Only last year Apple managed to shock the computing and mobile world with a 9.7” Touchscreen tablet that was hardly foreseen. While some called the original Apple iPad as just a magnified iPhone, a few others criticised its name and tried some jokes that were not even remotely funny. Most of the early reviews of this revolutionary gadget were marginal at best, we loved it though. Most cried upon the lack of Adobe Flash and others over the missing cameras. Now, after about sixty thousand apps, and just a few weeks after the first real Android 3.0 tablet rival, the Motorola Xoom hit the market, Apple has let the iPad 2 to stroll back into this hard playing field. This 2nd version is much thinner and hence lighter than its predecessor, but otherwise it is essentially same, which allows it to keep its place on the cutting end in the world that is fully packed with the awesome Android intruders. While the Apple iPad 2 released first on 11th March in the US, UK got its first taste on 25th March.
It will be kind of an understatement if we said that the Apple iPad 2 is an easy tablet to review, as it is a follow-up to the last year’s ‘crazy’-successful tablet. It is almost identical when it comes to software and, though it has some improved hardware, it is still closely related. Most of the enhancements on the iPad 2 are cosmetic, however it still has a few other notable enhancements such as the new dual core A5 CPU, additional memory and also a couple of new cameras. While this new model might not be breaking new grounds, it is already in front of the pack. Read on to find out if the original iPad owners should look to upgrade, and heaps more.
Not much different:
As far as industrial design is concerned, this tablet has set the bar almost unreachable as far as stuff like “sleek” is concerned. The iPad 2 does not look very different from its original. As with the previous version, the front of the device is all screen, except for the bezel, which appears to be slightly less broad than the other, and there is the home button in the bottom. Apart from this, there are the cameras, a tiny dotted speaker grid on the lower left side, and depending on the type of model you got, you will get a 3G camera on the top back. On the rear left side, there is volume, mute and rotate switch, and in the right, there is Micro SIM slot (on 3G models). Along the bottom, there is the standard 30 pin dock, and on the top, there is a power button, sleep button on the upper right side and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left.
If you want to make it obvious to your friends that you have the latest version of the iPad, go for the white version, instead of the black one. While the white gives stylish look, the white bezel distracts from what is on the display, and seems to make the iPad 2 look like a kitchen appliance or digital photo frame, in iPhone 3GS, it was not that bad as that was white only on the rear.
iPad 2 the same 9.7″ IPS display with the similar 1024 x 768 pixels resolution. Though it still looks absolutely gorgeous, we would have liked to see a small bump in the resolution; though not up to the doubled numbers of the retina display, but something a little substantial. There are no issues what so ever as far as the quality of display such as colour balance, depth of black etc. But we would have definitely loved to see an enhanced resolution.
Slimmer and lighter:
Apple had put the iPad on a diet to get the latest version thinner and lighter. At 8.8mm thickness, compared to the original 13.4mm, it looks amazingly slim in reality, almost like a paper. Just after a few hours if reading and browsing, we really appreciate that the WiFi only version of the iPad 2 weighed just 160 grams. This is about 124 grams lighter than the original iPad, which was surprisingly heavy considering its slender form factor. This light weight is a big selling factor especially since it does not lose its battery life that soon.
Durable, yes but no:
The Apple iPad 2 is only 8.8mm thick, which is smaller than that of the thinnest smartphone in the current market, which is again, the Apple iPhone 4. With such dimensions, we feared that being wafer-thin, it would feel breakable; fortunately, having iPad 2’s aluminium case means that it feels incredibly sturdy. Though the iPad 2 can take some scratching and dents on its aluminium casing during normal using, however, if you drop it on a hard surface, you may have to kiss its display a goodbye.
