The first reviews of Apple’s iPad 2 are starting to appear and we’re rounding them up for you. Here’s a look at the early impressions.
The end result of all this slimming down is that the iPad 2 is easier to handle than the original model. In my review of the original iPad, I said it was “heavy enough and slippery enough that I found it difficult to hold in one hand.” In fact, the original iPad turned out to be a product that really demanded a case of some sort, just to make it easier to handle.
The iPad 2 is easier to carry with one hand, and the decreased weight makes it easier to hold for longer periods of time. But if you’re planning on using the iPad 2 to read a lot, you’ll still find yourself propping it against your chest or setting it on a table-the tablet is still not light enough to hold in one hand for extended periods of time. (For that, you’ll need something more on the scale of the Amazon Kindle 3, which is less than half the weight of the iPad 2.)
The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg made it a point to share some of the drawbacks of the device:
The iPad 2 does have some drawbacks. Its cameras take mediocre still photos and Apple won’t even reveal their megapixel ratings. The company says they were designed for video, not still photography. They did capture decent video in my tests, including high-definition video from the rear camera and video good enough from the front camera for satisfying video calling. But, for a company known for quality, which bundles a new still-photo app with the device, the cameras are disappointing.
Also, the battery life, while very good, isn’t as strong as I found it to be on the first iPad. In my tough battery test, where I played full-length movies until the battery died, with the screen brightness at about 75% and both Wi-Fi and cellular radios running, the iPad 2 just barely exceeded Apple’s claimed battery life, dying after 10 hours and nine minutes. That’s 2.5 hours better than the Xoom did on the same test, but more than an hour less than I got from the original iPad, which clocked in at 11 hours, 28 minutes.
Another drawback I encountered was that the new, more tapered design makes it harder to plug cables and accessories-including the charging cable-into the main port on the bottom of the device, because it is now angled.
The New York Times’ David Pogue paused to discuss the iPad 2 cameras:
Some of the iPad’s new features play industry catch-up. A 5-megapixel camera on the back (no flash) can also record high-definition video. If you’ve never used a tablet as a camera, you’re in for a treat; the entire screen is your viewfinder. It’s like using an 8-by-10 enlargement to compose the scene.
There’s also a low-resolution front camera that’s useful for video calls, like clear, sharp Wi-Fi calls to iPhone 4, Touch, iPad 2 and Mac owners using Apple’s FaceTime software.
Speaking of those cameras, Engadget’s Josh Topolsky really wasn’t impressed by them:
Let’s just put this out there: the iPad 2 cameras are really pretty bad. They’re not unusable, but it’s clear that the sensors employed are not top shelf by any measure. If you have a fourth generation iPod touch with cameras, you can expect the same results. In fact, it seems to us that these are the SAME cameras used in the iPod touch — there’s an “HD” lens around back (which means it’s roughly a single megapixel shooter), and on the front you’ve got a lowly VGA cam. Neither one of these produces remotely satisfying results for still shots, and in particular (when compared with something like the Xoom), the back camera just seems utterly second rate. For video duties and FaceTime calls, the cameras are reasonably useful — but we would never trade a dedicated camera (or at least a smartphone with a 5+ megapixel shooter) for this.
SlashGear’s Vincent Nguyen ran some speed tests:
Something you can’t really complain about is the iPad 2′s speed. iOS 4.3 whips along almost instantaneously on the new Apple A5 processor, with apps loading more swiftly, running more smoothly and the whole thing feeling incredibly responsive. The original iPad never exactly felt slow, but side by side with its successor the difference is noticeable in daily use.
We turned to Geekbench, a synthetic test of processor and memory performance, comparing the new iPad 2 with its predecessor and the iPhone 4. The iPad 2 scored 749 overall with its dual-core chip and 512MB of RAM, almost double the iPhone 4 – at 377 – with a single-core processor and the same amount of memory. The first-gen iPad – with the single-core processor and 256MB of memory – scored 453 under iOS 4.2; strangely, after upgrading to iOS 4.3, that actually dropped slightly, to 448.
The folks at The Daily were impressed by how powerful yet battery-friendly the iPad 2 is:
Despite a slimmer body and a processor that performs like it’s been shooting steroids, Apple claims the iPad 2 maintains a 10-hour battery life – just like the iPad 1. Initial tests showed that the iPad 2 can go the 10-hour distance under normal operating conditions – I played Tiny Wings and watched both “Inception” (in SD) and “Wall-E” (in HD) on the flight back to NYC from San Francisco without the battery conking out. But we’re not about testing things under “normal operating conditions” at The Daily. Once we’ve had more than a week of hands-on time with the device, we’ll get back to you with how it performs under a multitude of abnormal circumstances.
Laptop Mag’s Mark Spoonauer was disappointed that the iPad 2 didn’t receive a screen or speaker upgrade:
The bad news is that Apple didn’t increase the resolution on its tablet. The iPad 2 sticks with the same 9.7-inch screen with 1024 x 768 pixels. By comparison, the Motorola Xoom sports a 10.1-inch panel with 1280 x 800 pixels. Still, we prefer the iPad 2’s screen because it has wider viewing angles (thanks to IPS technology) and does a slightly better job resisting fingerprints (thanks to an oleophobic coating).
