tablets

Apple iPad 2 Review

Apple's second iteration of their iPad tablet, the newer model offers a bunch more features than the original.

March 11, 2011
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Science Introduction

The venerable iPad 2 has decent scores all around, but the screen could have been much better. Not willing to take our word for it? Here comes the performance by the numbers.

Screen Performance

Decent contrast, but low DPI and high reflectivity

Being 5.8 inches wide and 7.4 inches tall with a resolution of 768 X 1024 translates to a DPI of 132. Although having 132 dots per square inch is average for an LCD display, we know that Apple can do better: the iPhone 4 has more than twice the DPI of the iPad 2.

In order to get the highest contrast out of your iPad 2, you'll have to turn off the automatic screen brightness feature and crank the backlight to its maximum. The result will be very bright—about 381 candelas per square meter (cd/m2). To put this in perspective, most LCD HDTVs output between 2-300 cd/m2, and the Barnes & Noble Nook Color only managed to output 178 cd/m2. We also measured the iPad 2's black level at 0.54 cd/m2, which isn't bad for a portable screen—it's about four times as bright as an LCD TV's deepest black level.

Now that we have the black and white level, we can find the device's contrast ratio, which is approximately 718:1. The interesting thing here is that both the blacks and whites are a little higher than the original iPad, but the contrast ratio is identical. Rather than there being some sort of improvement, we would put this difference down to the occasional variations we see between individual backlights in displays like this. With an identical contrast ratio, you are not going to see any real difference between the two iPads unless you are looking at them side by side.

One area where eInk has the advantage over LCDs is screen reflectivity. A reflective screen will get washed out by external light much more easily than an eInk display. On this test, we measure the amount of light the screen reflects by using two kinds of light sources: ambient light and a direct light source. We found that the iPad 2 reflected about 11 percent of the light that hit the screen, which is somewhat on the high side. We also found that the screen does little to soften the reflection. In the real world, this means that you will see distracting reflections in the screen.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Battery Life

Notably good battery life.

Since the iPad 2 has a larger screen, it won't last as long as a dedicated eReader when it comes to flipping through eBooks. In our tests of the original iPad, it succumbed to endless page flipping just shy of the 6 hour mark. We expected that the iPad 2 results will be similar, but they proved to be slightly improved, with the device lasting 7 hours and 27 minutes in our page flipping test. While this is improved, compare this to eInk devices like the Amazon Kindle, which lasted over 24 hours, and you'll see one of the reasons why many consumers value eInk over LCD screens.

We found that the iPad 2 could run for 8 hours and 32 minutes playing back a video with the screen set to auto brightness in a well-lit indoor room. That is about an hour longer than the original iPad, so Apple is obviously doing something to make the battery last longer, which could be the more efficient processor or a change in the backlight used to illuminate the LCD screen.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Compare Prices
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

What's Your Take?

All Comments