iPad 2 vs. iPad 3 vs. iPad 4

Find the used iPad that best meets your needs

This article compares older iPad models. Learn more about the latest iPad models.

If you're looking for a used iPad, you'll be pleased to know that you have three options: iPad 4, iPad 3, and iPad 2. Despite the release of the sixth-generation iPad, Apple continues to produce and support the iPad 2 as a cheaper entry-level model. The iPad 3 represented the biggest upgrade to the iPad since Apple introduced the original model in 2010, with a faster processor and a new high-definition (HD) display leading the list of improvements over the iPad 2. The iPad 4 took these improvements farther by supercharging the processor. But, which model is the best for you?

iPad 2 vs iPad 3 vs iPad 4

Overall Findings

iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad 4
Siri isn't available. Siri is available. Siri is available.
Dual-core Apple A5 processor. Dual-core Apple A5X processor. Dual-core Apple A6X processor.
512 megabytes (MB) of RAM 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM GB of RAM
512 MB of storage. 1 GB of storage. 1 GB of storage.
Front-facing camera and 720p rear-facing camera. 720p front-facing camera and iSight 5-megapixel rear-facing camera. 720p front-facing camera and iSight 5-megapixel rear-facing camera.
Supports iOS up to version 9.3.5. Supports iOS up to version 9.3.5. Supports iOS up to version 10.3.3.

A comparably equipped iPad 4 will cost more than the iPad 2. The iPad 3 probably costs less than the iPad 4, but it may be harder to find as Apple switches to the latest model. If you're looking to save a few bucks, knowing how you'll use the tablet will help you determine which model best suits your needs.

Display: iPad 3 and iPad 4 Shine

iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad 4
1024x768 display. 2048x1536 display. 2048x1536 display.
No Retina Display. Retina Display. Retina Display.
720p video. 1080p video. 1080p video.

The first thing that stands out about the iPad 3 and iPad 4 is the improved retina display, which features 4 times the detail of the original iPad and iPad 2. The 2048x1536 resolution provides 264 pixels per inch, 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. You can download HD movies from iTunes; whether you can view HD video from Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services depends on the operating system version the iPad runs.

Siri: You're on Your Own With iPad 2

iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad 4
No Siri. Siri. Siri.

Apple's intelligent assistant technology is available only on iPad 3 and later. You may be tempted to dismiss this feature as something more useful on a smartphone than on a tablet, but Siri does provide several cool features. Top 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. Features like easily setting reminders or putting events on your calendar are nice, as well.

Gaming: Retina Display All the Way

iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad 4
Standard display (1024x768) Retina Display (2048x1536). Retina Display (2048x1536).
Dual-core A5 processor. Dual-core A5X processor. Dual-core A6X processor.
PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics card. PowerVR SGX543MP4 graphics card. PowerVR SGX543MP4 graphics card.

In addition to pretty apps and 1080p video, the Retina Display standard with iPad 3 and iPad 4 provides graphics that can rival what you see on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The iPad 3 added a quad-core graphics processor to the iPad 2 processor, so it can dish out these graphics at an increased rate. With iPad 3 and iPad 4, you're not just looking at stunning graphics, you're living in amazing new worlds.

Games and applications will continue to support the display resolution of the original iPad and the iPad 2. And although the iPad 2 doesn't support 1080p video, video still looks nice on the device, and the tablet does support 720p playback when connected to your HDTV.

The games for these devices may not be quite as in-depth as what you see on full-fledged gaming consoles, which often dedicate 7 GB to a single game, but the ability to produce hardcore games grows with each new generation of Apple's tablet.

Performance: iPad 4 Takes the Prize

iPad 2 iPad 3 iPad 4
Dual-core A5 processor. Dual-core A5X processor. Dual-core A6X processor.
PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics card. PowerVR SGX543MP4 graphics card. PowerVR SGX543MP4 graphics card.
Front-facing camera, with rear-facing camera capable of 720p video. 720p front-facing camera, with iSight 5-megapixel rear-facing camera. 720p front-facing camera, with iSight 5-megapixel rear-facing camera.

Apple pulled a stunner when it announced the iPad 4 at the iPad Mini event in 2012, but in many respects, the iPad 4 is the iPad 3...only faster. The fourth-generation iPad cranks up the processing speed with the new A6X chip, which is roughly twice as fast as its predecessor. It also includes a better front-facing camera and support for dual-band channel bonding Wi-Fi, which can increase connection speeds at home. In addition, Apple extended 4G LTE support for international regions.

Final Verdict: iPad 3

The best buy right now may be the refurbished iPad 3. You can purchase the 16-GB Wi-Fi version at a pretty reasonable price if you shop around.

If you don't mind the smaller display, you may also want to look into the iPad Mini. It has a 7.9-inch display rather than the 9.7-inch display of the iPad, but it's just as powerful as the iPad 2, has better cameras, supports Siri, and costs less.