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iPad 2 vs iPad 3 vs iPad 4: Which Is the Best Buy?

A Comparison of the iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPad 4


The iPad 3rd Gen

© Apple, Inc.

Note: This article compares older model iPads.  Find out about the Latest iPads (iPad Air, iPad Mini 2)

Despite the iPad 4's release, Apple is continuing to produce the iPad 2 as a slightly-cheaper entry model. The iPad 3 represented the biggest upgrade to the iPad since the original model was introduced by Apple in 2010, with a faster processor and a new high-definition display leading the list of improvements over the iPad 2. And the iPad 4 improves upon this by super charging the processor. But which one is the best buy?

A similarly-equipped iPad 4 will cost roughly $100 more than the iPad 2, while the iPad 3 will cost $50 more and may be harder to locate as Apple switches over to the newest iPad. If you are looking to save a few bucks, you will want to evaluate how you will use the tablet to determine which model to purchase.

The iPad 3 and iPad 4 Shine With the Retina Display

The first thing that stands out about the iPad 3 and iPad 4 is the improved "Retina Display", which features a resolution with four times the detail as the original iPad and the iPad 2. The 2,048 x 1,536 resolution provides 264 pixels per inch (PPI), which is so detailed that the human eye cannot tell individual pixels apart when the device is held at a normal viewing distance. The enhanced display also means support for 1080p video, which is a nice upgrade from the iPad 2. HD movies can be downloaded from iTunes, but Netflix and Hulu will need to update their apps before HD is fully supported.

The Best Uses for the iPad


Apple's "intelligent assistant" technology is only available on the iPad 3, iPad 4 and iPad Mini. And while it might be easy to dismiss this feature as something that is more useful on a smartphone than a tablet, it does provide several cool features. Tops among these added features is voice dictation, which is great if you want to write a long email but don't have a wireless keyboard, but other features like easily setting reminders or putting events on your calendar are very nice.

How to Use Siri on the iPad

iPad Gaming

In addition to pretty apps and 1080p video, the Retina Display provides graphics that can rival what we see on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The iPad 3 took the iPad 2's chip and added a quad-core graphics processor, so the iPad 3 can dish out these graphics at an increased rate. This means we won't just be looking at stunning graphics, we'll be living in amazing new worlds.

The games may not be quite as in depth as what we see on consoles, which can often dedicate 7 GB for a single game, but the ability to produce hardcore games grows with each new generation of the iPad.

The Top iPad Apps for Movies and TV

The iPad 4 Adds Speed

Apple pulled a stunner when they announced the iPad 4 at the iPad Mini event, but in many respects, the iPad 4 is the iPad 3... only faster. The newest iPad cranks up the processing speed with the new A6 chip, which is roughly twice as fast as the iPad 3's A5X chipset. The new iPad also includes a better front-facing camera, and support for dual-band channel bonding Wi-Fi, which can increase connection speeds at home. It also adds extended 4G LTE support for international regions.

Should You Buy an iPad Mini?

None of This Makes the iPad 2 Obsolete.

Games and applications will continue to support the display resolution of the original iPad and the iPad 2, with many not even making the jump to the new iPad's higher resolution. And while the iPad 2 doesn't support 1080p video, video still looks very nice on the device and the tablet does support 720p playback when connecting the iPad to your HDTV.

And with the iPad Mini using the same central processor as the iPad 2, we know Apple believes the iPad 2 is plenty fast enough for most purposes. In fact, the iPad Mini ensures that developers will continue to support the same screen resolution and processing speeds for quite some time.

iPad 2 owners may miss is Siri, which won't be coming to this model. But while Siri has a lot of nice features, it is hard to say it alone is worth the increase in price.

How to Buy a Cheap iPad

But Before You Buy an iPad 2...

The best buy right now may be the refurbished iPad 3. The 16 GB WiFi version can be as low as $349, which is cheaper than a new iPad 2. And while supplies last, some retailers will be selling off the last of their iPad 3 tablets, which will be discounted around $50.

Prospective buyers may also want to look into the iPad Mini. While it is smaller than and iPad 2, having a 7.9 inch display verses a 9.7 inch display, it is just as powerful as the iPad 2, has better cameras, supports Siri and costs less.

The iPad 2 vs the iPad Mini

The iPad 2 vs iPad 3 vs iPad 4 Comparison Chart:

Feature iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad 4
CPU: Dual-Core Apple A5 Dual-Core Apple A5X Dual-Core Apple A6X
Graphics: PowerVR SGX543MP2 PowerVR SGX543MP4 PowerVR SGX543MP4
Display: 1024x768 2048x1536 2048x1536
Memory: 512 MB 1 GB 1 GB
Storage: 16, 32, 64 GB 16, 32, 64 GB 16, 32, 64 GB
Camera: Front-facing and 720p rear-facing 720p Front-facing and iSight 5 MP rear-facing 720p Front-facing and iSight 5 MP rear-facing
Data Rate: 3G 4G LTE 4G LTE
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth: 2.1 + EDR 4.0 4.0
Accelerometer: YES YES YES
Compass: YES YES YES
Gyroscope: YES YES YES
GPS: 3G Version Only 4G Version Only 4G Version Only
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