The detachable cover:
The detachable cover attaches itself to the iPad’s magnets that are hidden in its chassis that clicks into its place just right. This cover can also be folded into a stand, which allows for a much more convenient typing as well as video viewing. Peeling of the protective screen of the iPad 2 wake it up immediately. This cover is not at all cheap, coming at £35 for the fabric version and about £65 for the leather version. The bad news is, it does not look as good as it looks in Apple’s tempting pixar inspired promotional video. The grey version is quite futuristic, but we recommend some of the less 70’s shades. The cover is really worth having if you can really afford it. It does not add any bulk to the iPad, and it is handy to have it wherever you are. The best part is, it is extremely quick to get it up and running. Well, we are not taking off ours.
iPad 2 Model types:
There are various iPad 2 models you can get; there is the WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n) only model, a 3G version and a GSM variety. Bluetooth 2.1+EDR is on-board, as is an AGPS chip in the 3G versions. All the models come equipped with an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, and a new addition of a three-axis gyroscope.
Ease of use:
Since the iPad 2 from Apple do does not deal with any integrated physical keyboard or mouse, Apple has opted to keep the interface of this device as simple as possible. Tablets do not get along well with small icons and fiddly tasks; they will just do with human fingers. This one too has the same touch sensitive interface of the iPhone, just in a larger display; hence even kindergarten goers should have no issues using this. The trademark Apple Home button is present below the display, which will take you to the home screen. The main menu includes heaps of rectangular icons that are nothing but the revolutionary apps. Its simplicity also means that it is not as customizable as that of its other Android rivals, such as the Motorola Xoom. In iPad 2, you get to change the wallpaper and can also create categories for icons, but that is all that you get to do, whereas, with Android tablets, you will be able to fully pack the home screen with shortcuts and widgets; however, keep in mind that this flexibility comes at the cost of simplicity. Hence, it is up to you to decide, which quality is the most essential for you.
Banes of being simple:
Even though the simplicity of the iPad 2 Tablet is appreciable, it will prove to be an incredible drawback in some occasions. For instance, you get to interchange between the 2 apps that are active at the same time by just double clicking over the home button, but you will not get to view the apps side by side in two separate windows; this simply means that iPad will have issues with anything that is more complex than simple browsing. For instance, if you wish to compose a mail, if you just going to type it all, the process will be a breeze, however, if you wish to do some copy and pasting and all that stuff, then you will have to open more than one app. And even some of the most common tasks on a full sized computer like adding an attachment to a mail will be extremely hard and cannot be accomplished.
Editing on the iPad 2:
Even the simple tasks such as copy and paste can get really annoying on the iPad 2. To begin with, you will have to hold your finger on the text in order to highlight it. Then simply drag a few small markers around it to highlight the exact content you like. And, it is mostly impossible to get it right on web pages, especially since they are HTML formatted. Even if you get it right, you need to be a monk to press and drag the pointer wherever you want it to be. On the iPhone, the copy and paste will seem great with the lack of a mouse, and because of the fact that it quite a small gadget, any of its text editing capability will look just miracle like; whereas, on a tablet which is considered as an alternative to a laptop, this process feels ‘non-elegant’ and uncomfortable. The banes of a tablet can be felt especially as you try creating files in Pages, Keynotes and Numbers, which is nothing but Apple’s version of Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
Good luck with complex documents:
Overall, the interface is great, but when you try to create documents that are any more complex than a shopping list without the help of a keyboard and mouse, is nearly impossible; if you manage to create anything more than this, you can assume that you have incredible patience. The best you can do is, make use of the Google Docs in the browser to do any sort of serious typing on your system, and have any sort of access to your documents for reference and some quick editing. The Printing process is also pretty much plain, unless you got an AirPrint activated printer or any of the other third party enabled printing apps. So, just forget about trying any sort of serious work on the iPad 2, and simply stick with having fun.
As you can expect from the Apple iPad 2 you get access to a huge collection of apps and games in the App Store. Gamers will simply love this gadget, they can choose between everything from some really addictive puzzles to the first person shooting games. You will also find some very useful apps from photo editors to guitar tuners. iPad allows you to do anything and everything from planning your workouts, diets, booking holidays and even plan your love life for you. Most of the major App titles tend to hit the App Store much before they appear on the Android market, and the best part is that, most of the time they cost less than a couple of pounds. You can also make use of the iPhone Apps on the iPad 2, but they do not use up the full screen, you have to use the pixel-doubling zoom. While this will make the images bigger, it will not take advantage of the higher resolution of the iPad 2, leaving you craving for the iPad version of the same app. Another major quibble here is that, you are locked into Apple’s App Store to get access to all of these apps, and hence, you can only use iTunes on a single system for syncing.
