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Apple iPad 2 Review

by Stewart Wolpin on March 14, 2011

Don't be swayed by reports of lines at stores or how the iPad 2 has been sold out in so many places. The hysteria over what is essentially a second-generation upgrade is no indication of how improved the iPad 2 is over the original. Yes, the iPad 2 is a great tablet. Arguably, the best on the market for the foreseeable future. But are the improvements worth the $100 premium over the iPad 1?

Apple iPad 2The iPad 2 includes three major upgrades over the original iPad 1:

  • iPad 2 is a third thinner and a few ounces lighter than the original. It also has a slightly smaller surface area – the screen is the same 9.7 inches, but the screen bezel is narrower.
  • Apple has added front and back cameras, primarily to enable Apple's FaceTime video chatting but likely to spark a wave of photo-related apps such as Apple's own PhotoBooth app, a fun take-off on the instant photo booths often found in malls.
  • Dual core processors, essentially two 1 GHz processors on a chip of Apple's own design. According to Apple, the dual core engine doubles iPad 2's speed for booting and running apps, and boosts graphics for processing video and gaming nine times.

Otherwise, aside from a few other minor tweaks – such as the speaker now placed on the rear – iPad 2 is essentially an iPad 1 in a smaller, thinner box. Both are great choices.

How it feels in the hand

Like the original, iPad 2 is the same slippery little devil as iPad 1, except now it's 10% lighter, which makes it even more slippery – the original's heft, even by a few ounces, was enough to keep it in your hands. iPad 2 is like a giant thin slice of soap and screams for a rubberized rear.

Apple's answer is an accessory, the Smart Cover. Using magnets embedded in the frame of the iPad 2, the Smart Cover clicks into place to protect the iPad screen, yet adds practically no weight or bulk. When the Smart Cover is closed, the iPad goes to sleep automatically, and then awakens when the cover is opened. The Smart Cover can also be folded to act as a stand for typing or movie watching. The Smart Cover comes in 10 colors— including five in leather—and is priced at $39 for the polyurethane and $69 for leather.
Apple iPad Smart Cover

To avoid sharp edges, the sides of the iPad 2 slope, which puts the headphone jack and Apple 30-pin connector on around a 135 degree angle almost behind the screen.

Display and sound

What Apple has failed to do is improve iPad's screen, a literally glaring omission. Amazon has and will continue to make marketing hay over iPad's poor performance in daylight relative to the Kindle, which the iPad 2 doesn't improve upon. And for varying supply reasons, Apple wasn't able to import iPhone 4's high-resolution Retina screen to the iPad 2.

This doesn't mean it's a bad screen – it isn't. iPad 2's screen is as brilliant as the original. Though it is lower resolution than competitors, such as the Motorola Xoom, which offers a 1280x800 display versus the iPad 2's 1024x768—a difference you'll definitely notice when watching movies.

The iPad 2's speaker has been moved from the side to the rear, its perforated grill now a part of the iPad 2's solid rear. This is not a positive change. The iPad 2 lacks the original's solid bass and its sound is thicker and a bit hollow. But you're likely to use iPad 2 with earphones, and it sounds just as good as an iPod or iPhone.

Web browsing

All Web pages, and Web-based content from apps, load visibly faster on the iPad 2 than on the original, although I never complained that the iPad 1 was slow. As always, Apple refuses to support Adobe Flash, so video on some Web sites may not play.

iPad 2 looks to be better at sucking in Wi-Fi signal. iPad 2 often showed more connection waves than an adjacent iPad running on the same network.

Camera and video recording

Tablets, especially large ones like the iPad 2, have awful camera ergonomics. They're too big, you have to hold them too far away from your face to frame your subject and, for video, they're nearly impossible to hold still, which means you get jumpy video.

Apple didn't do us any favors with cameras on the iPad 2. Instead of installing iPhone 4's 5 MP HDR camera, iPad 2 has a lousy .69 MP (960 x 720) rear-facing camera and a mere .33 MP (640 x 480) camera in front. You can imagine the results–stills taken by either camera are grainy and even those shot outdoors lack color and vibrancy, and don't blow-up well.

What the front-facing camera does offer is the ability to video chat using either Apple's FaceTime or Skype. Here again, Apple is a step behind the competition, with the Motorola Xoom offering a 2MP front camera.

However, iPad 2 does much better at video from the rear camera, capturing 1280 x 720 HD video at 30 frames a second. Results are solid, if a little jerky.


iPad 2 comes in the same memory capacity choices as the original – 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB.  For whatever reason, Apple still chooses not to offer an external SD card slot.

Battery Life

During my casual usage, it looks as if iPad 2 drains power a bit faster than the original. However, Apple says you'll get the same 10-hour-plus video watching life on the iPad 2 as the original provided.

