New iPad 4 review

The iPad 4th generation has landed - and it's a bit faster

Hands on: iPad 4
Summary: a bit faster with a smaller connector

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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.

New iPad review

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.

New iPad review

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.

New iPad review

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.

New iPad review

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.

New iPad 4 review

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.

New iPad 4 review

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).

New iPad 4 review

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.

New iPad 4 review

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.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.