New iPad's innards: Good news for recent fondleslab buyers

'Meet the new iPad / Same as the old iPad' (almost)

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Teardown When the new fourth-generation iPad made its debut at the iPad mini roll-out event late last month, it was a surprise to many – especially those who had recently opened their wallets for "the new iPad" released just this March.

Fret not, fanbois. The tools, parts, and repairs folks at iFixit have just torn apart Apple's latest fondleslab and found little to tempt you to reopen that billfold.

"If you're kicking yourself because you just bought an iPad 3," iFixit wrote in an email, "we've got some welcome news: not too much has changed in the iPad 4."

To be sure, there are a few notable changes. The most obvious, perhaps, is that the third-generation iPad's A5X processor has been upgraded to the new A6X chip, which Apple's head marketeer Phil Schiller said at the roll-out event doubles both CPU and graphics performance, and which includes an upgraded image signal processor.

If, however, you use your iPad mostly to browse the web, manage your email, or play Angry Birds or Tiny Wings, your third-generation iPad should do just fine – or your second- or first-generation unit, for that matter. After all, when a new, faster piece of kit is released, it doesn't magically make an older one slower.

One other noticeable improvement is the fourth-generation iPad's front facing Facetime camera. On the previous iPad it was a mere 0.3-megapixel wimp; it's now a 1.2-megapixel unit, capable of capturing 720p HD video. In our personal experience, however, Facetime is a bit of a fright at any resolution – which is possibly not a problem for you, young and attractive Reg reader.

Fourth-generation iPad (image source: Apple)

Is it just us, or does this Apple promo image appear to show a man about to squeeze a blemish on that poor girl's face?

And then there's the new iPad's adoption of Apple's new Lightning connector – which, if you happen to own a number of accessories that prefer the old 30-pin connector that debuted back in 2003 with the release of the third-generation iPod, you may not regard as an upgrade.

iFixit, however, found little else that's new in the new "the new iPad". After their disassemblers melted the adhesive that seals the fourth-generation iPad with their microwaveable iOpener heating pad and popped it open with their iFixit-branded guitar picks, for example, they found the same hefty battery that's in the previous model: a 3.7-volt, 43–watt hour, three-cell, lithium-ion polymer power pack.

Fourth-generation iPad – opened to show battery

If that three-cell battery looks familiar, it's because you've seen it before (click to enlarge)

That battery array, however, is glued tight to the new iPad's case. "Since batteries are consumables that wear out," iFixit notes, "the trend of glued-in, hard-to-access batteries in iPads and other Apple devices is unfortunate."

Fourth-generation iPad – Lightning port compared with third-generation iPad's 30-pin connector

The new Lightning port, bottom, is simply slipped into the same spot as the older port, top (click to enlarge)

Interestingly, Apple didn't take advantage of the increased internal space afforded by the switch to the smaller Lightning connector. In fact, iFixit point out, they simply placed it in the same frame used to house the larger 30-pin connector in the third-generation iPad.

"We were hoping that space savings would yield bigger, better speakers," they write. "Very disappointing, indeed."

Fourth-generation iPad – 1.2MP Facetime HD camera compared with the 0.3MP Facetime camera in the third-generation iPad

The new camera, bottom, is a improvement over the older one, top – if you're brave enough to use Facetime (click to enlarge)

The improved front-facing camera, however, is a noticeable step up – and one that fits quite easily into the space occupied by the previous Facetime camera, even though it's a 0.4mm thicker.

Sadly, the fourth-generation iPad is no easier to repair than the third-generation unit – both received a mere two out of 10 on iFixit's repairability rating. To its credit, however, the new iPad's display is relatively easy to swap out, as is its battery – once you get past all that adhesive.

Fourth-generation iPad – all parts after teardown

Meet the new iPad / Same as the old iPad – almost (click to enlarge)

"Gobs, gobs, and gobs of adhesive hold everything in place," iFixit notes, "including the prone-to-start-a-fire-if-punctured battery."

Seeing as how the new iPad is so similar to the fondleslab it supersedes, iFixit's teardown of it is a bit more cursory than its usual strip search – a mere 20 photos rather than the usual 40-plus.

But it's still worth a look-see – especially if you purchased a third-generation iPad in the past few months and need to console yourself. ®


An earlier version of this article had mistakenly stated that the third-generation iPad had an A6 processor.

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