One App that deserves special mentioning is Apple’s GarageBand, which really shows of the touchscreen possibilities of the iPad 2. This app allows you to record a number of tracks with the help of ‘real’- sounding virtual musical instruments, or they can be simply described as “cheating instruments” that play themselves for you. While this is not the app for the pros who love to do it all by themselves fiddling with innumerable knobs on a desk, it will surely interest the beginners who seem to be getting addicted to creating songs on the iPad 2. We were left wishing if only you get to export tunes to the music player on the iPad 2, instead of being forced to sync them first in the computer first.
Apple tempts the iPad 2 users into making use of its new 0.3 megapixels in the fascia and 0.91 megapixel rear cameras with an amazing and addictive app called Photo Booth. This app is pretty much straightforward and this basic app can also be used to create funny photos for your Facebook profile and other social media, but is not recommended for any serious editing.
You also get FaceTime on the New Apple iPad 2, which you must be aware by now, a video calling app. With this app, you are allowed to call people using the above mentioned front or rear facing cameras, but with only those of you who own a Mac, iPhone 4, iPod Touch and iPad 2. The FaceTime experience on the iPad is not so different than what can be got out of the iPhone or OS X computer. Though the layout might be a little different, you will basically get the same results. When we tested this feature, we were stunned at the excellence of video quality, when compared to some of the major rivals in this feature, such as the Skype. Unfortunately, you will not be able to share this fun with your other mates owning any other kind of smartphone.
With the iMovie app, you will be able to edit your videos and this video-editing software has gone through some tweaking to take advantage of the touchscreen. This app allows you to do some incredibly flashy cuts and background music to your master pieces. While it is great fun to play with the movies you had shot on your iPhone and iPad, importing them from other sources can be incredibly hard, at the least it will involve syncing with a system. If you are looking to play your videos on your TV, you get to use the enhanced AirPlay feature, and this is as long as you have an Apple telly. The AirPlay is already capable of streaming video from iPad to Apple TV, but now you will also be able to stream photo slide shows, and even apps and websites will be able to stream video and audio.
iTunes Home Sharing:
The iPad 2 has support for iTunes Home Sharing, a feature that allows you to play media from your system on the tablet through your home WiFi network. On the go, the best way to get media on the iPad 2 is to buy them through iTunes. The amount of selections available is quite good, however, they are quite expensive; in UK, it costs about 99p to rent even the cheapest movies on iTunes, whereas, in US, it costs just 99 cents, which works out to be 61p. Considering how painful it is to convert other formats and get them on the iPad, it is really worth the money.
While Apps can be handy, they are not absolutely essential, mainly as you can surf the entire World Wide Web in iPad’s browser. It is incredibly quick and does a fantabulous job in displaying the web pages accurately. Even the biggest issue of Apple iPad 2 Tablet, which is the lack of Flash support is becoming a far less of an issue, as more and more sites seem to bow to the might of Apple and has chosen flash-free design options. Most of you might be wondering, why is Apple not so friendly? Well, to begin with, Flash is quite battery hungry and has a real tendency to crash off. Whatever the reason might be, it is quite annoying when we run into images and videos on the web that cannot be viewed on the iPad 2, and even more frustrating when the issue is prominent even on popular sites.
The cache issue:
Another big issue on the iPad 2 is its memory loss when the device has heaps of Web pages open, and when you try to swap back to a page, it will have to reload from scratch. This will be the biggest headache you can ever imagine, if you are browsing on the move and in places with not-so-good connectivity. This means, the pages that were initially fully loaded may refresh into just zilch. You may end up using swear words, if you had filled out part of an online form, and just swapped into another page to check something and gone back to the form page, just to find that the page had refreshed, and you had actually lost all your work. We really hoped this caching issue might have been resolved in the iPad 2, especially since browsing is the highlight app on the tablet; but unfortunately, it requires work. However, the quick boot time and portability of the iPad 2, means that you will usually reach out for this over your phone or laptop for some simple browsing and social networking. If you are trapped with just the iPad on the move, you may even manage to do some essential tasks such as internet banking; that is, if you can be patient.
