicker and a little heavier than the iPad 2, and if you pick it up with no knowledge of the former, you’ll likely be mighty impressed.
The rest of the design is premium too – given you can be paying nearly £700 / $AU900 for a top end model, it needs to seem like a worthwhile investment, and it does.
There’s also the new Lightning connector on offer, which brings the smaller, faster port for all your needs… unless your need is to use you recently purchased dock, in which case you’ll need to fork out for an adaptor.
The curved edges, the oleophobic scratch-proof glass and the aluminium chassis are all the kind of thing that some Android tablets have tried to ape and failed. Of course, many will prefer the feather-light frames of some of the Samsung models but, like the screen, it really comes down to personal preference.
The buttonry on the new iPad is pretty sparse though – we’re talking four buttons and that’s your lot.
The iconic home button is back once again, despite rumours of its demise, and is easy to reach and hit within the thick bezel.
The rest of the buttons are all clustered tightly together in the top left-hand corner of the new iPad, with the rocker/volume key, the mute/orientation switch and power/lock key all within an inch of one another.
As you can see, Apple has been pretty efficient with the button placement, with all of them performing more than one function. And they say the iPad can’t multi-task… tsk.
The new iPad 4 is now running ahead of the pack thanks to iOS 6, and with it comes a whole host of new fancy features.
However, before we go through what’s new, we’ll take a quick tour across the operating system to show just how simple it is to operate a new iPad.
The home screen is laid out in a very similar way to the iPhone, except we’re seeing some much larger icons for the apps you’ve downloaded.
You can fill as many home screens as you like with apps as you download more from the App Store, and swiping from screen to screen on the iPad 4 is silky smooth even with loads of programs downloaded.
There’s also the dock at the bottom of the display which can hold up to six regularly-used apps that are present on all home screens, which is more than the four on offer with the iPhone thanks to the extra screen real estate.
Neat freaks need not despair either: it’s easy to create folders of the apps you want to lump together simply by dragging an icon and plopping it on top of another – the iPad will create a name for the group based on the content, but it’s easy to rename these.
iOS 6 doesn’t offer too much in the way of new features for the user interface, but a trick that Apple has learned from Google’s Android is the notifications bar, which can be accessed simply by swiping down from the top of the screen.
This contains information on everything from unread mail messages to notifications of new moves in games you’re playing with friends. It’s a simple system and one that’s prevalent throughout the system, even in most apps, meaning you can easily jump in and out of applications where necessary.
You can also now post a tweet or a Facebook status update from this bar as well – while it’s not the easiest place to share a link directly from, if you just saw a squirrel do the moonwalk time is of the essence when it comes to telling people.
Speaking of which, it’s worth taking a look at the multi-tasking gestures on offer, as they’re pretty sensational. Using a full set of fingers on the screen allows three functions: pinching in will take you to the home screen, flicking up will enable the multi-tasking window and swiping left will let you bounce between open apps.
It really works on the new iPad, and we urge you to check it out as it really makes moving through the system easy and cool at the same time.
There’s a great debate over what really constitutes multi-tasking – but in our view, the iPad does enough to warrant the title. The likes of the BlackBerry Playbook are more capable when it comes to fully running programs in the background, but most users will struggle to really notice the difference when the iPad and its Android competition are asked to jump between apps.
As mentioned, you can easily multi-finger swipe up or double tap the home button to call up a list of recently opened apps, which can be deleted from the tray by a single long press and tapping of the ‘x’ that appears.
Swiping right in the multi-tasking tray will also call up the music player, which allows you to see what songs are about to play, or change the volume or brightness. Not new, but the closest thing to a widget we’ll get here.
The lock screen allows you to do some pretty funky stuff; double tapping the home button will call up the music player so you can switch tracks or pause without needing to open the iPad. Also, there’s an option to have a slide show of your photos – although we’ve all got some we don’t want to see cycling past at times.
The iPad interface is one that’s a little hard to judge, as it’s so subjective we’re bound to be chastised for the manner in which we rate the OS. However, in our minds it’s too simplistic these days, with no opportunity for real customisation, and that’s something we’ve been hoping Apple will fix for years.
