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Should You Upgrade to the Fourth Generation iPad?

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You might be one of the millions of iPad second- or third-generation iPad users who are content with the power and capabilities of your current tablet. But what if you're intrigued by Apple's fourth-generation iPad or iPad mini? Should you upgrade? Jason R. Rich helps you decide by comparing the iPad 2, the now discontinued third-generation iPad, and the recently released fourth-generation iPad with Retina display.

The evolution of the Apple iPad tablets took a giant step forward in late 2012, first with the introduction of the iOS 6 operating system and then with the release of the iPad with Retina display (also referred to as the fourth-generation iPad) and iPad mini. Yet millions of dedicated Apple users already have a recently purchased iPad 2 or third-generation iPad, and aren't sure whether they need to upgrade.

One of the few drawbacks of the iPad tablet is that its hardware can't be upgraded after purchase. Whatever hardware configuration you select at the time of purchase—in terms of the tablet's processor, display type, internal storage capacity, and Internet connectivity options—is what you're stuck with for the life of that device.

Deciding to Upgrade from an iPad 2 to the Fourth-Generation iPad with Retina Display

The technology that's packed into the fourth-generation iPad that's currently available is vastly superior to the iPad 2. While all iPad models currently available run iOS 6, come with the same collection of preinstalled apps, and are compatible with all iPhone, hybrid and iPad apps available from the App Store, the iPad 2 lacks a Retina display, has a slower processor, has lower-resolution cameras, uses older Bluetooth technology, and utilizes Apple's older 30-pin Dock Connector port.

If you opt to upgrade from the iPad 2 to the fourth-generation iPad, while the size and weight of the tablet is virtually identical, what you'll experience is a much more vibrant and higher-resolution display. This is particularly noticeable when playing graphic-intensive games, viewing photos, watching high-definition video, or creating or viewing detailed graphics. At the same time, you'll discover the tablet runs much faster because the iPad 2 uses Apple's A5 processor, while the fourth-generation iPad features Apple's more advanced A6X processor.

For snapping photos or shooting video, both the front and rear-facing cameras have been dramatically improved in the fourth-generation iPad (compared with the iPad 2). For example, you'll be able to utilize the five mega-pixel rear-facing camera, which offers a better quality lens, makes better use of the camera app, and features dramatically improved functionality in a wider range of lighting situations. You'll also be able to record video at 1080p HD, compared to 720p HD, which is what is possible using the iPad 2.

Surfing the Internet will also be a faster experience when using a Wi-Fi connection or connecting to a 4G/4G LTE wireless data network (which the iPad 2 can't connect to). Plus, if you use Bluetooth-compatible accessories with your tablet, the Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities built into the fourth-generation iPad offer faster data transfer speeds and easier pairing between the tablet and Bluetooth devices.

The iPad 2 and fourth-generation iPad offer basically the same battery life per charge (between 9 and 10 hours, but this varies based on how the tablet is used). But when it comes to connecting the tablet to other accessories or to your primary computer, the fourth-generation iPad uses Apple's new Lightning port connector, as opposed to the much older and slower 30-pin Dock connector port. Another feature that the iPad 2 lacks is Siri, which allows you control features of your tablet using voice commands.

In a nutshell, iPad 2 users will experience a dramatic improvement in their iPad experience by upgrading to the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display. Most apps will look better and run faster. Plus, if you acquire a Wi-Fi + Cellular model, you'll be able to access a 4G or 4G LTE wireless data network in some areas, as opposed to a slower 3G network.

Thus, investing between $499.00 and $820.00 to upgrade from the iPad 2 to the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display makes sense, especially if you work with or view graphics, photos, or video using your tablet.

Upgrading from a Third-Generation to a Fourth-Generation iPad with Retina Display

If you're a third- generation iPad user, the decision about whether to upgrade to the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display is much less straightforward because the technological differences between these two tablet models are more subtle. At the time Apple introduced the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display, the company simply discounted the third-generation iPad models.

While the technology within the fourth-generation iPad is an improvement over the third-generation models, the price for each system configuration remained the same. From the outside, the third- and fourth-generation iPad models look and feel identical. They run the same iOS 6 operating system, the same preinstalled apps, and the same third-party and optional apps (available from the App Store). They're also the same size and weight; and come with 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of internal storage; as well as in Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + Cellular (3G/4G/LTE) system configurations.

