Apple IPad 2 Review

This is the second generation of the iPad from Apple. In this review we will look at the iPad 2 and compare it to the older iPad and the Motorola Xoom. Like the original, the iPad 2 is available in two basic models, the 3G model, and the WiFi only model. Both models come in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB variations. You now have a choice of using the 3G model with AT&T or Verizon. A 4G version is still not available. Prices range from $500USD to $830USD.

The iPad 2 has the same 9.7 inch IPS capacitive multi-touch display as the original iPad. They both share the same 1024 by 768 resolution. The colors do seem to be more vibrant and deeper than the original despite Apple claiming to not have done anything to the screen. At the front, there is the usual black button at the bottom of the screen and a new front facing camera at the top of the screen. At the very bottom is the 30-pin Apple dock connector. At the back, is a rear facing camera with a resolution of less than a megapixel. Next to that, at the side, near the top, are the volume controls and a slider that can be made to function as a mute button or for rotation. The original iPad can do the same thing if upgraded to iOS 4.3. The 3G model has a visible black plastic strip running across the top of the back, below the camera. This is for the 3G antenna. From the original, the mono speaker’s grille has been moved from facing downward to facing forward. It has also been moved closer to the corner’s edge. Looking at this from the front, you wouldn’t be able to tell if this is the original or newer iPad.

The back of the iPad 2 is made of a more polished anodized aluminum finish. It has less of a texture than the brighter aluminum finish of the original. The side profile of the iPad 2 is thinner looking than the original. There is a slight reduction in thickness here. The iPad 2 is one-third of an inch thin where as the original was half an inch thin. The thin look is only further enhanced with the iPad 2’s curvier edges that are beveled. The original had a silver bezel around the edge that was thicker. The original had square sides that made it easier to hold than the original. The weight reduction isn’t that much. It is only a few ounces lighter than the one and a half pound original. So it still feels heavy after long periods of use. Taking the iPad 2’s curvier edges, polished back, and weight into account, you’ll probably want to consider using it with one of the many cases or stands that will be available because it is slippery and will tend to fall out your hands easier than the original.

One of the accessories to the iPad 2 is a $40 HDMI cable that connects to via a dongle connected to the 30-pin dock connector. While the original iPad can output at 720 HD, the new iPad can output the full 1080. Another accessory is a $40 magnetic screen cover that is available in many colors. For more money, you can get a leather version. The way it works is it attaches to the side of the iPad via very powerful magnets. This essentially turns your iPad into a type of book you can flip open and closed. The cover can then be closed as the other side attaches itself to the screen, also via magnets. Magnetic sensors on the screen can be configured in iOS to turn off the iPad when you do this. The iPad was designed to work with these magnets, though you may want to be careful that they don’t come in contact with your credit cards or other magnetically sensitive material. The magnets are strong enough to lift the iPad, though it’s not recommended you do this. The cover is horizontally rigid, though it has vertical folds that allow it to bend. This is so you can also use the cover as a stand for the iPad when in landscape mode. You can use it to raise the iPad a few degrees while using it on your lap, or even further when using it on a flat surface. You can also use it as a stand in portrait mode, but it will only be supporting just that one side, and at a stiff 90 degree angle, so it will tend to fall the other direction. Not a very comfortable viewing angle when used in portrait mode. Keep in mind this only provides protection for the screen. The back is still exposed, so you might want to consider using a full case instead. A variety of third party cases and covers will surely be available.

Both iPads have ambient light sensors and accelerometers. However, the newer iPad also has a gyroscope, which is very nifty for gaming. The iPads certainly have very little memory compared to other tablets. And it is a wonder how it makes use of its ample processing power with such little RAM. This probably has to do with how efficient iOS is. The original iPad had 256MB of RAM, while the iPad 2 has 512MB. The lag you would notice when browsing system menus or web pages on the original iPad is now virtually gone, thanks to the dual core 1GHz A5 processor. It is a fast processor indeed. However, it does run at an idle 800MHz at times, to conserve battery life. The original iPad had a single core 1GHz A4 processor. With a faster CPU, more RAM, a more optimized iOS, you won’t be seeing a lot of crashes here. Both the 3G and WiFi only model have an 802.11b/g/n WiFi radio.

Now we compare the iPad 2 to the Android Honeycomb powered Motorola Xoom tablet. The Xoom is slightly thicker than the iPad 2, however, the iPad 2 is the thinnest tablet yet. The Xoom has a bigger, wider, 10.1 inch display at 1280 by 800. The Xoom’s 160 ppi pixel density is also higher than the iPad 2’s 133 ppi. However, the IPS display in the iPad is brigher and more colorful than the Xoom. The Xoom also has a 1GHz dual core processor, the Tegra 2 by Nvidia. While both have powerful CPUs, the Xoom has the better GPU.

The web browsing performance of iOS 4.2 is lacking when compared to other mobile devices of today, even over WiFi. iOS 4.3, however, has improved browsing speeds on the iPad 2, and even the iPad 1. There is still no Flash animation support, but you do still get HTML5 and mobile video support. Using the popular SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, we are going to compare the browsing performance of the iPad and the Xoom. Lower numbers are better in this benchmark. The iPad 1, running iOS 4.2, scored a 6700. When running iOS 4.3, it scored a 3350. The iPad 2, running iOS 4.3, scored a 2180. The Xoom is still the fastest, with a score of 2060.

With the new front facing camera, you now have the ability to use FaceTime. You can video chat on the big screen of the iPad with anyone else with an iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or FaceTime for the Mac. You can even do this over WiFi.

The iPad 2 is definitely an improvement over the iPad 1. However, there aren’t really any apps and games that take advantage of the more powerful CPU. Even with the Tegra 2 on the Xoom, there’s still not that many games that make full use of it. If you already have an original iPad, and are considering buying the iPad 2, you should wait a while till there are better games. However, if you don’t have an iPad, the choice is yours between the iPad 2 and the Android powered Xoom.