Apple iPad 2 Tablet Review

Design & Build Quality

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).

Tags:  Apple, tablet, Apps, slate, ipad, ios, iPad2, A5

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