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What are all the differences between the iPad 3rd Gen and the iPad 2? Is the iPad 2 worth the cost savings?
Please note that the iPad 3rd Gen has been discontinued. It was replaced by the iPad 4th Gen on October 23, 2012. The iPad 2 still is available new. This Q&A compares the iPad 3rd Gen to the iPad 2 at the time the iPad 3rd Gen was introduced, but it still can be useful particularly for those purchasing either model on the used market.
It is very easy to mistake the third generation iPad models released in 2012 -- the iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi Only), iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE AT&T/GPS) for AT&T in the US (and Bell, Rogers, and Telus in Canada), and iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE Verizon/GPS) for Verizon in the US -- with the iPad 2 models -- the iPad 2 (Wi-Fi), iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/GSM/GPS), and iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/CDMA/GPS) -- first released in 2011 and that still are available for sale in 16 GB capacities.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPad 2 - Left, iPad 3rd Gen - Right)
Both lines look similar and are effectively indistinguishable from the front if turned off even with detailed inspection. However, there are significant differences with regards to the display, processor, rear camera, and connectivity. Size and weight are modestly different, too, and model numbers are different as well.
Both the iPad 2 and iPad 3rd Gen models are available with either a black or white glass front and an aluminum back (with a black plastic area for configurations with cellular data connectivity) and have a speaker, built-in microphone and support system-wide video mirroring and up to 1080p video out.
Both lines have 9.7-inch multitouch, glossy, IPS LED-backlit displays, but the iPad 3rd Gen models have a "resolutionary" 9.7-inch 2048x1536 (264 ppi) "retina" display. This compares to a resolution of just 1024x768 (132 ppi) on the iPad 2 line.
To really appreciate the quality of the iPad 3rd Gen display, it is helpful to see it in person, but this short video from DetroitBorg provides an excellent side-by-side comparison nevertheless:
Both lines have front and rear mounted cameras -- and both lines share the same front-mounted VGA-quality "FaceTime" camera -- but the rear camera on the iPad 3rd Gen line is considerably higher-quality.
The iPad 2 models have a 0.7 megapixel camera that shoots stills and is capable of recording 720p video, whereas the iPad 3rd Gen models have a 5 megapixel "iSight" camera capable of shooting 1080p video and includes software that provides enhanced stabilization. The iPad 3rd Gen also supports Siri when running iOS 6, whereas the iPad 2 does not.
The height and width of both devices is the same -- 9.5 inches by 7.31 inches -- but the iPad 3rd Gen is slightly thicker -- 0.03 of an inch -- and about a tenth of a pound heavier.
Both the iPad 2 and iPad 3rd Gen models support the magnetic "Smart Cover," too.
As first shipped, the iPad 2 and iPad 3rd Gen lines have 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of storage, but with the release of the iPad 3rd Gen, Apple has "downgraded" the capacity of the still available iPad 2 to just 16 GB. All models from both lines house 802.11n wi-fi and have an accelerometer, a three-axis gyroscope, an ambient light sensor, and a digital compass. However, there are significant internal differences, as well.
The iPad 3rd Gen models are powered by a dual-core 1 GHz Apple A5X processor with quad core graphics whereas the iPad 2 models have an older dual-core Apple A5 processor with a single graphics processor. Apple does not formally release the amount of RAM in any iPad device, but the third-party Geekbench benchmark has confirmed that the iPad 3rd Gen models have 1 GB of RAM whereas the iPad 2 only has 512 MB of RAM.
Connectivity is substantially different. The cellular capable iPad 2 models -- the iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/GSM/GPS) and iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/CDMA/GPS) -- support 3G networking whereas the cellular capable iPad 3rd Gen models -- the iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE AT&T/GPS) for AT&T in the US and Bell, Rogers, and Telus in Canada and the iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE Verizon/GPS) for Verizon in the US -- support faster 4G LTE networking. The iPad 3rd Gen models also support Bluetooth 4.0 whereas the iPad 2 models support the earlier Bluetooth 2.1+EDR standard.
