Apple iPad 2 Tablet Review - HotHardware

Apple iPad 2 Tablet Review

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Aside from being thinner and lighter, the build quality of the iPad 2 is the same as before. You still have 9.7 inches of screen real estate covered in scratch resistant glass, an aluminum back casing, and an overall sturdy design that feels more like a professional tool than it a does an entertainment device. True to Apple form, it's also sealed shut to prevent users from mucking around inside, even if it's to swap the battery (which still isn't user replaceable).

Apple may have changed the specs, but it didn't change the bundle. The main accessories include an AC power adapter and sync cable, and you also receive a pair of Apple decals begging to be slapped on your roommate's home-brewed Windows PC. Considering the iPad 2's multimedia capabilities, we're again surprised (and disappointed) that Apple doesn't include a pair of earbuds like it does with the iPod touch. Sure the iPod touch is more deserving of earphones, but let's not forget that the iPad is also portable, which means you'll likely end up toting it to public places and on plane rides where others may not be as into Gangstagrass as you are.

The overall design of the iPad 2 is nearly identical to the iPad 1. There's the single home button on the bottom, and a bezel that wraps around the screen allowing you to hold the device without interfering with your view of the screen or multi-touch options.

We have the black bezel version in-house, though Apple also offers the iPad 2 in white trim. If you spring for the white model, it's just the bezel that's a different color; the back cover is still the same aluminum. One potential pitfall of investing in the white model is it could potentially distract your eyes from the screen and make it appear less bright than it really is. This is the reason you don't see TV makers slapping white bezels on their HDTVs, though we don't want to overstate this with the iPad. We have seen the white iPad 2 in person, and while we didn't perform any in depth testing, it wasn't as though the screen appeared dark.

It's also worth mentioning that if you are considering the white version but fear you'll gunk it up all the time with your dirty fingers, it's not going to show your Hot Pocket remnants any more than the black version will. There's a scratch resistant glass panel that covers the entire front, including the bezel, and that's what you'll be dirtying up, not the bezel itself. 

Click images for high res.

Connectivity options is one area Apple intentionally locks down. Still 'missing' from the iPad 2 is a USB port or expandable storage, such as a microSD card slot. The way Apple figures it, if you want more storage, opt for a higher capacity iPad to begin with. That just doesn't add up to us and limits the devices expandability, no matter how you slice it.

You'll find Apple's proprietary port on the bottom, which is the same that's used on the iPad 1, iPod touch, and iPhone. Through this port you can add functionality, like a memory card reader to transfer photos from your digital camera. Apple also now sells a $39 digital AV adapter so you can hook your iPad 2 up to your large screen HDTV via HDMI. Doing so will mirror whatever is on the iPad to your TV in up to 1080p, though movies are limited to 720p. The adapter also pipes digital audio to screens that support it.

On the top of the iPad 2 sits the power switch and 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the upper-right side you'll find the volume control and mute/screen lock key, which you can now toggle between in the settings menu. There's also a single speaker grill on the bottom of the iPad 2, and a rear-facing camera up in the corner.

There's been a lot of ballyhooing over Apple's "Smart Cover" for the iPad 2, which attaches magnetically to the tablet. When closed, the iPad 2 goes into sleep mode automatically to save on battery life, and wakes up when you fold it open. You can also fold it back to serve as a stand, both for typing and watching videos, like in Netflix. It's an ingenious design, albeit incomplete, if you're interested in protecting the entire tablet.

The problem with the Smart Cover is it only shields the front of the iPad 2, not the back. If you've owned a mobile Apple product before, then you know how scuffed up the backplate tends to get. If your primary goal is to actually protect the iPad, you'll want to look into an alternative cover (the official cover for the iPad 1 is not compatible).

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ding ding ding..."we have to declare Apple's iPad 2 the current All time Undisputed champ.!!"

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i think apple is really going to test how often you can release updates and still make decent sales. and hopefully make more prosumers in the progress.

It looks good though, just not the $.

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^I much agree. Its not exactly like a 200 product like the Ipod touch is. even if you were to buy one every other release then you'd be spending 1000 in two years on something that it replaced by the next year.

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iPad2 is a nice update but it only helps keep the iPad relevant and isn't cutting edge or setting any new ground in the tablet market.

Before long it will be eclipsed as other companies come out with far superior hardware. Like Qualcomm is coming out soon with a dual core 1.5GHz with twice the graphical performance of the Tegra 2. Nvidia is already working on the Tegra 3, which will have 3x the graphical performance of the Tegra2 and likely will be quad core. Even Freescale is going to come out with a dual core 1.6GHz offering. Many are pushing for 1GB of RAM to become standard and Androids rapid market growth stands to catch up with iOS by next year.

While the recent disaster in Japan may directly effect the iPad 2 production since they source parts directly from there. But we've yet to see how it will effect the rest of the market.

Pricing is the best thing about the iPad2, but pricing for the other competitive tablets may go down. While many other companies like Archos already offer cheaper alternatives. And unlike last year competitive tablets are actually going to come out this year, which wasn't really the case last year.

