iPad 2 Our iPad 2 review is a work in progress. Here are our initial findings…
Just under one year ago, Apple shocked the computing world with a 9.7-inch touchscreen tablet that few truly expected.
Some called the original Apple iPad a large-format iPhone. Others berated the name and made jokes that were not remotely funny.
The early reviews were marginal at best – we handed the device a solid four stars. Technical folks decried the lack of Adobe Flash and the missing cameras.
Now, 60,000 apps later (according to Apple, who counts every conceivable option) and just a few weeks after the first real Android 3.0 tablet contender hit the streets (Motorola Xoom), the iPad 2 has sauntered onto the playing field.
Some expected pure gold: a tablet that runs as fast as a laptop and weighs less than a newspaper.
Yet, the reality with the iPad 2 is that Apple has taken an iterative approach. In many ways, the iPad 2 is a crowd pleaser because it does not rock the boat.
At 241mm tall, 186mm wide, and 8.6mm thick, the iPad 2 is just a hair smaller than the original iPad and it’s thinner than the iPhone 4. It has a curved edge that makes it look a bit more ‘space age’ and, surprisingly, easier to grasp because you can curve your fingers more easily around the bezel.
The most dramatic change is the weight. At 680 grams, the iPad 2 is 80g lighter than the first iPad. That is about the same weight as a juicy red apple (curious, eh?). Yet, in using the device, it feels strangely lighter than it really is.
Overall, the new design is the major perk. It’s fantastic.
Apple has made a second-gen iPad that feels lighter and more nimble, and its newfound mobility means it has lost the annoying heft of the original model.
Meanwhile, the Motorola Xoom, at 730 grams, now feels like the tank that it is. (More about that later, because we do prefer the speedy processor on the Xoom that handles 3D maps and games.)
One other observation about the design: compared to the iPhone 4, the iPad 2 feels a bit more like a plastic plate (the back is actually metal) as though it really needs a protective case. Part of the reason for this ‘cheap plastic’ impression is that the device is one-third thinner than the original and 15% lighter.
Overall, the design is a stunner – it’s brilliant. The aesthetics are much improved, although not everything about the iPad 2 is so equally impressive.
One thing that has not changed about the iPad 2 is the price: the £439 entry-price for the 16GB Wi-Fi model is the same as the original iPad. And, the pricing goes up £100 or so for each successive model that doubles the internal storage.
On paper, the iPad 2 is ‘twice as fast’ as the original iPad, running the brand-new dual core A5 CPU built by ARM.
In practice, it might not be that obvious that the processor is faster. Many apps, such as the Safari browser and the iPod media app, start about as fast as the original iPad. But as we’ll see, apps like iMovie and GarageBand do run much faster.
Also on paper, the iPad 2 has more memory for apps. The original model had 256MB of RAM, but the new version doubles that to 512MB. The Motorola Xoom has 1GB of RAM, and that provides an extra boost for running more apps and switching between them, and a noticeable speed improvement for 3D mapping.
We tested the 64GB version W-Fi-only iPad 2 (our iPad 2 3G review is on the way!). With the Xoom, there is only one model with Wi-Fi and 3G. The iPad 2’s 64GB of storage is twice that of the Motorola Xoom, although Motorola plans to update the device to support the built-in microSD slot.
Curiously, the iPad 2 screen is the same size and resolution as the original model, running at just 1024 x 768 pixels.
The Motorola Xoom, at 1280 x 800 pixels, is notably superior — especially for viewing videos, flicking through high-def photos, and using the Android 3.0 interface itself. That’s one of the early findings with the iPad 2, that the screen itself is almost indiscernible from that on the iPad.
That said, the iPad 2 ‘s screen still has a better viewing angle than the Xoom or Samsung Galaxy Tab 7-inch.
Most of the power on the iPad 2 comes from the A5 processor, and our early tests show that this dual-core chip does provide some new-found speed, especially in apps like iMovie (on the original iPad, iMovie tends to stutter a bit).
Interestingly, the iPad 2 starts up much faster than the Motorola Xoom. In fact, we started the iPad and browsed to a few Web sites before the Xoom even got to its home screen.
In another test, we loaded up the iPod media player on both the iPad and the iPad 2 with the same music and movie files. Here, we saw another noticeable speed difference – the iPad 2 finishes loading about a second faster. Those speed gains meant clicking on Arcade Fire’s latest album to play music just a hair faster.
Several other specs, which we’ll cover in our final iPad 2 review, are also new or improved: the two cameras, one for photos and one for video chats; the faster graphics engine, which will made games more bearable; the HDMI-out capability at HD resolution that also lets you mirror whatever you see on the screen. Apple now offers a 30-pin to HDMI cable that could make movie night easier.
Even with the faster processor and better graphics engine, the iPad 2 still lasts about ten hours – or roughly the same as the Motorola Xoom.
Apple has also added a new gyroscope similar to the one on the iPhone 4. This chip, in conjunction with the existing accelerometer, will help make the iPad 2 more sensitive to motion, especially in games but also when you change the orientation.
Read more soon…
We’ve given the iPad 2 a preliminary score of 4 out of 5. We’ll revisit that when we finish the review in the next few days. But in the meantime, our reasoning for the prelim score is this:
The lighter design, A5 processor, cameras, gyroscope, and other enhancements increase the value over the original iPad — at the same price. But the original iPad is now £100 cheaper and Apple has had a year to innovate further. But despite that, in actual real-world speed tests, the most common apps don’t perform any faster… yet.
Check back on Monday for the rest of our iPad 2 review!