For its newest tablet, Apple retains the fundamentals of the original iPad in terms of design or screen size. Apple also offers a new dual-core processor for better performance. So obviously, the company follows the same path as with the first iPod and iPhone: after introducing a new concept to the market, the product evolves technologically.
But it must be remembered that with the iPad, Apple did not just add a product in its catalog. The firm has introduced a new concept to the mass, an elegant and useful tablet, as the result currently dozens of million units are in production for the year 2011 alone. While competitors have just launched its first tablet models, the iPad brand stays ahead and Apple intends to do everything to ensure that its tablet is still above the competition.
Aesthetically, the iPad 2 appears very similar to its predecessor. The 9.7-inch screen is still the ultimate component of the tablet and the case is available in two colors, black and white. Thinner than the first generation: 8.8 mm from 13.4 mm, the iPad 2 is also slightly more compact: it goes from 18.9 cm to 18.5 cm wide. A particular focus seems to have been placed on the weight which went from 690 grams for the original iPad 32GB (Wi-Fi) to 604 grams for the same model of the second generation. The back of the unit appears to inherit the design found on the latest iPod Touch, the edges are now rounded. Handling is considerably improved because the front edges of the screen are now almost flush.
For the rest, below the screen, you’ll find the traditional Home button, while on the right edge of the device there are volume control knob and the lock button. The latter can now be configured inside the Settings to act as mute button or screen orientation lock. At the top of the iPad 2, you’ll find a start button and a headphone jack. At the base of the iPad 2 there is an iPod dock connector while the speaker’s sound is audible through a few small holes. The big addition on the iPad 2 is the appearance of webcams located on the top left corner on the back of the unit and at the center position just above the screen. While the former can take pictures/videos, the second is intended for FaceTime, a video-chat service from Apple.
Beyond cosmetic changes, the iPad has two important new components. The tablet is powered by a new processor called Apple A5. It is based on the ARM architecture, and is consisted of two execution cores. Although its default speed is 1 GHz, the A5 is actually limited to an operating frequency of 900 MHz to improve battery life. As for performance, the chip A5 is claimed to be twice faster than the A4 used in the first iPad. Although Apple does not confirm it, it seems reasonable to assume that the A5 is based on the Cortex A9.
The other new component addition of the iPad 2 is its integrated graphics processor, the SGX543MP2. Believed to be nine times faster than the SGX535 on the original iPad, this graphic engine also enjoys significant improvements in geometric power. However, the RAM is still 512 MB, which is rather limited for today’s standard.
The 9.7-inch screen is made from an IPS panel, visible from several angles, whereas the resolution is confined to 1024×768 pixels with a density of 132 pixels per inch (ppi). Regarding to the wireless capability, the Wi-Fi version of iPad 2 is compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n hotspots and Bluetooth 2.1 EDR standard. The 3G version of the device is equipped with a 3G modem and a micro-SIM slot. The light sensor, accelerometer, and three-axis gyroscope offers greater freedom in gaming.
Apple announced that the device can last for ten hours. On the bowels of the tablet there are three lithium ion batteries. The iPad 2 can be charged by a USB 2.0 port and require 10 Watts of power.
Cameras are a significant improvement to the iPad 2. The front camera is located at the top of the screen with a modest resolution of 640×480 pixels (VGA). The camera on the back of the unit is capable of creating 720p videos in HD at 30 frames per second. The still image resolution is only 960×720 (0.7 Mp), which is significantly inferior compared to iPhone 4’s 5 Mp cameras. In fact, Apple uses the same unconvincing camera sensors used in iPod Touch 4G. It therefore produces noisy images with disappointing focus. Whether you use the front or the rear camera, it is possible to manually adjust the focus by tapping your finger on a specific area. A 5x digital zoom feature is available for the rear camera and just like on the iPhone, to zoom in on an object you can slide the finger. Still, given the size of the iPad 2, this manipulation, especially in landscape mode is somewhat inconvenient.
The iPad 2 supports the FaceTime application. The app is now also available on Mac, iPhone 4, iPad 2 and the iPod Touch 4G. Like on the iPod, FaceTime functionality requires Wi-Fi and Apple ID. Simply add friends’ contacts to call them. Aesthetically, the FaceTime app gets a new interface so that the layout differs significantly from what we see on the iPod Touch (even with iOS 4.3). The application launches a video stream on the display while half of the screen is filled with a list of contacts, favorites or recent calls.
The iPad 2 comes with a standard application called PhotoBooth. Well known to Mac users, PhotoBooth can apply nine different graphic effects and the software can provide a real time preview of nine different effects on objects on your viewfinder.
The iBooks, an e-book reader is not a standard feature, but it is downloadable through the AppStore.
