The iPad 2 represents a follow-up to a key consumer device. Regardless if you will admit it or not, the iPad is a leading force in the tablet market and the original iPad spearheaded this movement. Unlike the launch of the original iPad, Apple is no longer the only player in the market and now face stiff competition from the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Tab.
It’s better to think of the iPad 2 as a refinement to the original iPad rather than a revolutionary redesign. The new iPad is thinner, has two new cameras, couple fancy magnets built in and a new dual-core processor. Depending on how you look at it, this brings the iPad up to the current market specs but hardware is not the only new feature, the iPad 2 also brings an update to iOS and a few new apps.
If you have ever used the first iPad, when you pick up the iPad 2, you will realize how big the old one felt. The iPad 2 feels thin but not cheap. There is still a considerable amount of weight to the unit, much like the first, but it is considerably thinner.
In your hands it is easy to hold and doesn’t feel slippery, nor does it have any sharp edges like the MacBook Pro. Fingerprints are always an issue with any touch based product and the iPad 2 is no exception.
The overall speed of the device does feel improved. The new dual-core A5 seems to pick up the slack that the A4 left behind. While it’s not an upfront reason to buy an iPad 2, the speed improvements are noticeable, especially when opening and closing applications. It becomes more noticeable when playing games on the device as the frame rates are improved and overall it creates a better end user experience.
The speaker on the back is average and isn’t much of an improvement over the original iPad. It gets the job done but is a mono channel speaker that leaves some to be desired. But let’s face it, most people are probably not buying the iPad listen to music in replacement of a home stereo. That being said, there is still room for improvement.
If the iPad has one glaring flaw, it’s the cameras. While the poor quality does not inhibit them from use, the caliber of your images is something the Xoom outshines the iPad 2. It feels as if Apple only put them in to meet demands but not to lead the market. In testing, trying to use the camera in anything other than optimal lighting conditions, it becomes a tedious process to get a photo that isn’t washed out or out of focus. It certainly feels like Apple cut a few corners here to save on the overall cost of the unit.
The screen is the same from the original iPad. It still has all the great viewing angles of the original and is capable for this size of a device. While a higher resolution screen would be preferred (hello iPad 3) it certainly does not disappoint either.
If Apple gets extra credit in any department across their entire line of products, its battery life is always top notch. The iPad 2 is no different, in the first day of ownership we were able to pull off an impressive 9.5 hrs (based on extrapolation, will update with final numbers with it actually runs out of juice). It would be easy to blow past the 10 hour mark too if you kept your video watching to a minimum.
As I said in the Xoom review, the hardware is only half the question. Software is nearly as important as the hardware itself, if you fail in this area, your product will struggle in the marketplace. Fortunately for Apple, their iOS has become a staple of the market for usability and App add-ons.
iOS 4.3 is nothing revolutionary anymore, it now becomes the benchmark that others are compared against. Fortunately for Apple, they still dominate this market. While honeycomb has a way to go, iOS on the iPad feels matured and complete. One other little note is that, like the first iPad, you do have to connect it to a computer before you can use it.
The best part of iOS is the breadth of applications available. Without doing an extensive review of each, iMovie and Garageband showcase the iPad and trounce what others on the market currently offer. Both applications turn the iPad 2 from a consumption platform, to a creation utility. And not only are their quality applications from Apple and other tier 1 providers, but they are quality applications that make any loose end left open by Apple feel closed.
The browser is the staple of any tablet. Not much has changed on the iPad 2 but a newly laid out keyboard is present (iOS 4.3) and because of the faster CPU, it does feel a bit snappier when scrolling and zooming. If you have used an original iPad, the iPad 2 will feel similar but more refined.
The version we tested came with the Verizon 3G chip inside allowing for data on the go. At this time we were able to get 1.13 Mbps down and .75Mbps up. While nothing fantastic, the setup was seamless to get onto Verizon's network. Unfortunately, Apple did not include an LTE radio in this device, which is such a shame considering that LTE is on other tablets.
If you are looking for a tablet, the iPad 2 is currently the king of the market. But, if you have an original iPad, there may not be enough to make you dig into your pocket and upgrade. The iPad 2 does have it shortcomings that leave room for improvement but at the same time, every other tablet on the market has its own flaws. There is no specific feature that makes the iPad 2 the best on the market, but it is the overall package of hardware and software working in unity that put this tablet at the top. Hardware is ubiquitous as this point in time, until the competition can land an OS that competes on every level with iOS, the iPad will reign supreme.