Requirements for peripherals are also still a problem, unlike other tablets that will have built in USB ports, card readers, and video out. Though they finally provide a dock port to HDMI cable adapter for the iPad2. So you won't need a docking station for everything and the iPad2 finally supports full HD output resolution.

Then there is the fact other tablets are starting to offer other operating system choices besides just Android, like Chrome and by end of the year even Windows 8. So even if Android doesn't catch up with iOS this year, competing tablets can still potentially offer more.

Btw, the Smart Cover sucks as an actual cover and doesn't really protect the screen from dirt, scratches on the back, and smudges. Though you can use it help stick the iPad2 to a fridge door or as an impromptu stand. But overall skip it and get a real protective casing if you get yourself an iPad2.

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The problem with all these "coming out soon" scenarios is that the iPad is already here, and in second generation form (or 1.5 generation form, depending on how you look at it). And then you have situations where an anticipated tablet like the Xoom finally ships, but without Flash support at launch (one of the iPad's most criticized omissions, and the Xoom's most hyped), and we still have to wait a little while longer for the Wi-Fi only version.

In the coming months, even more tablets will emerge, but if they're to usurp the iPad -- no easy task given Apple's rabid fan base and penchant for marketing -- they won't just have to trump the iPad 2, but rumored specs of the iPad 3, which should start hitting the newswire around the same time.

The iPad 2 is far from the perfect tablet, but it's arguably the best option out there right now, and certainly capable of competing for the next 12 months.

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iPad 2 is already here but it's hardly the next gen device Apple needed to ensure no one else could ever offer better for the rest of the year.

The "coming soon" products are definitely coming out, they're not rumors! This isn't 2010 anymore where Apple had next to zero competition and nothing was in sight for the most of the year, 2011 is a whole new market and like you said the iPad2 is more a 1.5 update than a true 2.0 update.

So only two things will really help keep Apple competitive lead this year, and that's their app market and pricing.

But there are tablets that are cheaper than the iPad, it's just the direct competitors that are priced higher right now but they can easily lower their pricing to better compete. While even the chinese tablets are using similar parts like the same IPS screen.

The rapidly growing mobile market is also pushing for smaller tablets, which the iPad doesn't comply to. And Apple has nothing to offer against Chrome, Meego, Honeycomb, HP's WebOS, other linux distros and the upcoming Windows 8 OS offerings, which combined clearly offers more than Apple is offering with just the iPad2.

Mind you I'm not even going into all the other technical advancements the other tablets will start introducing soon. For things like visual gesture controls, more accurate motion tracking for augmented reality and other uses. Among others...

If it was just iOS vs regular Android then sure, but the tablet market is growing beyond simple usage scenarios and many of us have widely different needs.

I'm sure the iPad2 will remain very popular for the rest of the year but I see it's momentum already starting to ebb... They'll need to come out with shockingly good specs for the iPad3 or they will start to lose momentum altogether.

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But there are tablets that are cheaper than the iPad

But are they better? and 10 inches?

it's just the direct competitors that are priced higher right now but they can easily lower their pricing to better compete

BUt they are not priced to compete and cant offer the raw power that the  Ipad 2 has.

The rapidly growing mobile market is also pushing for smaller tablets, which the iPad doesn't comply to.

I never heard that the market is pushing for smaller tablets, where did you get that info? Anything less than 10 inches , I consider not a tablet , but an oversized smart-phone.

And Apple has nothing to offer against Chrome, Meego, Honeycomb, HP's WebOS, other linux distros and the upcoming Windows 8 OS offerings, which combined clearly offers more than Apple is offering with just the iPad2.

I'm gotta be joking??

One note that I Like to add in response to your prior comment..

The GPU chip in the Ipad 2 (PowerVR SGX543MP2 ) completely destroys  Tegra 2. Already 3-5x performance over it.

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("But are they better? and 10 inches?")

iPad is only 9.7", the others as I already stated cover a far greater range of usage scenarios. You can't fit a 9.7 in your coat pocket and on the flip side there are times when you'll want a bigger tablet and there are those that are 11.6" to 12" as well and a couple even larger than tabloid size...

So yeah, depending on your needs they can be better and yes they cover 10" as well. But most people want to be mobile and 10" is too big for them! 10" and larger is fine for home and basic portable use but you need to go smaller for mobile use. Weight being another factor, as anything around 10" or larger is presently too heavy for one handed use for long periods of time. So as a matter of practicality it starts to become more practical to carry a laptop... Especially for those who actually need a keyboard every now and then...

("BUt they are not priced to compete and cant offer the raw power that the Ipad 2 has.")

Right now, only the PC tablets can offer more but they cost more. Though Oak Trail tablets should be getting price competitive, even if the chip costs about $75 vs a $20 for a ARM solution, and offer a range of OS support. But like I already mentioned they're coming out with ARM offerings much more powerful this year. More than twice as fast and up to quad cores. I also mentioned that Tegra2 is 2010 technology and we're in 2011! iPad2 is only keeping up with what is coming out this year, but aside from coming out first they're not going to keep that lead for the whole year this time.