The good news is Sir Jony Ive is taking over the design of the OS, and we’re hoping to see some really big changes when iOS 7 rolls around.
But then again others hate overly-complicated user interfaces, and they’ll love the simple icon-centric offering. There are other foibles, like apps not re-aligning when one is deleted off a screen, but there are examples of this happening on other tablets all the time, so it’s hard to criticise the iPad specifically.
Does the iPad 4 really do enough to be the poster boy for the iPad generation, with the all new A6X chip adding more smoothness under the finger? Yes. It’s erased the slowdown we sporadically experienced with the iPad 3, and brings a more ‘flawless’ nature to Apple’s line up.
Compared to the iPad 2, there’s an increase under the hood from 512MB of RAM to 1GB – given the previous iteration had a decent level of snap between programs, the new iPad doesn’t really need to push things too much harder… but if it makes apps loads that little bit more quickly and doesn’t eat battery, then we’re fans.
Basically, if you want simple and a mostly slick user interface, then you’re in for a treat. It’s not the most complete system out there, and while iOS 6 is showing its age it’s still a more than acceptable platform to power Apple’s most complete iPad.
Contacts and FaceTime
When you boil down the ‘point’ of a tablet, the lines are still very blurred between a large smartphone and a standalone device – and the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, with the 5.5-inch screen, are confusing things even more.
The new iPad can do nearly everything its little iPhone 5 brother can do, and brings Siri nicely into the fold too, with some impressive command updates. However, it’s the layout that impresses us, as Apple has taken some time to go through and really make use of the extra screen size.
Contacts are laid out in a proper address book format: we’re talking tabs at the side you can scroll down, and your own contact info all stored on the opening page. If you lose your new iPad then you’ll either get a saint that knows how to contact you to return your device or a scary man who now knows where you live.
The contacts are all sadly faceless at the start – you have to manually go through and give each person a picture unless you’ve synchronised from Google or Exchange and have already assigned one unless Facebook has been selected as a contact group.
You can draw in profile pictures from Facebook now too – it really sets off the new iPad 4 being able to integrate such pictures, although they’re still pretty low res, so doing it manually is still the most impressive way around. Given there’s already deep integration with Twitter and Facebook in iOS it’s important to have this funtionality, although there’s still loads of room for improvement.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, getting contacts on your new iPad can be achieved in many ways: you can download them easily from a previous list on an iPhone or older iPad, and the sync process is jolly quick.
You can also pull them in from the likes of Exchange or Google, although the latter is harder than it should be – if you want to know how to get contacts on the new iPad from Google, you’ll have to follow the linked instructions.
The good news here is all those phone numbers you’ve brought across aren’t useless, as giving the string of digits a tap will result in a FaceTime call.
Of course, this is only any use of the other person a) has a compatible iPhone or iPad and b) is in a Wi-Fi zone or has the pre-requisite extortionate 3G price plan.
The actual call quality itself isn’t too bad – and here’s somewhere that we can actually talk about an improvement from the iPad 3, thanks to the new FaceTime HD camera on the front.
It makes picture quality look much, much smoother in practice… while it won’t matter to you, the person you’re speaking too will appreciate the efforts you make to give them something nicer to look at. Our screengrab proves it.
We’re still not sold on the idea of FaceTime or video calling in general – but in order to achieve ‘enchantment’ with the new iPad Apple mandates you have to call your partner from another country to look at a baby… so video calling is a must.
Just be aware there are other services on the App Store that can achieve the same thing but with much more flexibility.
The iPad 4 is a device that’s really about consuming media than creating it (at least when it comes to prose) and as such, you wouldn’t label it a message-centric device.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the best out there, as when it comes to the likes of emailing it’s simply brilliant if you can get past the slightly odd keyboard.
We’ll start with Apple’s keyboard on the iPad, as it’s consistent throughout the OS. It’s a great option in our eyes if you’re one of those that’s invested in a SmartCover to help bring some elevation to the screen, as you can use it as a desktop keyboard pretty easily – although you’ll need to get over the lack of feedback under the finger and the dull ‘thunk’ as your digits bash the screen.
However, it’s not as good for holding the new iPad 4 and trying to get a missive out to the world; cradling it in landscape mode means you can’t hit the middle keys as easily, and when in portrait you’ve got the issue of the device being quite top-heavy so it’s again an uncomfortable experience.