Ok, we will just get the point across, the cameras on the iPad 2 are bad. Though they are not unusable, they just produce bad stills. While you will be able to shoot videos using both the front and rear cameras on the iPad 2, only the rear one gets you decent shots. The HD lens in the back just means it is a single mega pixel shooter and the one in front is a lowly VGA cam. While the one in the front is great for taking videos of yourself, but they will not be sharp or well exposed. The camera in the rear shoots 720p video, and the quality is quite acceptable too. If you have iPod Touch 4th generation, you can expect same kind of results. However, do not even think of waving the iPad to take photos, it will make you look like an idiot.
Moving on to the insides, the iPad 2 packs you with 1GHz dual core A5 CPU, along with a dedicated GPU, which was not present in the original iPad. Apple claims that the iPad 2 is twice as fast as the original iPad when it comes to processor demanding tasks and about nine times faster as far as graphics-heavy tasks are concerned.
Speed and graphics performance in iPad-2:
When we put this claim to test, the new iPad 2 sure was faster than the original iPad, but was not as fast as we expected it to be. In spite of having the latest dual-core processor and GPU, most of the enhancements is mainly because of the updated OS. Since the original iPad too managed to get the same iOS 4.3 update, both the versions were roughly about the same speed in most basic tasks, such as opening apps and web pages. This does not be any means mean that the latest iPad 2 is slow, like its iPhone cousin, the iPad possesses smooth and buttery scrolling, that is way ahead in the competition. If you had been using an iPad that had the previous version of the iOS, then you will definitely notice the speed enhancements. While the changes to speed are minor, the enhancement in graphics performance is across the board.
As we had mentioned earlier, Apple has relocated iPad’s speaker into the rear of the tablet. The audio is clearer if a little bit quieter than the previous version. But there is a great enhancement when you consider the placement. It does the basic job for you, but if you are looking to use the GarageBand App or just listening to music or watching video, you may have to use good headphones or simply decent speakers nearby.
The battery life of the original iPad was pretty good, having lived to Apple’s claims of ten hours of use, or say, about a month of standby period. And, in spite of being much slimmer, lighter and much more powerful, then the iPad 2 provides the same battery life.
Upgrade to iPad 2:
If you already possess an iPad, you will be having the million dollar question of whether to upgrade to iPad 2. The answer is, unless you cannot stand another second knowing that you are behind in the iPad curve, you may not need it. Even though iPad 2 is speedier than the original in rendering graphics, the former is as fast in browsing and opening apps. Just make sure that you install the upgrade to iOS 4.3, because that is the major source of enhancements in speed. However, one place where the iPad 2 beats the original considerably is when it comes to weight. If weight is not something that you really care about, then the second thing to consider is its cameras, which have showed up only on the iPad 2. There are not too many people around with tablets who take snapshots or videos in crowded places, but the front and rear cameras are real fun features, nonetheless.
Apps such as iMovie and Photo Booth are great fun and the app runs only on the iPad 2. FaceTime can be used to make vide calls, but this feature can be used only with friends who possess an iPhone 4, iPod Touch, Mac or just another iPad 2. Note that, you should also be connected to WiFi. The iPad 2 does not offer you with all features that you can get out of the iPhone 4 with iOS 4.3. For instance, you will not be able to use this gadget as a personal hotspot. With this feature, you will be able to share your phone’s 3G Internet connection over WiFi with the other gadgets, but you do not get to do the same with 3G enabled iPad 2.
