How Powerful Is the iPad?

by Dan Stone

The iPad is a tablet computer device that has grown increasingly powerful with each generation. Power can be a subjective opinion or an objective description when comparing the devices specs and performance. The iPad has the distinction of being the first successful mass-market tablet computer and has hardware that is more closely related to what's found in smartphones than computers. While iPads are technologically limited compared to computers because of the smaller form factor and necessary lower operating temperature, they are as powerful as computers made just a few years prior.

Generation 1

The first generation iPad, released in January of 2010, is the least powerful of all iPads and has specs that never positioned the device as a powerful machine. The original iPad features a single core 1GHz Apple A4 CPU and just 256MB of RAM, which put its power well under what was found in laptop computers at the time. The first generation iPad ran a screen resolution of 1024-by-768, which made it easier for the system to handle the graphical demands with its low-powered hardware.

Generation 2 and Mini

The second generation iPad and its hardware cousin the first generation iPad Mini doubled the hardware power found in the first generation device. The iPad Mini has similar hardware to the iPad 2, just in a smaller form factor. The iPad 2 features a dual-core 1GHz Apple A5 processor and 512MB of RAM -- effectively giving the first hardware revision twice the power of the original device. The iPad 2 also updated the graphics processor, allowing the system to handle more complicated graphic displays. The iPad 2 features the same screen resolution as the first version, making it easier for the GPU to display better graphics.

Generation 3

The third generation iPad's hardware improvements over the second generation focus on a more powerful graphics processor and expanded system memory. The third generation iPad is not constrained by memory limitations nearly as much as the previous generations, making it able to run larger programs and more than one at a time. The third generation iPad features a dual core 1GHZ Apple A5X processor, 1GB of RAM and a quad-core GPU. The third generation device increased the resolution to 2048-by-1536, which increased the amount of power needed to display on-screen graphics. According to Apple spec site, the third generation iPad's Geekbench CPU test only offered minor improvements over the second generation device's performance.

Generation 4

The fourth generation iPad is the most powerful iPad as of its October 2012 release date. The fourth generation device was the first to increase the processor clock speed to 1.4GHz to give the device more power. According to, the fourth generation iPad performs more than twice as fast as the third generation device in the Geekbench performance test (Reference 9 and 10). The fourth generation iPad features a dual core 1.4GHz Apple A6X processor, 1GB of RAM and an upgraded GPU.

About the Author

Dan Stone started writing professionally in 2006, specializing in education, technology and music. He is a web developer for a communications company and previously worked in television. Stone received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in communication studies from Northern Illinois University.

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