The biggest difference between the third- and fourth-generation iPads is the tablet's processor. The fourth-generation iPad features the Apple A6X processor, which Apple boasts offers twice the speed and graphics performance of the A5 chip that operated the third-generation iPads. Even through the third- and fourth-generation iPads both offer Retina Multi-Touch displays, the enhanced processor chip allows the tablet to make better use of the display, especially when viewing photos, HD video, or graphic-intensive apps, such as games.

When the fourth-generation iPad is connected to the Internet via a Wi-Fi connection, you'll also experience faster web surfing speeds. The cameras built into the third- and fourth-generation iPads are also very similar, but the functionality of the cameras has been improved upon slightly within the fourth-generation iPad.

Finally, the fourth-generation iPad utilizes Apple's new Lightning connector port, as opposed to the 30-pin Dock connector port that's been incorporated into iOS mobile devices since the original iPods were released about a decade ago. In addition to being able to transfer data between the tablet and your primary computer faster (using the iTunes Sync process and the supplied cable), the Lightning port also allows the iPad to recharge faster.

For the majority of current third-generation iPad users, upgrading to the fourth-generation tablet doesn't make financial sense, since the technological improvements you'll experience are subtle. Of course, there are many dedicated Apple users who must have the newest devices on the market, and those people will upgrade without hesitation. However, for the majority of third-generation iPad users, you're better off waiting six months to a year for Apple to release the fifth-generation iPad, which will no doubt offer more advanced technology that'll make full use of the yet-to-be-announced iOS 7 operating system.

If you to opt to upgrade from the iPad 2 or third-generation iPad to the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display, you'll need to choose between a Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + Cellular model (the later allows you to connect to a 3G, 4G, or 4G LTE wireless data network that's operated by a wireless service provider, such as AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless or Sprint PCS). You'll also need to choose between a model with16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of internal storage space, as well as select the color of the iPad's casing (black or white).

The following table outlines the prices for the currently available iPad models:

iPad Model

16GB

32GB

64GB

iPad 2 (Wi-Fi only)

$399.00

No longer available, but can be acquired as a used or refurbished iPad.

No longer available, but can be acquired as a used or refurbished iPad.

iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G

$529.99

No longer available, but can be acquired as a used or refurbished iPad.

No longer available, but can be acquired as a used or refurbished iPad.

iPad w/Retina Display (fourth-generation iPad) Wi-Fi only

$499.00

$599.00

$699.00

iPad w/Retina Display (fourth-generation iPad) Wi-Fi + Cellular

$629.00

$729.00

$829.00

Switching to the iPad Mini

While the iPad 2, fourth-generation iPad, and iPad mini are similar in many ways, the iPad mini is smaller, thinner and lighter; it also offers a 7.9-inch (diagonal) display, as opposed to a 9.7-inch (diagonal) display. This makes the device better suited for some applications, but less useful than the larger iPad models for other functions. The technology that's built into the iPad mini is also a hybrid between the iPad 2 and fourth-generation iPad.

For example, the iPad mini runs iOS 6 and all the same apps as the other iPad models, but it runs by using Apple's A5 processor and lacks a Retina display. It does, however, feature a Lightning connector port and faster Wi-Fi, and some models offer 3G/4G/4G LTE Internet connectivity.

In many ways, the iPad mini and the other iPad tablets are the same product. Yet the size difference and slightly lower price sets it apart. Thus, it becomes a matter of personal preference when making the decision to switch to the iPad mini, as opposed to a latest generation, full-size iPad.

What to Do with Your Old iPad

Once you upgrade from an older iPad model to the fourth-generation iPad or iPad mini, you have the option to give your older iPad to your kids (or another family member or friend), donate it to charity, or sell it.

You'll make the most money by selling your used iPad directly to someone else via eBay.com or Craigslist.com, for example. However, to save time and hassle, there are a handful of companies that purchase used iPad equipment. These companies can often be found running kiosks at your local mall or online. Retail stores, such as Radio Shack, Best Buy, and GameStop also purchase used iPad equipment.

Using any Internet search engine, such as Yahoo! or Google, enter the search phrase "sell my iPad" to find companies like these:

As of late November 2012, these companies were offering as much as $255.00 for a used iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G (64GB) model in flawless condition. Meanwhile, a third-generation iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (64GB) model could be sold to one of these companies for around $475.00.

The benefit of selling your used iPad to one of these companies is that the company pays for shipping, the process is quick, and you'll receive your payment within a few business days.

If you opt to donate your used iPad to charity, it can be done easily by contacting the following organizations:

Using any Internet search engine, you can also enter "Donate my iPad" to find other charitable organizations that accept used iPad donations.

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