One of the most impressive facts about the iPad 2 that amazed everybody was its price tag. While in the United States, it will be costing same as that of the original iPad, but in UK, it will cost you £30 less than the original. The 16GB WiFi-only iPad 2 costs £399, £479 for 32GB model and £559 for 64GB version. For iPad 2 with both connectivity options of WiFi and 3G, it will cost another £100 extra through the entire set of models.
Overall, the Apple iPad 2 has the entire highlight features that aided the first iPad define the revolutionary genre of tablets. It is quite easy to use, finger friendly and provides access to a huge range of apps and games. It would have been nice if Apple had offered a feature to enable Flash in the browser when required, and also an easy way to load the external video files; you will struggle if you want to do anything more complicated than just surfing the web. But this is nit picking and it does not stop anybody from having great fun out of this gadget. In fact, this gadget offers all of the potential of the original iPad and more than that in a much slimmer and quicker casing. And, it has managed to do so without losing the battery life, which makes the tablet more craving.
With heaps of Android tablets being announced every day, the iPad will not own the Tablet city to itself for a long time. But heaps of USB ports, cameras and widgets just do not mean that Android tablets with be any more fun to use than the Apple iPad 2. If you feel that you cannot do without a memory card or support for Flash, you may have to wait a bit more for the amazing android tablets that are on their way. Otherwise, the iPad 2 will prove to be a great companion.
Apple iPad 2 – Technical Specification Table
|Model Name||iPad 2|
|Dimensions (H x W x D)||9.50″ x 7.31″ x 0.34″|
|Weight||WiFi model: 601g
WiFi + 3G: 607g
|Colour||Black and White|
|Display||9.7 inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen
Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
|Display resolution||1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch|
|Display features||Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
Support for display of multiple languages and
|Capacities available||16GB, 32GB and 64GB|
|Processor||1GHz dual-core Apple A5 custom-designed, high-performance,
|Cameras||Back camera: Video recording, HD (720p) up to 30 frames
per second with audio; still camera with 5x digital zoom
Front camera: Video recording, VGA up to 30 frames
per second with audio; VGA-quality still camera
|Camera features||Tap to control exposure for video or stills
Photo and video geotagging over Wi-Fi
|Sensors||Accelerometer, tri-axis gryoscope and Ambient light sensor|
|Supported audio formats||HE-AAC (V1), AAC (16 to 320 Kbps),
Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps),
MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4), Apple Lossless,
AIFF, and WAV
|Supported video formats||H.264 video, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats;
MPEG-4 video, Motion JPEG
|Mail attachment Support||.jpg, .tiff, .gif (images); .doc and .docx (Microsoft Word);
.htm and .html (web pages); .key (Keynote);
.numbers (Numbers); .pages (Pages);
.pdf (Preview and Adobe Acrobat); .ppt and .pptx (Microsoft PowerPoint);
.txt (text); .rtf (rich text format); .vcf (contact information);
.xls and .xlsx (Microsoft Excel)
|Wireless||Wi-Fi + 3G model: UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz);
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
Wi-Fi + 3G for Verizon model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz)
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR technology
|TV||Video mirroring and video out support: Up to 1080p with
Apple Digital AV Adapter or Apple
VGA Adapter (cables sold separately)
Video out support at 576p and 480p with
Apple Component AV Cable; 576i and 480i with
Apple Composite AV Cable
|Accessibility||Support for playback of closed-captioned content
VoiceOver screen reader
Full-screen zoom magnification
White on black display
|Input and output||30-pin dock connector port
3.5-mm stereo headphone minijack
Micro-SIM card tray (Wi-Fi + 3G model)
|Battery||Built-in 25-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery|
|Battery Life||Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi,
watching video, or listening to music
Up to 9 hours of surfing the web using 3G data network
|iTunes version||iTunes 9.1 or later|
|System Requirements||Mac computer with USB 2.0 port
Mac OS X v10.5.8 or later
iTunes 10.2 or later recommended
iTunes Store account
|Environmental advantages||Arsenic-free display glass
Mercury-free LED-backlit display
Recyclable aluminum and glass enclosure
|Box contents||iPad 2
Dock Connector to USB Cable
10W USB Power Adapter