You can open up a split keyboard to make it a little easier to type in the hands, but be warned this is at the expense of accuracy.
Compared to the iPad mini, it’s worlds apart – that device is perfect for firing out missives in both portrait and landscape, and makes the heavy nature of the iPad 4 look ludicrous.
So in summary: accuracy of keys good, holding big iPad to type bad.
The email client on the iPad 4 is pretty goshdarn good in our opinion – the iOS email app is second only to Windows Phone in our opinion, and that’s not got a tablet category, so Apple’s way out in front here, although there’s now a decent case to be made for the option in Microsoft’s Surface tablet.
From the range of mail portals you can use (many) to the ease of getting notified of an email (unobtrusive – a little pop down from the top and it will sit in your notifications bar), it’s a simple way of using the iPad as a decent background emailing device.
The email interface itself is also good – a unified inbox allows you to combine both work and personal life, but in truth many will prefer to bounce between to two. A list pane can be called up whenever you like, meaning it’s easy to read an email and then jump back into the inbox with a flick of the finger.
And now there’s a little guy that sits above your inbox list and appears whenever you pull down to refresh your emails – it morphs down until you’ve pulled the list far enough to trigger the refresh, and has a fun little animation that made us play with it time and again.
It’s elements like this that make the iPad 4 a different beast to the iPhone (although this little morphing feature is present there too), and Apple has recognised this. Text is also much more legible on the Retina Display – we’re not saying it was terrible before, but we definitely felt it was a more comfortable reading experience.
The other key feature the iPad 4 has is the ability to wander through mail folders – many people are dealing with email overload these days by sticking them in separate folders for later, and it’s key to be able to get access to these without having to mess about with thousands of taps.
Searching for email is similarly easy – you pull down from the top of the screen to get access to the search bar, and from there you can easily ask for any word in an email that might have been put somewhere – be it the sender’s name, subject or general message text – plus the server searches are very speedy as well.
If you’ve got an iPhone or iPad already, the above will be of no surprise to you – the new iPad 4 doesn’t really take this story on any further, except to make text more legible – but it’s worth mentioning as it will be a key feature to many prospective buyers.
Siri has taken the place of Dictation on the new iPad thanks to the arrival of iOS 6, and it’s designed to help you understand what’s being said and note it down in front of you.
However, it’s not improved at all over the original Dictation service, as even with slow, even speech it’s only 90% accurate in our tests, which just isn’t enough to consider switching from the normal keypad when writing an email.
There aren’t that many services out there which are better, in fairness, but that doesn’t mean it makes us love Siri any more… in fact, it just makes us frustrated this awesome feature isn’t better.
Twitter and Facebook
It’s not really messaging as such, but it’s worth mentioning Apple’s deep integration with Twitter. Well, deep as in you can Tweet a photo directly from the Gallery app, as there’s no on board client or anything to mess around with, nor can you assign Twitter names to contacts, although Facebook makes this possible.
The integration for sharing via both of these services is improved too, with the option in the internet browser making it easy to tell your buddies when you’ve seen something of note.
However, when you take a picture there’s an option to post it straight to Twitter or Facebook providing you’ve linked up the account in Settings – plus you get a pleasant little chirping sound when it sends in the case of the former. Nice.
And here we come to one of the key reasons to buy the new iPad 4: the internet browsing experience.
You can imagine that a device designed for internet browsing is only going to be improved hugely with the addition of a high resolution Retina Display – and you’d be pretty much bang on the money.
The screen looks superb when flicking around the internet – be it text heavy sites or those filled with pointless photos of Michael Bublé being stalked by raptors, it all looks so much better than on previous tablets or smartphones.
The odd thing is how impressive text and pictures look on the screen. Yes, we know the pixel density is stupidly high for a tablet, but most of us will have used a desktop monitor with the same level of clarity in the past, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
It’s the shine of the new iPad 4 that makes it so much more stunning – the screen isn’t too reflective, but just gliding your finger over the display is a really pleasant sensation.
We know this isn’t really the way we usually review an internet browser, but Apple users have a different expectation when it comes to purchasing decisions compared to picking up a Google Nexus 7 and thinking about the CPU power running under the hood.
