Progress means change, and for Apple users, the changes come every year. This March 11, Apple released the second version of their tablet device, the iPad 2. The original iPad carved out a huge new segment of the computing marketplace, creating a demand for their tablet computers that has yet to be rivaled. With this new iPad, several advancements and improvements have been made, but does it warrant spending another $500 – $900? Hopefully, my hands-on experience with this new member of the Apple family will help you decide.
The first difference I noticed with the iPad 2 when I picked it up was the heft. It’s smaller than it’s predecessor, with a thickness of .35 inches, more than 50% thinner that the iPad. It’s also weighs 1.3 pounds, which isn’t a huge difference from the 1.5 pounds the first iPad weighs, but combined, the new size and weight seems to make it easier to hold comfortably. While there were rumors abound that the screen size would be larger or that the resolution would be better, neither is true. The display is exactly the same, though the materials used on the LCD and the glass that make up the display screen are both thinner.
Of course, the big differences in the iPad 2 are in the performance department. Apple is using a 1GHz dual-core A5 processor and double the RAM (512MB), which is practically double the horsepower of the original. According to Apple, the new Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is up to 9 times faster than the original, but I didn’t get to run any kind of test to prove or disprove that claim. Another new internal component that will improve the iPad 2 experience is the addition of a gyroscope, allowing for greater motion detection and control on apps that utilize it.
The other big change in the iPad 2 is the addition of cameras, with a rear camera that can support a resolution of 720p and a front-facing camera with VGA resolution. While the addition of camera capabilities to the iPad is nice, the camera resolutions leave a little to be desired, in my opinion. 720p resolution is 1280 x 720 pixels, which is less than a megapixel. For still camera shots, that leaves a lot to be desired, considering that the iPhone 4 carries a 5-megapixel camera that works pretty well. Why they didn’t include one in the iPad 2 is anyone’s guess. The front facing camera with VGA resolution isn’t a huge deal, as it’s a glorified webcam for use with Facetime, the app that lets you video chat with other folks using the iPad 2, an iPhone 4, or a Mac. It’s nice that Apple added cameras, but they really could have upped the ante, in my opinion.
Just like my review of the original iPad last year, I’m going to split this review into two columns, but based on the new hardware specs alone, I don’t think an upgrade to the iPad 2 is mandatory for iPad users. However, if you don’t have an iPad, then starting out with the iPad 2 would be a pleasant experience.