Necessity forced my hand in the end and I had to bite the bullet and upgrade to iOS 8.1.
Now I actually hadn’t ever upgraded this tablet and it was still running the original 5.1.2 release it was bought with, so it was already lightning quick. As a result, I was expecting a pretty significant chunk of performance to go sailing off into the ether.
I’m not sure what the circus of 8.0.x was like (except obviously not positive for quite a few), but after using it for the last week (on and off, admittedly), 8.1 is actually not as bad as I was expecting.
There is something of a lag the first time opening up apps that were previously installed, but in general, it’s still quite smooth. Video streaming remains as silky smooth as before.
The need for later iOS support finally pushed me into the new update. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to do before-and-after benchmarking (too many other things on my plate at the moment), but in normal operation I wouldn’t call the performance hit ‘noticeable’.
It still takes an age to charge the battery, but that’s a hardware limitation, not necessarily anything to do with the software (although what constitutes 100% may need some resettling, depending on how capacity is derived).
The new iOS 8.1 is supposed to offer improvement to iPad 2 devices, but it doesn’t look like it harms iPad 3 tablets either.
I obviously can’t make any guarantees for your situation, but if it was a case of upgrading or forking out for a new iPad Air I don’t really need, the upgrade is well worth the $AUD499 I haven’t had to spend.
Oh, and I used iTunes to do the iOS 8.1 upgrade, which seemed to go through much faster than I expected it would doing the OTA update on the device itself.
EDIT: Yes, the upgrade went straight from 5.1.2 to 8.1 – no intermediate step was necessary.