However, if we look at the technical specifications, the new iPad 4 is no slouch as we’ve discussed – and that certainly shows with the internet browsing experience, and is one of the key areas of improvement over the old iPad 3.
We noticed a definite improvement in the speed with which TechRadar loaded over Wi-Fi, with a full page render nearly a second faster than on the previous iteration.
The internet browsing experience on the new iPad 4 is definitely closing in on the experience of the desktop browser, with the likes of tabbed browsing making it very easy to jump between different pages instead of having to flick out to see which windows are currently open.
There are other features that have carried across here as well, with the Reader tab in the address bar turning any text on the page into an ebook like experience.
When we first played with this feature we were excited to no longer have the issue of pictures getting in the way of our reading experience, and since the iOS 6 upgrade you can now save items for offline reading too, which is a real plus.
The web browser does have a few missing elements in our minds, and not just the lack of Flash integration. We’re not going to get into the Flash debate here – it’s becoming almost irrelevant on mobile devices thanks to the onset of HTML5 coding. We’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you can live without web video on certain sites, but at least those sites are becoming fewer and fewer.
It’s more the fact the new iPad 4 web browser hasn’t quite nailed the icon sizes that we take umbrage with. Things like hitting the icon to reload the page or shut down a tab are difficult to hit, as they’re pretty tiny.
Apple has clearly increased the accuracy around these, as otherwise you’d need Borrower-size fingers to use them, but we still had a large number of mis-hits when simply trying to bounce between web pages.
The other issue we’ve got is text reflow, where the words rearrange themselves on the screen to fit your zoom level. Apple’s got that great pinch to zoom functionality on offer, but once you get too close to the text there’s no way to make it wriggle about to fill the screen.
Spend any amount of time with an HTC device, and you’ll see what a key feature this is… when you get to some web pages on the new iPad 4, you simply can’t get close enough into the text and still see it all on the screen at once, and that’s a failing in our eyes.
Overall, the internet browser on the new iPad 4 is terrific though. Web pages load very quickly most of the time, the text looks stunning on the new Retina Display, and getting the answers your require from the web is brilliant.
There are still some things Apple can tidy up: better accuracy on certain elements on the page, a clearer bookmarking system and better zooming in and out of text when viewing long web pages are the key things we’d look at.
But many will buy the iPad 4 primarily for sofa-based web browsing, and it certainly is up to that task.
Camera and video
One of the main upgrades on the new iPad 4 is the camera – we’re talking a move from 0.7MP (which in itself was a move from no camera at all) to a 5MP offering.
This is relatively similar to the snapper located in the iPhone 5, with a ƒ/2.4 aperture and a five-element lens offering up some pretty tasty specs for the amateur photographer that likes to take a quick snap now and again.
We should also mention the ‘tap to autofocus’ mode as well – it helps correct the sharpness and exposure levels of the image, and really works.
Despite the upgrade in specs, it’s hard to believe Apple has really made the camera a priority, as there are some elements we’re struggling to understand.
For instance, you’re able to take a photo using the volume key to make it easier to snap. Firstly, this is quite stiff and leads to some picture wobble, and secondly, doing it this way means it’s almost impossible to not put your finger over the lens.
There’s no flash to speak of, which we can kind of understand given the packaging gone into the iPad 4 chassis, but it would still be nice on occasion.
And the shutter speed, which is so impressive on the iPhone 4S with lower specs, isn’t present here – we’re not talking much slower, and it’s pretty fast – but there’s a slight delay between snaps.
There’s also no hint of High Dynamic Range (HDR) options on the new iPad, which means you don’t get those beautifully interpolated photos so many people like on the iPhone.
However, Apple has kept the new iPad 4 camera simple – we’re happy with the results, but it’s more a decent camera in case of emergency rather than your primary snapping weapon of choice.
The video camera on the new iPad 4 manages to now shoot in 1080p at up to 30 fps, with the front facing camera managing VGA quality at the same 30fps.
There’s not much more to say about the camera, as there’s no option to mess about with the settings when you’re taking a video.
