Although it's facing more competition from Android slates made by Samsung, Asus and others, the fourth-generation Apple iPad (*Est. $500 and up) remains the tablet computer to beat. The current iPad isn't a must-have upgrade for owners of the third-generation iPad with Retina Display, or even the still-availableiPad 2 (*Est. $400), according to reviews. However, experts say Apple made enough improvements to keep the iPad at the top of the list for those looking to buy a new tablet computer.
The iPad wins widespread praise for several reasons, starting with its look. The 9.7-inch multitouch display boasts an eye-popping 2,048-by-1,536-pixel resolution comparable to high-end 30-inch computer monitors, but it's packed more tightly at 264 pixels per inch. Most eyes can't pick out individual pixels with that kind of density, prompting Apple to call it a Retina Display. Reviewers call it stunningly crisp and colorful.
The high quality carries over to the iPad's superb build. Apple pours much attention into the feel of its devices, and reviewers say it shows in the high-end materials used in the iPad's construction and iOS operating system software. Although the iPad isn't as customizable as Android or Windows tablets, experts say it's highly polished, and its 275,000-plus tablet-optimized apps dwarf the competition.
The biggest upgrade in the fourth-generation iPad is a powerful A6X processor, which helps it feel much faster than previous models and provides a graphics boost. However, Apple's new eight-pin Lightning connector replaces the 30-pin dock connector in previous models. Your old accessories will mostly still work, but you'll need to mess around with adapters to make that so. Apple will incorporate the Lightning connector in its new iOS devices, including the iPhone, going forward.
As noted, Apple still offers the iPad 2, which sports an older A5 processor and a more pedestrian 1,024-by-768-pixel resolution, but it continues to perform well and has full access to Apple's robust tablet app ecosystem. Reviewers say it's a good choice if the current iPad's Retina Display isn't a must-have.
What about the iPad mini? See our discussion of the best cheap tablets.