The iPad 2: A First Look
Mark your calendar for the 11th of March and set your alarm for way-to-early o’clock; the iPad 2 is here! But wait, does this new fandangle iPad 2 really take the cake, or is it all hype, and can it compete those new Android tablets coming out?
We decided to take a closer look to figure out exactly what this new generation of iPad has to offer, and what it doesn’t.
The Dual-Core Processor
That’s right, the iPad two has Apple’s latest Cortex A5 processor, a 1GHz dual-core beast. It’s like strapping two iPads together, yet you still get the same battery life. This new processor also has a new GPU, which, even though Apple is never very forthcoming with its hardware components, is expected to be the PowerVR SGX543. It may seem like a bunch of random letters and numbers, but the SGX543 is a multi-core GPU capable of full 1080p video playback, as well as some pretty spiffy 3D gaming (9 times more powerful than the first iPad’s GPU, according to Apple). Still, Tegra 2 powered Android tablets, like the Motorola Xoom manage to outperform the iPad 2 at least slightly.
The iPad 2’s screen really has to be its weakest selling point, ironic considering the iPhone 4 has one of the nicest screens in the mobile industry. The iPad 2’s screen is essentially no different from the original’s, a mediocre 1024×768, which at its 9.7-inches is only 132 pixels per inch (versus the iPhone 4’s 326 ppi). If this doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, it should; it’s not even capable of 720p, unlike the majority of the Android tablets expected this year. Still, keeping the screen the same as the original means all of the 65,000 tablet apps in the Apple App Store should work just fine on the iPad 2.
A Few New Features
Sadly, it’s not 4G, but it does have some pretty sweet new features, some of which the first iPad really should have had. The iPad 2 doesn’t have a camera though…it has two cameras! Apple has yet to mention anything about megapixel counts, but the rear camera is likely 5MP, capable of 720p recording, and the front facing camera seems to be the standard VGA webcam type.
As mentioned earlier, the screen isn’t capable of displaying anything in 720p, so you might be thinking, “What good is a 720p video camera, and why does it claim to do 1080p vide?” You’ll be happy to know that the iPad 2 is capable of HDMI and Component video output, though it does require a special adapter sold separately (costing a hefty $40). And don’t forget the clever (albeit wonky looking and expensive) case that doubles as a kick-stand.
A Thinner Design
Thought the first iPad was ridiculously thin? It was 134mm thick; the iPad 2 is just 88mm thick (that’s thinner than the iPhone 4!). The overall footprint is also smaller, cutting it back by almost 2-square inches.
Apple also shaved off about .22 pounds, something I’m quite happy about since tablets are often awkwardly weighted.
Here’s something a bit surprising. The iPad 2 is actually reasonably priced compared to the competing Tablets on (or soon to be on) the market. Starting at $499, it’s a full $100 cheaper than the Xoom’s cheapest model. Oh, and you can choose between AT&T or Verizon if you want the 3G model.
The Bottom Line
All things considered, the iPad 2 is a nice upgrade over the original, but if you already own an iPad, you may want to pass on this one. Rumor has it that the big upgrades are planned for the iPad 3, possibly launching late this year.