Eight months. That’s how long the third-generation iPad lasted before Apple decided to refresh the range. The all-new iPad (with retina display) features a new A6X processor, a 720p FaceTime camera (for video calls) and dual-band wi-fi for improved wireless performance.
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To bring it in line with new iPhone 5, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, the 30-pin socket has been replaced with the little reversible Lightning connector, so you'll need the new Lightning adapter in order to connect to any existing accessories or docks.
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There’s no micro SD card slot so you can’t expand the iPad’s memory. If you want to output video over HDMI you’ll have to pay for Apple’s Lightning Digital AV Adapter (right), which costs £39. Or just wait for the infamous Apple iTV...
Thanks to the retina display, the iPad packs in the 2048 x 1563 pixels. And that makes a huge difference to everything from web-browsing to photo editing and movie watching. Apple’s display makes things crisp, vibrant and inviting.
And the new A6X processor brings with it a notable increase in operating speed. Small tasks, such as opening apps and switching menus, are carried out more quickly than ever.
Apple’s iLife apps such as iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand allow you to create, as well as consume, content. The screen’s good enough to make serious movie and photo editing possible, but even beginners can carry out the most simple tasks to create impressive results.
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The iPad is also a very good games console. The touch-screen controls can take a while to get used to, but the graphics look great on this ultra-hi-res screen. Even during intensive gaming sessions on the likes of Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy, the iPad handles the intense gameplay and graphics without a glitch.
Watch a clip from Thor from the iTunes HD library and edges are superbly drawn, while fine details on Thor’s costume are crystal clear. There’s good depth to the image too. Colours appear neutral and nicely judged.
Whites are punchy and while the iPad has no trouble creating deep blacks, there’s also a ton of subtlety, which makes for a very insightful picture.
Switch from iTunes and stream content from one of the numerous video streaming services, and the iPad doesn’t let up. Even standard-definition videos upscaled to match the Retina resolution through the Netflix app look inviting. It’s never going to look as good as native HD content, but it’s impressive.
Some point to the iPad’s 4:3 screen ratio as being a drawback to the device – rivals such as the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity and the smaller Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 allow you to watch video in 16:9.
It does mean if you watch a widescreen move in landscape that there are black bars top and bottom (unless you zoom in, which crops the picture left and right). But we’d take higher picture quality over a slightly larger image.
Where sound quality is concerned (as is so often the case for Apple) the iPad is one of the most musical out there. Play an Apple Lossless version of Bat For Lashes’ Winter Fields and there’s a fine sense of openness and separation between instruments and vocals.
Strings sound textured and natural, while dynamic shifts are handled with confidence and communicated effortlessly. It’s a shame Apple doesn’t support FLAC, but WAV is on board for those who favour uncompressed formats.
The iPad 4 doesn't come with headphones in the box, so you'll need to add your own. Apple finally updated its free earphones with the launch of the Apple EarPods, which are certainly an improvement, or you could try the SoundMagic E10 earphones.
With this kind of processing power and all-round performance it’s easy to see why the iPad is so popular. The benchmark has been set extremely high. Let’s just hope its rivals aren’t down and out already…
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