The iPad 4 debuted in 2012, but was discontinued last fall on the release of the iPad Air. That changed last month, when Apple brought its fourth-generation tablet back as its new lower-end offering.
The iPad 4 starts at $400, while a similarly-specced iPad Air is $500… Which raises the question: is it worth paying $100 extra for the new version? Let’s find out!
Both of these tablets have 9.7-inch screens and identical display resolutions of 2048×1536, giving each a pixel density of 264ppi. The Retina display is gorgeous on both devices, and is ideal for viewing videos, photos, and just about anything else.
There are technical differences between the two screens, but these don’t show up just by looking at them. They are essentially identical, so nether model has an advantage.
Dimensions and Weight
Although the screen sizes are the same on both Apple‘s full-sized tablets, the iPad Air is thinner and lighter than its predecessor. The latest device weighs only 1 lb., which is nearly 0.5 lbs. lighter that the iPad 4 — an almost 30% reduction. The iPad Air’s weight is actually closer to that of the iPad mini with Retina display.
It can get tiring to use the iPad 4 for long periods of time while reading in bed or doing some couch surfing, but the newer model is a lot easier on your hands, wrists, and arms. It is almost unnoticeable in a laptop bag or backpack.
Apple worked to slim the overall size the Air, taking 0.7 in. off the width and dropping the thickness from 0.37 to 0.29 in., making it one of the thinnest tablets out there.
The iPad Air has the same 64-bit Apple A7 processor found on the iPhone 5s — a huge leap from the 32-bit Apple A6X processor used in the iPad 4.
To throw a few benchmarks around, the Geekbench 3 test gave the Air a 2696 vs. its predecessor’s 1429. The newest tablet from Apple scored 14,361 on 3DMark Ice Storm vs the 10,613 for the iPad 4.
Benchmarks typically don’t really mean very much in regards to real-world experience, but there is definitely an obvious improvement in speed when using the Air in general. Just navigating through iOS 7.1 feels a lot quicker, and apps also load in shorter periods of time. Games like Infinity Blade 3 have no lag whatsoever on Apple’s latest, and they look fantastic on the Retina display. Videos also look amazing throughout a range of media apps, such as Crunchy Roll, Netflix, Stream to Me, etc., and there is no stuttering even when outputting the video through AirPlay onto an Apple TV.
Apple has a history of releasing operating system upgrades for even quite old tablets, but as a more recent model the iPad Air is more likely to be able to make use of all the new features that will be included in iOS 8, iOS 9, etc. than the iPad 4 is.
The $400 iPad 4 has 16GB of storage, and the $500 iPad has the same. Those who want greater capacity than that will have to go with an Air, which is also available in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB configurations.
Both models have 1GB of RAM, which is really a strike against each of them equally, as both would be better off with with a larger amount.
Is the iPad 4 Still Worth it for $400?
The differences in portability and performance between the iPad 4 and the iPad Air are so great we feel that they are worth more than the difference in price. Unless that $100 difference means the world to you (and we understand that it can), we suggest those looking for a full-size iOS tablet save enough to get the iPad Air.
What About Upgrading?
The calculation is different for those who already own an iPad 4 and are considering upgrading. This device is worth at most about $320, so the question becomes, is it worth $180 (or more) to move to an iPad Air?
We don’t believe so. While there are noticeable improvements in Apple’s latest full-size tablet versus its predecessor, most users won’t find the benefits worth the cost.
iPad 4 owners considering an upgrade would be better off waiting for the iPad Air 2, which is almost certainly coming this fall. What this will offer is not yet known, but it’s a safe bet it will be significantly better than the iPad 4.