The iPad 2 announcement may not have been as exciting as the original shindig, but that didn't stop people from lining up around the corner on launch day. And for good reason. The iPad 2 doesn't boast a host of mouth-watering features. It doesn't have a Retina Display. It doesn't have a micro USB port or expandable memory or support 4G.
What it does deliver is a better, faster iPad, and when you consider how the original iPad virtually created the market for a tablet computer, that's quite an accomplishment.
iPad 2 Review: Features
- Dual-core 1GHz A5 chip (twice as fast as the original iPad)
- Both front-facing and back-facing cameras
- 1024x768 IPS display with LED backlight
- Support for both AT&T and Verizon 3G networks
- 9.5" by 7.3" by 0.34" and weighing only 1.3 lbs
iPad 2 Review: A Better, Faster iPad
Whether you are looking to buy your first tablet computer, or you have the original iPad and are searching for a reason to upgrade, you'll be pleased to know that the iPad 2 constitutes a nice performance boost over the original. The dual core A5 processor clocks in at up to twice the speed of the original, and graphical processing unit also received a nice little upgrade.
But what surprised me was the boost to reading and writing data, which saw about a 30% increase in speed based on my testing. This is important because a lot of the time we spend waiting for the iPad is spent waiting for it to access the memory it uses for storage.
iPad 2 Review: Sleek and Incredibly Thin
The performance boost is great, but what most people will marvel at first is how holding the iPad 2 feels more like holding a piece of paper than a tablet computer. At one-third of an inch thick, it is definitely a thin device, but what is really incredible is how the iPad 2 feels even thinner in your hand. It utilizes the curved edges seen in iPhones previous to the iPhone 4, which makes it feel even more comfortable in your hand than the original.
The 9.7 inch display is the same as the original, sporting a 1024x768 resolution and LED backlight, but the external speaker has moved from the bottom edge to the back of the device and delivers a more solid, thick tone. The device features the same buttons as the original -- a home button, sleep/wake button, volume buttons, a configurable switch and the standard Apple 30-pin connector -- but to go alongside the iPad 2 release, Apple has released a Digital AV Adapter that gives the iPad 2 HDMI support. This adapter will work with both iPads, the iPhone and iPod Touch, but the iPad 2 is the only device that will support 1080p output, which means it will look fantastic on your HDTV.
Another nice features that goes alongside the faster performance and the same gadgetry we expect in an iOS device -- the gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, Bluetooth, etc. -- is a slightly larger battery that clocks in at roughly the same battery life as the original, 10 hours of activity and up to a month o standby. This is impressive considering the dual-processor and the upgraded graphics processor.
iPad 2 Review: But You Call Those Cameras?
If there is a downside to the iPad 2, it is the cameras. The one feature everyone knew was a given for the iPad 2 was dual camera support, and Apple delivered, if just barely. The back camera offers 720p quality video and "video stills", while the front camera offers VGA quality. In practice, the back camera can snap decent-but-not-great photos outside -- no where near the quality of an iPhone 4 -- but take it indoors and you'll get grainy sub-par quality that seems more like it came from a 2007 Windows Mobile phone than a 2011 iOS device.
It would have been nice to see cameras of the same quality as those found in the iPhone 4 rather than cameras on the level of the iPod Touch, but the addition of the cameras does bring FaceTime to the iPad, and the quality is good enough for video conferencing. It also means iPad users can enjoy the same augmented reality experience they can get on their iPhone with games like Star Wars Falcon Runner (which actually plays rather well on the iPad 2 despite being an iPhone game).
iPad 2 Review: Worth the Upgrade?
For those looking to buy their first tablet, the iPad 2 is a no-brainer. It has enough performance to hang with the tablets out there and the support of the world's most popular app store, so whether you are looking for a device to help out with work or with fun, the iPad 2 has you covered.
But for those who already own an iPad, the question of whether or not to upgrade becomes more a matter of preference. The iPad 2 has a nice boost in performance, but most apps will be designed with the iPad in mind. It also has the same display as the original, and the iOS 4.3 update that delivers AirPlay and better Safari performance works for both the iPad and the iPad 2.
The biggest addition to the iPad 2 are the cameras, which not only allow for the iPad 2 to use FaceTime, but also allows for video apps and augmented reality games. But I wouldn't dismiss the ability to have 1080p playback via the Digital AV Adapter. While the iPad will also support HDMI out through this adapter, only the iPad 2 will deliver 1080p resolution. This makes the iPad 2 a great way to watch digital video or stream Netflix or Hulu Plus to your HDTV.