However, the anti-shake effects are very good – quality is strong and the built-in image stabilisation is deeply impressive – our best bouncy walk should have made for unwatchable footage but the new iPad shrugged it off.
Now, here comes the good stuff. Most people we speak to use the iPad for two things: internet browsing and media consumption.
Yes, we know it’s more than half decent for a number of other tasks, but media is definitely one of the new iPad 4’s strong points.
The capacities aren’t upped with the third iteration of Apple’s tablet though; that’s going to be a bit of a worry when you look at some of the media sizes now on offer and you can only choose a 16GB, 32GB or 64GB model.
With no expandable memory on display… well, Apple may have played itself into a corner for the new iPad.
Music used to be the core focus of any Apple product, but that’s clearly no longer the case – not to say the fruity firm has lost its way when it comes to audio playback.
It’s one of the few elements that Apple has deigned to give a widget-like experience too – both on the lock screen and the multi-tasking pane – and users will really feel the benefit of being able to control their tunes from anywhere within the system.
However, the main music player itself isn’t actually that easy to use; we were unimpressed with the fact the controls were stuck high in the top left-hand corner of the app, and there’s no way to increase their size.
It’s not a terrible system, but if you’re using the new iPad 4 to listen to some tunes, there’s not a lot more you’re going to want from the music app when flicking through tracks – larger icons would make much more sense here.
However, in terms of music quality the new iPad is certainly up there – even without messing around with the equaliser or sound check options, the results are still more than good enough for everyone but the most discerning audiophile.
In terms of music formats the device is capable of playing back, we think most would struggle in this day and age to have some incompatible formats from the list of MP3, most types of AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless and WAV files.
Imagine the jump from your standard definition TV to a full 1080p video of something the BBC shot with David Attenborough… it was immense. We were expecting something along the same lines with the iPad 4, but in reality, we weren’t that blown away.
That’s going to sound odd to some people, and we should probably qualify it: with the Retina Display, Apple has brought tablet video watching to the level it should be at. Most users will have seen video on a smartphone at around WVGA or HD level, and been gobsmacked at the sharpness.
Tablets haven’t been able to match that so far… until the iPad 4 that is. Video looks as good on a larger display as it does on a larger screened TV or tiny smartphone, and that’s what we’ve been waiting for.
However, it’s worth pointing out that, like on a full HD TV, the wow factor only comes when you’re viewing 1080p content – other SD movies and TV shows just look OK in comparison. Not terrible by any means… just not amazing.
The new iPad 4 has the best video playback quality we’ve seen from the Apple tablet range so far, with the expected good levels of sharpness.
It sometimes still struggles with the contrast ratios (the difference between the light and dark areas of the video) on non-HD content, and the glossy screen will still annoy people that can see their reflection more than the content on the screen in bright areas.
But it’s still a great movie experience when lying on a deckchair on the beach, or around a campfire in the Amazon (or whatever hip scenario the Cupertino brand is pushing this week) as long as you’ve got some nice content to watch.
Thankfully, Apple has deigned to give users a fully stocked iTunes portal to download video from, and there’s so much to choose from. It’s also pulled a neat trick by making it possible to access 1080p content without adding too much onto the file sizes seen at 720p, which should aid some users’ decisions.
However, there are two areas that severely limit the iTunes store in terms of making it a really compelling video portal: price and file size.
It seems ludicrous that the first season of Modern Family should cost £35 in the UK or $AU40 in Australia when you can pick up the DVD for £10 ($AU20) in most places. We know that’s at HD level, but still – it’s way too expensive to be a viable alternative to just watching it on a TV.
And then there’s the issue of file size – most full HD movies are between 3-4GB in size, which means if you’ve only got a 16GB new iPad, you’re going to be severely limited in what you can take with you (and that’s even before we get into the app sizes).
So it’s a double edged sword when it comes to video on the new iPad 4: on the one hand the screen is pin sharp, the quality excellent at full HD and even the sound out the little grille at the side is strong and relatively powerful on the bass.
But then there’s issue of paying through the nose to actually get the content onto your device (unless you happen to have a glut of M4V-ready HD video files on your home computer) and the fact it will dominate your internal storage too.
