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iPad Air vs. iPad 4: Worth an Upgrade?

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iPad Air vs. iPad 4: Worth an Upgrade?

What advantages does the latest Apple slate have over its predecessor?

As the majority of gadget enthusiasts are already aware, earlier this month Apple lifted the veil on its new flagship iPad. Dubbed the “iPad Air,” the 5th generation slate is expected to go on sale on November 1. With the gadget’s launch getting closer, more and more people are wondering whether or not they should purchase the new iPad. Evidently, the Air is a step up from the previous generation, but is this upgrade worth the money?

That may be a tricky question, but the good news is that we might have the answer that you are looking for.

iPad Air vs. iPad (4)

As usual, when comparing two products in an attempt to figure out if the upgrade is worth it, it’s always a good idea to take a look at the specifications. As expected, the new iPad Air shares many similarities with its predecessor.

Hardware-wise, the new iPad Air features the same 9.7-inch display as the 4th generation iPad. It boasts a resolution of 2048 x 1536, resulting in a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch. The new slate offers the same storage options as well: 16/32/64 and 128 GB. In the media department, both the Air and the iPad (4) deliver a 5 MP main camera with an f/2.4 aperture and 1080p video recording capabilities, as well as a 1.2 MP 720p front-facing sensor.

Furthermore, with Apple releasing the new iOS 7 operating system on most of its mobile devices, there’s virtually no difference between the iPad 4 and the iPad Air in terms of software.

At this point you may be wondering whether or not the new slate has brought anything new to the table. The short answer is yes, it did. One of the biggest changes introduced by the new generation is a new design. The iPad line-up hasn’t really changed, design wise, throughout the years, but the iPad Air is the first Apple tablet to deliver a much needed “re-imagining.” The iPad Air has adopted the design language of the original iPad Mini, boasting a smaller bezel and a thinner profile. The new model measures only 7.5 mm in thickness, it’s 16.2 mm narrower, and it’s also 183 grams lighter. The iPad Air is also offered in two new colors: Space Gray and Silver.

Aside from these prominent changes in design, the iPad Air is also more powerful than its predecessor. It arrives with Apple’s latest A7 64-bit processor under the hood, whereas the 4th gen iPad packs the Apple A6X chipset. In case you’ve kept an eye on the iPhone 5s, then you should be aware of the fact that the A7 processor is quite powerful, and comes out on top in the majority of synthetic benchmarks.

Unfortunately, the iPad Air is reportedly packing the same amount of RAM as the iPad 4 – which is 1 only GB. This means that while the new A7 processor is more powerful than the A6X chip, the 64-bit architecture of the new silicon is not being used to its full potential.

With that in mind, if you are considering upgrading to an iPad Air from a 4th gen iPad, solely for the sake of taking advantage of the benefits that come alongside the 64-bit architecture, then you’d better wait. The technology is still young, and we’ll only get the chance to truly experience the benefits of the 64-bit architecture sometime by the end of 2014.

The Verdict

While the iPad Air is undeniably an upgrade over the previous model, it’s not really mandatory for iPad 4 owners to purchase the new slate. Aside from the new design and a faster processor, you won’t miss much. In fact, if you’re using your iPad (4) mainly for streaming videos, browsing the web and reading, then you’re not missing out on anything. The display quality is the same, and the A6X processor still carries its weight.

On the other hand, if you’ve waited eagerly for a redesigned iPad that comes in a more compact and lighter shell while retaining the same 9.7-inch display, then the iPad Air is what you’ve been waiting for.

As for those of you who don’t own an iPad and you’re wondering which one you should buy, Apple has made this decision easier for you. The company has stopped retailing the 4th gen iPad, and is now offering the iPad Air and iPad 2 only. As such, if you can spare an extra $100 for the new model (16 GB Wi-Fi), then we advise you to go for it.

Are any of our readers planning on buying the new iPad Air? Do you happen to own the iPad 4th generation, and if so, are you willing to go for an upgrade? Share your thoughts below.

Vlad Andrici is editor for and writes about technology issues. Follow Vlad on Google Plus.