Pricing and availability

iPad 2 is available in six configurations, in either black or white—if you can find it (many stores are sold out already). Pricing is the same as the original iPad. Meanwhile, the iPad 1 has been discounted by $100, making it a real bargain.:

  iPad 2
iPad 2
Wi-Fi & 3G
Wi-Fi & 3G
16GB $499 $629 $399 $529
32GB $599 $729 $499 $629
64GB $699 $829 $599 $729

In addition to Apple's own stores, iPad 2 can be bought at Best Buy, Walmart and Target, and at Verizon and AT&T stores. Ordering online from Apple, means a 3-4 week wait.

Should you buy it?

Despite its limited upgrades and new competitors in the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10-inch, the iPad 2 is still the tablet to buy. For an extra $100 over the iPad 1, you get a much thinner, lighter device, with significantly more power and front and rear-facing cameras.

But if those upgrades aren't important to you, the original iPad at it's newly reduced price is makes for an excellent choice as well.

Rating: Highly Recommended


Detailed Specs

Talk and Standby Time: up to 10 hours video use
OS: Apple iOS 4.3
Weight: 1.33 pounds (Wi-Fi), 1.34 pounds (Wi-Fi+3G)
Dimensions: 9.5” x 7.31” x 0.34"
Display: 9.7” WSVGA LCD (768 x 1024)
Video: 720p HD video recording
Camera: .69 MP (960 x 720) with autofocus
Front-facing camera: VGA (640 x 480)
Processor: 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 Processor
Memory:16, 32, 64 GB on-board
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n

Discussion loading


From Lori Cunningham on March 14, 2011 :: 1:31 pm

I agree that the iPad 2 is a great tablet.  Though it’s not significantly better than the iPad.  Truthfully, the iPad 2 should have been the first introduction, but Apple wanted to give people a reason to upgrade.  The megapixels on the much awaited dual cameras are pitiful.  Again, probably a part of Apple’s plan to get people to upgrade to the forthcoming iPad 3.

I don’t agree though that buying an iPad 2 is preferrable to the Motorola Zoom, Galaxy Tab, or others.  The main benefit of buying Apple over anyone else is that there are more apps and accessories than any other tablet.  If you want the most variety, Apple is your best bet.

However, the other tablets pack so much more punch for your money.  They have:

Upgradeable and removable SD memory.  This is a huge benefit for adding more memory without having to buy a new unit. 

Convenience.  Having a tablet that fits better in a pocket or purse is very handy.  It is less of a burden to take along with you on daily errands/lunches/trips.

Camera Resolution - Many tablets have a much better resolution on both their front and rear facing cameras over the iPad 2.

Customization.  Customizable home pages are nice as well as the flexibility on how you organize your apps. Apple locks this down.

Growing Popularity.  Android has now beat Apple in being the most used Operating System.  The gap in Apples’ massive lead in app development will close within the next few years .

Openess.  There are a number of apps availabe in the Androd market that Apple refuses to sell in their app market.

I believe these are very compelling reasons why consumers should feel very satisfied with buying another tablet over an iPad 2.



From Josh Kirschner on March 14, 2011 :: 2:43 pm

Everything you say about Android is true - it has a lot to offer and the new devices coming to market (Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1) out-run the iPad 2 spec-wise. I have no doubt that a year from now Apple will be in a much more competitive tablet market.

Today, however, the iPad 2 retains two big advantages. First, it’s actually priced lower than the Motorola Xoom (we don’t know about the Galaxy Tab yet). Sure, the Xoom has better hardware specs, but it really needed to come in at a meaningful discount to the iPad 2 to make up for the fact that the Android tablet market is not yet fully developed.

Which brings me to the second point, the Android tablet market is not yet fully developed. Actually, it’s not really developed at all. Six months or a year from now, it will likely be a different story. But many consumers (i.e., not early adopters) would likely feel let down by what’s available today.

Don’t take this to mean I’m down on Android. I’m actually a big fan and believe that Android will become number one in the tablet market as it has in the phone market. But it’s going to take a little time before Android tablets are our first choice for the average consumer. Though if the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 comes out for under $500, I may eat those words.

Josh Kirschner
Founder, Techlicious



From FTLL on March 14, 2011 :: 3:05 pm

One of the main reasons that the android OS has surpased the iOS of the iPhone is largely due to market saturation and multiple carriers.  You can get an Android phone from all the carriers out there and now over a dozen different, inexpensive phones to choose from, so switching is easier.

Tablets, however, are not as beholden to carriers, and therefore anyone can get an iPad regardless of their cell phone company.  Yes, some people will want a 3G tablet, and then a carrier will be needed, but they are not required to go that route like with cell phones.


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