On the day the first iPad became available I bought one. Over the last year it has been a constant companion usage wise as I took it to work and around the house and elsewhere. For what was a first generation device it fulfilled my expectations and more. This did not keep me from lusting after the iPad 2. So last Friday I drove by the Apple store only to see a huge line so I ended up going from store to store finding them sold out wherever I went. So back to the Apple store and the line. I ended up with the last ticket they had to ensure I would get the iPad 2. As luck had it the last ticket was for the very model I wanted – A Black iPad 2 with 32GB and Verizon 3G. Two hours later I was a happy owner with sore feet of the new iPad.
As many reviewers have had this is more of an evolutionary upgrade of the iPad than a majorly changed device. The original iPad did not feel slow in any way and load times of apps and browsing was acceptable. The iPad 2 though is even snappier and large games load much faster and rendering of pages in the browser is noticeably improved.
The main engineering changes are that the iPad is much thinner and in fact thinner than the iPhone 4 at 8.6mm. This makes it much nicer to hold in that there is not the flat edge that use to be there. It is slightly lighter at 1.33 pounds vice the original 1.5 pounds. As someone who does a lot of reading, holding the iPad for long durations is no more annoying than doing the same with a good size hardcover book.The main display is the same in size and resolution. Models are available with either a black or a white bezel. I got the black bezel since white would frame the content too much and be a distraction.
Under the hood the Apple developed A4 ARM processor has been replaced by a dual-core A5 ARM processor along with a significantly faster dual-core graphics processor that puts iPad gaming to the next level rivaling game machines. The memory has been doubled at 512MB along with a faster bus. In addition front and back facing cameras have been added. Like the iPhone 4 the iPad 2 includes a gyroscope which can be quite useful in gaming and other applications.
I am glad that I knew ahead of time how crappy the cameras would be. The back camera is 1-megapixel and the front-facing camera is VGA resolution. It is quite obvious the cameras were designed just for Facetime (a video phone app) and for video capture. While it is doubtful anybody would really be using an iPad because of it’s size for their main camera – I certainly would have wanted a better camera and especially the one used in the iPhone 4. Despite their reasoning you know the next version will have better cameras.
Surprisingly the new Smart Cover is something to write home about. This cover which attaches magnetically and also becomes a stand is really quite amazing. It just plain works and is also fun to use. Of course the cover sets you back another $39 just like the HDMI adapter. No nickel and diming for Apple – the nickels start at $39.
Apple also released two new apps for the iPad 2. iMovie and Garageband. I have not yet tried iMovie, but the reviews are overwhelmingly positive concerning power and ease of use in editing videos. Though imported videos need to be in h.264 formatted 720p .MOV files as used by the iPhone. I have played around with Garageband and it is spectacular with an 8-track recording studio and virtual instruments. As a guitarist I played with the smart guitar that pretty much lets anybody start playing guitar quickly with a default set of chords for each key along with different types of guitars and effects. The smart keyboards and drums also give you plenty of options and again great fun to play around with. You can also plug your guitar into the iPad 2 and play it through various amps and effects. This is both a serious app for musicians and something most people can learn from and have fun with. Apple just to throw us off are only charging $4.99 for Garageband and iMovie.
Last time around I got the 64GB iPad and I had filled it with apps, books, and just a part of my music collection. This time I got the 32GB instead since iOS 4.3 now has home sharing allowing you to use the iTunes library on another computer at home via wi-fi. So now that I can access my music collection directly I did not need as much memory. Last time I got the Wi-Fi only version and this time the one with 3G. In the U.S. AT&T and Verizon versions are available. I went with Verizon since their network is more robust (though slower) and their basic plan gave 1GB of data vice AT&T’s basic plan of only 250MB. I also went with the 3G version since I don’t have a cell phone and thus can’t tether the iPad to a phone. Data plans for the iPad are also month to month with no activation fees or contracts. The 3G versions also have GPS so you can use one of the many GPS apps available. My wife now has my old iPad and she is discovering the joys of going from the 4-Volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours to iBreviary and leaving all those ribbons behind.
The iPad is one of those devices you wonder how you would use it and then later wonder how you got along without it. The range of applications give you innovative ways to consume information and to also create content. Besides I am now addicted to Angry Birds.
For an in-depth technical review see the one at Ars Technica.