tablets

Apple iPad 2 Tablet eBook Reader Review

The iPad 2 is lighter and faster 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.

Screen

The Apple iPad 2's screen is the same size and resolution as the previous model: 9.7 inches diagonally, with a resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels. The picture looks as sharp as it did on the original, and has responsive touch controls.

Front Image

Indoor & Outdoor Use

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.

indoor-outdoor.jpg

NOTE: The images above are shot with a variety of lighting sources, which may cause some color shift.

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 the eInk technology has over LCDs.

This test currently tests brightnesses up to 14,000 lux. To put this number in perspective, it’s like standing in the shade on a sunny day: there’s no direct sunlight, but it’s still fairly bright. If you didn’t have that shade and were in direct sunlight, however, that would put you in the 100,000 lux range: the iPad 2 screen would be unreadable under these conditions. While the iPad 2 works great under many lighting conditions, you’ll definitely run into problems when you run out of cloud cover.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Legibility

To test legibility, we feed the device several test images (both text and illustrations), which we photograph, magnify, and examine.

legibility.jpg

As you can see from the samples above, the iPad 2 has no legibility issues. We found that that iPad 2’s screen performed about as well as its predecessor’s: it has a sharp, clear screen that produces crisp text and bright colors.

Reflectance

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 per cent 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, as the photos below show. In the real world, this means that you will see distracting reflections in the screen.

Screen Size & DPI

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, but they are no doubt considering it.

Blacks and Whites

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. If you need a makeshift flashlight, the iPad 2 will be more than happy to oblige.

We 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 a deep black on a TV.

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.

Blacks and Whites Chart

Color Gamut

The color gamut describes the range of colors the device will display. There’s an international standard that defines a display’s color gamut, Rec. 709, and that’s what we judge display performance against. We found the iPad 2 wasn’t too far off from Rec. 709. The red and green points were very close to what the standard specifies, but the blue is a little off, which could make blue skies look a little lighter than they should. But we doubt this will be a serious issue. We also noticed no significant difference here between the iPad and the iPad 2.

Color Gamut Chart

Battery Life

We expected that the iPad 2 would have identical battery life to the original iPad, given that the battery is about the same size. But we were wrong: the iPad 2 has significantly improved battery life for reading eBooks and playing video. 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.

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.

Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Product Tour
  3. Screen
  4. Battery & Controls
  5. eReader
  6. Music & Audio
  7. Movies & Video
  8. Email & Web Browsing
  9. Internet Apps
  10. Apple iPad Wi-Fi (16 GB) Comparison
  11. Samsung Galaxy Tab (T-Mobile) Comparison
  12. Amazon Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi Comparison
  13. Conclusion
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