Monday, November 05, 2012, 04:08 pm PT (07:08 pm ET)
Review: Apple's fourth-generation iPad
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Lightning: One step forward, two steps back (for now)
The design of the fourth-generation iPad is unchanged from its predecessor. It's the same size and weight, the same form factor, and has the same gorgeous Retina display. Even the Smart Cover accessory is unchanged (unlike the iPad mini, which has a tweaked and superior Smart Cover design).
There is one glaring exception, of course: The new fourth-generation iPad has the smaller Lightning connector port on the bottom, rather than the legacy 30-pin dock connector. A recent teardown of the latest iPad even found that the extra space offered by switching to the Lightning connector was simply left unfilled inside the device.
It's hard to get excited about the appearance of Lightning on the fourth-generation iPad. On the iPhone 5, iPod touch and iPod nano, the Lightning connector felt as though it helped Apple achieve new lighter and thinner designs that were not possible with the 30-pin connection slot.
But the fourth-generation iPad has the same form factor and heft as its predecessor. The addition of the Lightning connector didn't do anything to improve the design of the device, and its inclusion is actually a short-term hinderance given the lack of Lightning accessories currently available.
The Lightning connector also runs at USB 2.0 speeds, matching that of the legacy 30-pin connection, so its appearance on the fourth-generation iPad does not provide any kind of speed boost for syncing.
As it did with the iPhone 5, Apple chose not to make a dock accessory for the fourth-generation iPad. Presumably third-party accessory makers will fill that void, but in the interim it's a sacrifice that will undoubtedly bother some users.
Thankfully, Apple did update the USB and SD card adapter accessories to work with the new Lightning connector. This was a necessary change to keep the new device relevant for users who want to edit photos or videos.
The fourth-generation iPad does ship with a higher amperage charger which cuts down on the time it will take to recharge the massive battery found inside the device. This is a welcome upgrade from the charger that shipped with the third-generation iPad. The upgraded 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera is also a welcome upgrade with significantly better performance than the third-generation model.
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