Despite that a higher resolution display and 4G LTE are significantly more power hungry, both the iPad 2 and iPad 3rd Gen models provide an estimated ten hours of battery life "surfing the web on wi-fi, watching video or listening to music" and 9 hours of surfing the web using cellular data. This is largely due to a massive 42.5 watt-hour battery in the iPad 3rd Gen line, up from a 25 watt-hour battery in the iPad 2.
Although it is possible to visually differentiate the iPad 2 and the iPad 3rd Gen by the display when the devices are sitting side-by-side, it otherwise can be challenging. As a result, model numbers typically are one of the best methods of external identification.
The iPad 2 (Wi-Fi), iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/GSM/GPS), and iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/CDMA/GPS) are model numbers A1395, A1396, and A1397, respectively. On the other hand, the iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi Only) , iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE AT&T/GPS) and iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE Verizon/GPS) are model numbers A1416, A1430, and A1403, respectively.
The iPad 2 and iPad 3rd Gen models can be differentiated by other identifiers as well, such as the order number, which can be located by selecting the Settings app and pressing General > About and scrolling down to what is specified as "Model" within the iOS. For example, the Wi-Fi only configuration of the iPad 2 in black with 16 GB of storage is MC769LL.
To pinpoint a specific iPad 2 or iPad 3rd Gen by a variety of different identifiers -- including the last four characters of its serial number -- please refer to EveryiPad.com's Ultimate iLookup feature as well as the EveryMac app.
As originally shipped, the iPad 2 and iPad 3rd Gen models were, and are, respectively offered at the exact same price points:
|Capacity:||16 GB||32 GB||64 GB|
|Price with Wi-Fi:||US$499||US$599||US$699|
|Price with Wi-Fi, Cellular Data & A-GPS:||US$629||US$729||US$829|
With the introduction of the iPad 3rd Gen, however, Apple has discontinued the 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPad 2 and cut the price of the 16 GB configurations of the wi-fi only iPad 2 to US$399 and to US$529 for the 3G/A-GPS-equipped models.
The major differences between the iPad 2 and the iPad 3rd Gen are summarized below:
iPad 3rd Gen
|Resolution:||1024x768 (132 ppi)||2048x1536 (264 ppi)|
|Processor Speed:||1 GHz||1 GHz|
|Processor Type:||Apple A5||Apple A5X|
|RAM:||512 MB||1 GB|
|Storage:||16, 32, 64 GB (16 GB*)||16, 32, 64 GB|
|Data Networks:||Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi & 3G||Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi & 4G|
|Video Mirroring:||System Wide||System Wide|
|Rear Camera:||720p (0.7 MP)||1080p (5 MP)|
|Battery Capacity:||25 Watt-Hours||42.5 Watt-Hours|
|Max Battery Life:||9-10 Hours||9-10 Hours|
|Siri (iOS 6):||No||Yes|
|Color Options:||Black or White||Black or White|
|Dimensions (In):||9.50 x 7.31 x 0.34||9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37|
|Weight (Lbs):||1.33, 1.35, 1.34||1.44, 1.46|
|Current Price:||US$399, US$529*||US$499-US$829|
*The iPad 2 currently is available with 16 GB of storage and wi-fi for US$399 or 16 GB of storage, wi-fi, 3G and A-GPS for US$529.
So, should I buy an iPad 3rd Gen or an iPad 2? Is the iPad 2 worth the cost savings?
For most consumers, the (1) significantly higher-quality display, (2) better rear camera, (3) support for 4G LTE as an option and (4) improved graphics performance of the iPad 3rd Gen -- are worth the US$100 premium over the still available iPad 2 models.
However, others on a tight budget may find that the iPad 2 remains "good enough" for their needs and find more value in saving an extra US$100. Of course, those on tight budgets may also wish to consider saving another US$100 before purchasing a tablet computer or buying a used iPad to save even more money.