We hoped the iPad 4 was going to be the truly amazing video playing device, but this is clearly just a minor upgrade so we should be looking for the iPad 5 (or new iPad fifth generation) until we get up to 128GB of onboard storage and a more affordable video store.
Battery life and connectivity
Apple’s relationship with battery life on its portable devices has been a rocky one over the years. But we’ll let you breathe a little easier: the new iPad 4 has a more than acceptable battery life in our eyes.
It’s an interesting situation – we reckon if the same battery efficiency used here has been put in the iPad 2, the device would be rocking a time between charges of between 3-5 days, even with more than moderate use.
The battery life of the new iPad 4 is slightly improved over the previous iteration, which will obviously impress those worried about the power of the Retina display draining the life out of the device. Over our long term tests with the previous iteration we noted the battery life fell over time, but that should hopefully be nullified somewhat with the new A6X processor.
And then there’s the issue of 4G or 3G connectivity on top of that screen power – push that a little harder and it’s highly likely you’ll be seeing maybe a day’s use out of the new iPad, although we’ve yet to test the 4G version.
If you’re going to be taking the new iPad 4 on a long haul flight and are intending to consume a large amount of video, we’d reckon you could just eke things out to four movies – in our tests we were seeing consumption of around 15% per hour when firing up the screen, although popping down the brightness will see a lower consumption.
After spending several weeks using the iPad 4 we have to say we are extremely impressed with its battery life.
While improvement in battery over the iPad 3 may only be slight during heavy usage, lighter users will witness a noticeable gain, with the iPad 4’s ability to hold onto juice meaning it will happily last days between charges.
There are so many connection options on the new iPad 4 that it’s hard to list them all… but we’re a diligent bunch here, so we’ll give it a go.
The big one we’re excited about is Bluetooth 4.0 – the latest version of the wireless technology, and here’s our explanation from our lovely ‘What is Bluetooth?‘ feature:
"Bluetooth 4.0 uses even less power than previous versions, and enables various devices to replace propriety sensor technology with Bluetooth.
"This Bluetooth Low Energy has benefits for technology in fitness, such as heart rate monitors and pedometers, which before could only communicate with a specific device controlling them. Now this information could theoretically be checked by any phone or computer."
"The use of Bluetooth 4.0 still isn’t that widespread, but it’s tipped to grow, with the possibility to even be used to work as a wireless payment system in a similar fashion to the slower speeds of NFC."
Above that, we’ve got Wi-Fi up to 802.11 n standard, aGPS and a gyroscope. If that wasn’t enough for you, there’s a cellular data connection that can handle up to 73Mbps depending on the territory you’re in, with the likes of DC-HSPA promising speeds of over 40Mbps for those in the less well-connected territories.
As you can probably guess based on the iPhone 5, Apple has decided to once again use a smaller nanoSIM on the iPad 4 – this is annoying as you can’t cut down a microSIM to a nano size very easily, so you’ll have to hassle your network for a whole other card it seems.
Apps and Maps
When it comes to Apps, you’d think there’s nothing much to worry about if you’re using an Apple device. And you’d be mostly right: the new iPad 4 offers up over 700,000 apps, with 250,000 designed for the iPad specifically.
However, there’s a slight worry about those meant for the Retina Display, although probably not to the levels that some in the media are trumpeting at the moment. Sure, there are some that are pushing nearly half a GB in size (iMovie, we’re looking at you here) but we still need to see how other upgraded apps fare.
We’e worryingly seeing 400MB-500MB apps becoming the norm for the iPad, as even with a 32GB model once you’ve chucked in a couple of HD films you’ll be having to think about which apps you want on there… and that’s never a good thing on a device – just ask HTC Desire owners.
Many non-corporate apps are less data hungry still, so you can still get away with not destroying the internal memory of your device just yet… but we’d still advise the 32GB model at least for good measure.
Until then, let’s take a look at the apps Apple is telling us just look sooooo great on the new iPad 4 Retina Display:
If you’re a budding filmographer… well, chances are you’ll want something that’s a little more high power than the iPad and will want a little more effort when it comes to the program used to cut it all together. But for the average Joe Schmo making a couple of videos of his dogs and deciding it would be fun to make a mini movie of them, you know, professional-like, this is a decent addition.