Apple iPad 2 also supports a dedicated version of iMovie. A slimmer version of the application is already available for iPhone 4; unfortunately, it is optional and not free. One interesting thing to note is the limited space allocated on the 9.7-inch screen for the app. This would sound almost like an admission about the unpracticality of using the iPad as a video camera. It is possible to import video from iPhone 4 to the iPad 2 via optional connection kit for editing later on iMovie. Obviously, we would like to see video transfer from the iPhone 4 to iPad 2 using wireless connection. As for iMovie, it has interface similar to what we find at the iPhone 4 and it has a predefined ability to export your clips to YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook, all in HD format.
GarageBand is a music creation application; again it is not free and available for download at the App Store. You can use it to record your musical compositions in a specific instrument. For example, a piano keyboard can be displayed: just touch the key to play it. Each composition with an instrument can be combined with percussion sounds if necessary, and it is then possible to mix the tracks obtained from individual instrument. Provided you have a suitable adapter, it is even possible to plug your own guitar on the iPad.
It comes with an AC adapter and a single USB cable, the iPad 2 seems quite lonely in its box. There is no question; you should also buy a cleaning cloth or even a pair of headphones. And while the iPad 2 still has no native USB port or even memory card reader, there are various accessories to fill some gaps. You can purchase connection kit for USB and SD memory card reader. This accessory is not new and it is already commonly used by the original iPad users. Apple also offers a cable with HDMI output, with this cable you will be able to connect to an HDMI TV. It then takes advantage of a mirrored display interface of iOS, a feature exclusive to the iPad 2. The videos are played in full screen contrast. If you previously own a first generation iPad, do not expect to reuse your current dock because Apple has offered a new dock, adapted specifically to the iPad 2.
Apple offers a brand new case design for the iPad 2. Called Smart Cover it no longer protects the entire shelf, but only the screen, this is probably its main weakness. Available in several colors, the Smart Cover is bound with a magnet on the side of the iPad 2. The cover is simple and accurate in terms of positioning. The flap protecting the screen can be folded into four parts and turned around to create a support. There are two recommended positions: one to slightly elevate the device for text input, the second to prop the iPad 2 into landscape position to watch videos or make calls using FaceTime.
Although relatively thick, the Smart Cover has another quality that distinguishes the iPad 2, when the cover is opened; it automatically turns on the device. It’s pretty impressive, and can optionally be disabled from the settings in the iPad 2. Still, the Smart Cover alone weighs 130 grams which will add to the overall weight of the tablet.
Since the iPad 2 capitalizes on the strengths of its predecessor, those who have been familiar with the original iPad will not be baffled by this newer version. The rounded edges of the iPad 2 allow much better grip when holding the device with both hands. The lightness of the device is not obvious, however: the iPad 2 remains heavy to hold with one hand for an extended period of time. As for the screen, it looks completely identical to the previous iPad.
The new A5 processor restores responsiveness that had been lost since iOS 4.2. The virtual keyboard reacts instantly and without any delay. The PowerVR graphics chip shows its true power when you use a graphic application like PhotoBooth where you can preview the image using nine different graphical effects simultaneously.
Some users reported that after a few uses, the FaceTime no longer displays the video stream, instead they only get the still image of the caller. Also when using iMovie, after they add music videos to their project, the preview monitor remain desperately empty and black. Although these glitches are not critical, they are still annoying nonetheless, especially since we need to restart the device to fix the issues.
With the original settings, the iPad 2’s startup time is five seconds faster than the original device.
Geekbench is a synthetic test tool; the result also shows that the iPad 2 is two times faster than the iPhone 4. When compared with the original iPad, the new tablet is 67% faster.
GLBench Pro 1.1.7 –
It tests the graphics performance of the processor. Because the iPhone 4 and the original iPad are equipped with a A4 processor, they are both tied here and the new tablet with A5 processor is twice faster.
With typical uses on default settings, the battery life on the new tablet is only 13 minutes longer than its predecessor. At 9:52, the iPad 2 nearly reaches 10 hours of battery life.
In the US, the iPad 2 is offered at a price similar to the original iPad, there three flavors of the tablet, 16, 32 and 64 GB available with Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G. An iPad 2 (16 GB and Wi-Fi) costs about $499, while the same model with the addition of 3G, is at $629 or $130 higher. Overall, it is still expensive for a tablet, but not necessarily if we consider the addition of new features.
The iPad 2 is still undoubtedly an innovative and unique concept. After 11 months, of the introduction of the Apple’s first tablet, the material evolution is impressive and significant. Thinner, lighter, more pleasant to grip, the iPad 2 is also faster with its more improved graphics power and three-axis gyroscope, which open wider possibilities for gaming. Apple is also the first manufacturer to deliver a tablet with dual-core processor without compromising the battery life. Cameras are also a welcome change although you’ll regret the poor quality, which is atypical for an Apple product. Of course, we would have liked a screen with higher resolution and the absence of USB port or memory card reader is simply disappointing. The iPad 2 will face tougher competition compared to its predecessor, for example, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and other models are expected to be released later this year.
- Better OS
- Thinner and lighter
- Faster and more powerful
- Poor cameras
- No significant improvement on screen
- No Flash Support
- No USB and memory card slot