Apple’s iPad has seen great success since it was launched last year with sales of over 15 million units for the original iPad. So far, the iPad 2 is on track to beat that figure. Demand for the iPad 2 has been high, while supply has been typically insufficient. Nevertheless, we’ve been lucky to score an iPad 2 to check out, which feels remarkably more like an incremental upgrade to the already “magical” iPad than something revolutionary.
Improvements come in the form of a new dual-core A5 1Ghz processor, twice the RAM at 512MB, a thinner frame, better graphics and dual cameras while all that may sound like a substantial upgrade, it’s actually stuff that we could have reasonably expected to see in the first version, barring the new AS processor and improved graphics.
Now, the iPad 2 is much thinner compared to the iPad, and at the same time, thinner than even the iPhone 4. With the screen remaining the same size as the original iPad, you’ll find that there’s no change in the overall shape and dimensions of the iPad 2. Weight-wise, the iPad 2 is about 50g lighter, but the thinner edge makes holding and carrying it around much easier. The slim edges do dig into your palms after a while, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling that gets worse the longer you hold the iPad2.
The new design of the iPad 2 means the thick frame of the original is now sloped, and the buttons have been adjusted accordingly. This does make the port connector an odd fit as you’ll find the metal parts sticking out if you flip the iPad around. Users of the original will have to get used to the slight change in the position of the buttons, which are now angled slightly due to the sloped edges.
The inclusions of two new cameras are for Apple’s FaceTime and Photo Booth applications, and to be frank, they’re barely adequate for the task at hand. The rear camera is capable of taking 720p videos, but don’t expect any quality still images, as the sensor resolution is just 960×720 pixels and that’s not even one megapixel.
On our resolution chart test, the iPad 2’s camera managed 600 LPH both horizontally and vertically. To put that into perspective, the iPhone 4 manages to capture almost twice as much detail at 1200 x 1000 LPH horizontal and vertical, though with a much larger image at 2592×1936 pixels (5MP effective). In comparison, an average compact camera manages around 1400 to 1600 LPH.
While Apple has added cameras to the iPad 2, they’re negligible as photographic tools, except for when you just have no other camera around and you really want to nail that shot. Which is just as well, we shudder to imagine crowds on the streets holding up 10-inch slabs of electronics just to take pictures with.
Using Geekbench, the iPad 2 performed twice as fast as the original iPad, though this comes as no surprise. Having additional ram also means that multitasking (when running apps that have such functionality built-in) becomes much more seamless. Games with support for the iPad 2’s newer graphics chip, the PowerVR SGX543MP2, show much improved performance. Infinity Blade runs with better environment effects, lighting and anti-aliasing. Unfortunately, we accidentally deleted our save game in a fit of frustration, so we don’t have swanky cool gear to show off apart from the starting screens.
As far as battery performance goes, many other reviews have mentioned that the battery life is about equal to the original iPad, and we found this to be pretty accurate in our own testing. The iPad 2 may be slimmer, but battery performance is still top notch. One charge is more than enough to last a full day, and is still very much comparable to that of the original iPad.
Original iPad users might not have reason enough to upgrade immediately and we suggest saving that cash for what comes after the iPad 2. Apple also decided to not phase out the original iPad, instead keeping them on the market at reduced prices. If you’re a first time tablet buyer with the cash to flash, then getting the iPad 2 is a no-brainer. That said, the next few months will see a slew of new tablets hitting the market, from the BlackBerry Playbook and HP’s TouchPad, so it might also be a good idea to hold off buying that swanky new tablet.