At £3 / $AU5.49, it’s a little pricey, but once you’ve made a couple of movie trailers, you’ll see why it’s more fun than functional – we had a blast once we’d thought about the footage we wanted to chuck in.
The main project option can be really well exploited by putting together some nice interstitials to give your home movies a bit of flair – but be warned, it’s a little limited, despite how awesome the films some people seem to be managing.
We will say one thing: it’s much easier to cut together a decent-ish film with a better looking screen, and in a side by side test between the A5X and A6X processors we noticed a fairly sharp upturn in the rendering speeds.
iBooks is a place where the new iPad 4 really shines. It doesn’t really manage to beat the likes of the Amazon Kindle when it comes to easing strain on the eyes, but the smooth way the letters are laid on the page make it a joy to use to munch through your favourite tome of the moment.
The likes of a little bookmark animation really make this app pop, and with the prices not terrible on many titles this is another decent stab from Apple at taking another cut of the ebook market.
iPhoto is another app that really takes advantage of the Retina Display on the new iPad 4, and it makes editing that much easier thanks to it.
We were quickly applying saturation effects left, right and centre to make our pictures look a little cooler – it’s basically the same as the editing tools already in the photo gallery (where you can auto fix, crop, enhance etc) but made 50x better, with a large amount of effects on offer to play with.
You can export the images to things like Twitter, Facebook and your own journal – for those that love to document their life through the iPad 4 (you know who you are) they’ll love this option on the larger tablet.
Like iBooks, the Newsstand is a much improved version of the previous tablet app – the Retina Display is a real winner in our eyes for making your publications look that much slicker, and the magazines and newspapers that have embedded video really stand out when it comes to showing off the multimedia advantages of a digital publications.
We’ve included this here only because we’re really disappointed with it compared to the iPhone version: there’s no location-based awesomeness to play with.
This is despite the fact the new iPad 4 has a GPS chip built in (on the 3G models), but there’s no way to make sure a reminder is triggered when you’re in a certain area.
You’ve probably seen the outcry over the loss of Google Maps on iOS 6 in favour of the new Apple Maps system – and yes, it’s not the best thing Apple has ever done, with the company currently advising you try other mapping apps on its phones and tablets while it improves the accuracy of its own offering.
The accuracy aside (things like being told Marylebone station is 100 metres to the right of where it actually is doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re navigating there using the directions on foot it can become very irritating) the new Maps app is actually pretty nifty, despite losing some of the functionality like Street View in Google Maps.
For instance, the new app can tell you where there are roadworks, has decent traffic information on the go (although we weren’t able to test the exact accuracy of this as we only had a Wi-Fi version to test initially) and the like of Flyover, which gives a 3D render of real life stuff in a slightly peturbing form.
The UI is more than serviceable when it comes to real life use – the speed of rendering is swift and the Apple-esque fonts and art is impressive, especially when compared to Google Maps on Android.
Directions are now included, so free turn-by-turn navigation is available on an Apple device out of the box. It’s a very clear system with lovely big blue boxes to look at and multiple routes on offer each time, which is something that it beats Google’s offering on. It can also stay asleep and only wake when there’s a turning coming up – which means it won’t rinse the battery if you don’t have a charger.
The only problem is there’s no inbuilt public transport mode here, which means you have to install apps from the App Store to achieve the same thing… Google Maps can already do such a thing.
It’s a decent mapping service, and can locate you very quickly when asked… something iOS devices have always been pretty adept at doing; it’s just frustrating that the new option has managed to forget how to tell you where you actually are.
Hands on gallery
It’s now been a few months since the iPad 3 was unveiled, and now we already have a new version in the new iPad 4. So is there really that much there to talk about, or is it just a covert change that Apple decided to highlight as it’s not got a much faster processor?
Even after all this time the Retina Display still wows. With the SD card add-on it becomes a wonderful device to take on holiday (especially if you’ve invested in a decent camera). Checking out your photos on a beautiful screen with such a higher resolution makes everyday browsing a real pleasure.
Sure, we became a bit blasé about the internet browsing experience after a few weeks, in the same way many people stop noticing HD resolution on their new TV. However, as soon as we saw another tablet or an older smartphone, we were pining for the pin-sharp viewing experience the iPad brings – we suggest you don’t go and look at an iPad mini for fear of that making you sad.