While Apple made the grille larger on the iPad 2, it’s still a mono speaker. We didn’t notice a difference in volume or clarity when we blasted The Bravery’s “Time Won’t Let Me Go” on both the iPad and the iPad 2. This tablet has plenty of audio oomph, but the Xoom’s stereo speakers are more impressive.
USA Today’s Edward Baig reminded us that the hardware isn’t the only great thing about the iPad 2:
Apple continues to lead in the third-party apps sweepstakes by a wide margin. It has more than 350,000 apps, of which about 65,000 are optimised for the iPad. Meanwhile, Apple drummed up new iPad versions for two of its popular Mac programs: GarageBand, the virtual recording studio you can use with real or software musical instruments, and iMovie, for editing high-definition videos. At $4.99 a pop, the apps are a bargain for would-be rock stars and would-be Spielbergs.
The Root’s Omar Wasow clarified that the iPad 2 isn’t exactly for everyone:
Power users will still want a laptop. People primarily interested in reading text-only books might prefer a cheaper, lighter e-book reader. Less tech-savvy folks might find even the stripped-down interface of iOS too confusing. Last year I struggled to get my grandma up and running on an original iPad, and wished Apple offered some sort of “grandparental” controls to further simplify her experience.
The initial configuration of the iPad 2 still requires that the tablet be connected and configured from a laptop or desktop computer. This is not only a buzzkill amid the joy of using it for the first time but makes the iPad hard to use as a primary computer.
Also, if the smartphone market is any indicator, Android tablets will probably gain traction with developers and begin to compete on the app front.
Still, if you’re in the market for a tablet, the iPad 2 is beautiful, powerful and delightful. It’s a pleasure to use, whether you’re browsing the news, skimming graphic-heavy pdfs, watching video or playing games. And so far, no other device comes close in price and performance.
TechCrunch’s MG Siegler briefly answered the important question of whether you should buy this gadget or not:
At this point, you’re probably thinking that the hardware, software, and smart cover all sound great. But you’re still wondering if you should buy one or not. If you don’t have an iPad and want one, it’s the easiest call in the world. Of course you should. This is everything that was great about the initial iPad, but better.
If you’re worried about another iPad coming out later this year, remember that it’s at least six to nine months away for something which may or may not even come – a lot can happen between now and then. And if it does come, maybe it will be aimed at a slightly different market. Who knows. But if you’ve decided that you definitely want an iPad, you’ll probably just be dwelling on it over the next several months if you don’t take the plunge now.
For existing iPad owners, things are a bit murkier. If you have the disposable income, it’s a no-brainer to upgrade. Again, this is everything you like about the iPad 1, but better. But if you just bought an iPad 1, or you don’t want to drop another several hundred dollars, it’s not like the iPad 1 will be out of date anytime soon. Sure, it may feel like older technology to the touch, but again, it largely looks and acts the same. My advice is just don’t visit an Apple Store and pick up an iPad 2, or you’ll be tempted.
Bloomberg’s Rich Jaroslovsky was annoyed by how the iPad 2 interacted with some accessories:
It’s also worth noting that the iPad 2’s new, tapered case makes it harder to hook up its docking and other cables, including the one that now connects it to a high-definition port on your big-screen TV. And pay attention if you spend the extra $39 or $69 for Apple’s new “smart cover,” which attaches to the iPad magnetically and automatically puts it to sleep when closed. Tossing the iPad into my computer bag, or even onto the seat of my car, jostled the cover enough to wake it back up by accident.
PC Mag’s Tim Gideon felt that the browsing experience on the iPad 2 has improved a bit:
Surfing using Safari on the iPad 2 hasn’t changed much from the original tablet. The browser is a bit speedier, however. Slideshows from the New York Times Web site load more quickly, if just barely. Even in scenarios with no Wi-Fi and a weaker Verizon signal (say, three bars or less), I found that the wait time to load a page was, while not lightning fast, never much longer than about six to eight seconds, worst case scenario. Safari in iOS 4.3 remains a user-friendly, simplified experience-it’s easy to navigate sites, use the virtual keyboard to enter information, create new “pages” (tabs), bookmark sites, and perform quick searches. When browsing, you often get the full version of a Web site, not the mobile version-or in the case of ESPN.com, a greeting page that lets you choose between the two versions.
The bad news is there’s still no Flash video support. Technically, the Motorola Xoom has no Flash support either-but Motorola claims this will be remedied in a matter of weeks. Apple claims that the future of Web video is HTML5. And it seems that, given the iPad’s popularity, many sites are on board. ESPN.com’s videos play on the iPad 2 without a hitch, as do CNN’s. YouTube videos are more of a crapshoot, but, of course, there’s an app for that. And Vimeo, as I mentioned earlier, even has an Apple TV-enabled AirPlay button on its videos for sending content directly from your iPad’s browser to your Apple TV. Lack of Flash support will always be a knock, but Apple is finding ways to make it less of a hindrance.
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