Apple iPad 2 Review
Apple's second iteration of their iPad tablet, the newer model offers a bunch more features than the original.
The iPad 2 is Apple's follow-up product to their original tablet, and it has a few noteworthy upgrades. The device itself is a bit thinner and lighter, there's two cameras for video chatting, and there's a bit more hardware to help with gaming. As with the first iPad, the iPad 2 offers a great LCD display, long battery life, and is one of the most expandable tablets currently on the market.
Design & Usability
Apple showcases its flagship technology, yet again.
The iPad 2 has slightly smaller dimensions than the original iPad: it weighs slightly less (1.3 lbs against 1.5 lbs for the original) and is a bit thinner (0.31 inches thick versus 0.51 inches thick). Even with the thinner, lighter form factor, the device is still a little hard to hold with a single hand. The iPad still doesn't come with a stand, but this time around Apple is offering specialized iPad covers that can double as a stand to tilt the screen up for viewing. We expect that a slew of other cases designed to make it easier to hold will appear in the future.
Most of your interaction with the iPad 2 will be through the touchscreen. The only physical controls are the home button on the device's front, the power button on its top, and the silent/screen rotation lock and volume controls on its right side. The touchscreen itself is incredibly responsive and accurate. Typing on it isn't quite as fast as using a keyboard, although once you've gotten used to the interface, the controls are incredibly easy. The only thing the iPad 2 lacks is a form of haptic or tactile feedback.
Apple's App Store is a monster, with hundreds of thousands of apps available, both free and paid. The range of functionality available is really quite impressive, spanning from business applications to low brow humor. The App Store also has more than a few high-production games available, as many major game developers have re-released or produced original content for the iPad 2.
Although the App Store has quite a few selections, it's a bit of a walled garden—it's a huge landscape, sure, but it's closed off nonetheless. All apps, both free and paid, have to be approved by Apple before they'll appear in the store. This means you won't find a new email client or internet browser: Apple feels these offer redundant functionality. Again, despite censorship and monopoly maintenance, Apple offers more apps than any other platform out there.
Good, but not the best Apple has to offer.
A screen's DPI, or dots per inch, is important for creating sharp text and vivid colors: the higher the pixel density, the finer the details. The iPad 2's screen measures 5.8 inches wide by 7.4 inches tall. Since the screen's resolution is 768 by 1024 pixels, that means you're getting 132 dots per inch (dpi). This is average for an LCD display. Interestingly enough, the iPhone 4 actually has a much higher dpi: 326. Apple didn't upgrade the iPad's screen this time around.
The backlit LCD lets it perform very well at lower light levels, but gets increasingly hard to read as the light levels increase. Compare this performance to an eInk reader like the Amazon Kindle, and you'll see the advantage eInk technology has over LCDs. You aren't going to limit your iPad 2 use to a dark or dim room, so the device has to hold up well under various lighting conditions. Like the previous iPad, the screen is very reflective. If you're using the iPad 2 outside on a bright, sunny day, you'll notice reflections in the screen and a significant loss of contrast.
We found the iPad 2 to have a fair color gamut, but not all that great. The red and green points were very close to what the rec. 709 standard specifies, but the blue is a little off, which could make skylines look a little lighter than they should—we doubt this will be a serious issue. We also noticed no significant difference here between the iPad and the iPad 2.
In terms of battery life, the iPad 2 has a vastly improved battery life for reading eBooks and playing video over its predecessor. However, the eBooks battery life remains significantly shorter than those we got from eInk devices like the Kindle and Sony Readers. The bottom line is that the iPad 2 will be fine for a daily commute or a day or two out of the office, but you'll need to recharge for anything longer. It is also worth noting that the iPad and iPad 2 took a long time to charge: both required several hours connected to the included charger or a powered USB port before the battery was 100% charged.
A worthy sequel
The iPad 2 is a definite step up from the original iPad, offering more power for smoother browsing and page-flipping, plus a smaller, sleeker profile that makes it more portable. Unfortunately, it is still a fairly hefty device that requires some commitment to carry around on a daily basis.
At the time of launch, it sits as Apple's flagship mobile offering for a tablet, with all the features of the original and then some. Keep in mind that the iPad 2 is one of a very few devices you can get with the iOS ecosystem, and if you care about things like customizing the home screen(s), that will be impossible with this tablet.
All said and done, the iPad 2's screen is bright and has a good contrast range. It would have been nice to see the higher DPI that the iPhone 4 offers, though—the retina display of that device makes things much clearer on the screen. The screen also does not hold up well outdoors: in bright daylight and direct sunlight, the screen becomes pale and difficult to read, so it would not be a good pick for reading books by the pool on a tropical vacation.
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