It will be interesting to see how many iPad owners cast an eye over the significantly less premium, but cheaper and smaller Apple iPad mini or Google Nexus 7 by Asus and wonder if that might be a little less worrying to cart around.
It’s almost impossible to give a verdict on an Apple product that everyone will agree with, as there’s so much about its devices that’s entirely subjective, bringing responses no other product could manage.
The new iPad 4, like many of Apple’s products, is a little overpriced for what it delivers, and still lacks some key features, although these are becoming fewer and further between with each iteration.
Well, the first and most obvious highlight on the new iPad 4 is the Retina Display. We’ve talked about it at great length throughout this whopping review and it’s the one element that never failed to impress us no matter what application was running on the screen.
It’s clear, it’s bright, it’s crisp; essentially it properly expands the smartphone experience onto a larger tablet and takes us into a new generation of displays.
We’re also fans of the design of the new iPad – and yes, we know it’s the same as before. We’re not happy about the fact it’s heavier than the iPad 2, but the build quality is something most other manufacturers long for, and are constantly trying to ape.
And then there’s the user interface – another element that polarises opinion. We’re pretty agnostic here at TechRadar, and while we appreciate the power that can be had from widgets, there’s something about the simplicity of the iOS UI that we just love – and simplicity counts for a huge amount in the burgeoning tablet market. Sure, it’s ageing, but it works better on a tablet than on a smartphone.
There will always be those that hate the lack of widgets, customisable home screens and more intuitive notification bars (and we salute you for that) but if you’re in that camp, you’re probably not even bothering to read this review as you know what you’re getting with an Apple device.
For all its power, there are still some elements of the new iPad 4 that could be improved in our opinion. The first is the fact the device will still heat up under medium-term use (depending on the apps you’re running), which could really disconcert some users; despite the fact it didn’t seem to have a huge impact on battery life. However, this is much less of a worry compared to the older version, with the heat not reaching the same worrying levels as before.
Then there’s the things that make it feel like a second class citizen to the iPhone 5: no location-based fun in the Reminders and no HDR mode on the camera either.
We’re not going to criticise it for not being quad-core considering there’s no valid reason for such a chipset as yet in a tablet – but if the market shows there’s a need for such power over the next 12 months then the iPad 4 will look a little behind the curve.
And there’s the issue of storage too: we suggest you steer clear of the 16GB model if you’re going to be using a lot of apps or downloading HD films, as you’ll find the space is used up pretty darn quick and you’ll have to start deciding between different types of content.
For the price, you would expect the iPad to be nigh-on perfect; and although it’s a mighty fine piece of kit, there are some niggles that are tricky to overlook.
The SmartCover is fine in terms of protection, but we couldn’t help but feel it just doesn’t offer enough protection out and about. However, with the new SmartCase, that issue has been solved, although it’s freakin’ expensive to buy. It does save the aluminium though, so that’s worth thinking about.
Despite the above negative points, there’s no doubt we’re once again looking at a top tablet once again. Apple’s greatest strength has always been fusing together some headline features with an OS that just works, and will appeal to the largest amount of people.
Sure, the price is a little high, and in a vacuum would be a real stick with which to beat the new iPad 4. But given many tablets are coming in at well over £500 / $AU600 these days (plus the fact so many people are willing to pay it) we can’t criticise Apple’s pricing too much here.
We do feel there should be a touch more ‘awesome’ for a 64GB device at a near £700 / $AU760 price tag, and beyond the screen there isn’t too much more of an upgrade on show – at least until we get some titles that really show off the prowess of the new iPad’s internals.
In short: if you’ve got an iPad 2, or don’t really care about visuals, then you should stick with / purchase the now much cheaper pad, which starts at £329 / $AU429 – or there’s the superb iPad mini to think about.
But we recommend you probably don’t look at the upgraded model – once you’ve gazed adoringly into the Retina Display, played any of the high-power games or watched a Full HD movie in your hands, you’ll struggle to not hate any tablet that isn’t the new iPad 4, and for that and myriad other reasons, we’ve decided to make it a thoroughly Recommended tablet.
By Gareth Beavis, TechRadar