Though the 9x better graphics is a good reason to upgrade from the first gen iPad, but it'll still be awhile before they take full advantage of those graphics.

Meanwhile, those who would actually game on a portable device will have the Nintendo DS 3D and the Sony PSP2, which while also ARM based will be providing about the same graphics as the iPad2 (uses the same PowerVR SGX543MP2) on the go and lots more games and far better control options than any tablet.

While virtually every tablet and smart phone will soon support HD video and video output, which is what most people will be satisfied with for their non-gaming needs. Just to put some perspective...

Btw, for owners of the original iPad, it seems after about 9 months of normal use the run time drops to about 6 hours and of course the battery is non-user replaceable. So the iPads have a built in reason to upgrade after a year... at least unless you can manage a battery replacement from Apple or don't mind voiding your warranty and doing it yourself.

("I never heard that the market is pushing for smaller tablets, where did you get that info? Anything less than 10 inches , I consider not a tablet , but an oversized smart-phone.")

Look up the hundreds of tablets that have been released and look at their screen sizes? Even with those iPad clone tablets that even use the same 9.7 IPS screen, the vast majority are less than 10", even the iPad is as previously stated only 9.7" in size and not a true 10" screen. Most 10" and larger tablets have been the PC Windows type prior to this year.

The Xoom is actually one of the first mainstream ARM 10" tablets from a big name company. The Samsung Galaxy Tab was only 7" and the Dell Streak was only 5", even the new Dell Streak is only 7" and the upcoming RIM Playbook is only going to be 7". While most other 10" models were from smaller companies, like the Notion Ink tablet and they haven't been out that long.

Besides, technically even the iPad is just a enlarged iPhone. Both use the same OS, the iPhone 4 used the same A4 chip as the iPad (just double the RAM) and the iPhone 5 will similarly use the same A5 processor as the iPad2 for example. Ditto for Tegra2, which has gone into quite a number of Smart Phones, while some like the Atrix 4G have more interesting dock options. The only thing the screen size does is change some aspects of how you use the device but what the device is capable of is pretty much the same.

While some would argue none of them are really tablets without having a digitizer and pen input... it's not just about the size basically.

("I'm gotta be joking??")

Not at all, fact is Apple is keeping pretty distinct separations between its product offerings and don't want to offer a range of products with any overlap in functionality beyond the iPhone/iTouch and iPads. While iOS itself is an OS originally designed for the iPhone and like regular Android was only adopted for use for tablets and lacks the full functionality like you would get from OSX.

MS making Windows 8 ARM compatible is basically like Apple offering OSX for the iPad 2. What you can do with the device would be far more than what you can do now. While the other alternative OS's also offer their own usage scenarios and benefits.

HP will be heavily pushing WebOS, and Google will be pushing Chrome, Android and Honeycomb version which is finally designed for tablets.

While Apple continues to tweak iOS, but with their limits that they put in by design. Even with people knowing they can jailbreak, they're basically going to face the same situation as they did with PC's where they give a nicely polished and high performing solution and their competition will be less polished on average but gives more choices. Predominantly people go with choices and the iPad is partly successful because we haven't really had choices up till now but soon we'll have lots of choices and it'll be a mistake to underestimate the impact of that change.

("The GPU chip in the Ipad 2 (PowerVR SGX543MP2 ) completely destroys Tegra 2. Already 3-5x performance over it.")

No, it was 2-5x, the 3x was versus the original iPad with the textured triangle geometry test and I already mentioned that Tegra2 is 2010 technology. Nvidia is already working on the Tegra3 and this just puts it closer to the expected graphical performance of the upcoming Qualcomm dual core 1.5GHz chip, but the iPad2 only has about 50% improved CPU performance compared to the original and the Qualcomm will be both also a dual core but also clocked 50% higher, as the A5 is still only 1GHz. While the Tegra 3 will offer even better graphics and will be quad (4) core and clocked even higher still. Some ARM offerings coming out will even be over 2.5GHz and all coming out before the iPad3.

Never mind the improvements they expect when the move the ARM cores to Cortex-A15...

Besides other products are also getting the same PowerVR SGX543MP2 as the iPad2, along with other competing graphic solutions.

Especially when Windows 8 comes out before the end of this year we should see much more powerful ARM offerings to properly run Windows 8, and yes they've commissioned the development of ARM processors specifically for running Windows 8 already...

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"The magic is back for a second act, baby, and it doesn't play for the Lakers (that's the other Magic)."

Lol, it took me a second to get the reference. It's not the 80s anymore, you know. :)

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LOL pictures were FUNNY, but they look too blurry. Whos the one in that mirror pic? looks like dave... :D

*Still no USB port, microSD card slot, or Flash support (don't ever count on that...) lol

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