Judging by the lines at stores, the Apple iPad 2 is a phenomenon. It’s been rumored for so long, and with so much talk about tablet PCs in general in the past year, it’s as if the pent-up demand just exploded this weekend. But despite the long lines and sold out stores, two questions remain: Is the iPad 2 better than any other tablet and, two, if you want an iPad is getting the original at a deep discount actually a better deal? We answer those questions and more in the full review below, so continue on to find out.
Features and design
Three major improvements raise the iPad 2 above the original.
1. It’s thinner by a third, and has a slightly smaller surface area thanks to a thinner bezel, with a sloped iPhone-3G-style edge, instead of the original iPad’s squared-off perimeter. It’s also about 25 percent lighter – and you can feel both improvements.
2. The iPad 2 has front and back facing cameras which will enable a bunch of new applications, most importantly FaceTime video chatting.
3. It now has a dual-core 1GHz processor, which, according to Apple, doubles the speed and juices graphics up by nine times.
Where the iPad 2 doesn’t improve are items Apple has notoriously eschewed – external memory expansion and a removable battery, so these are understandable limitations. Apple, however, failed to correct the iPad’s most literally glaring shortfall – its screen is nearly useless in daylight. E-book reader manufacturers like Amazon will continue to have a field day exploiting this weakness.
Aside from a few other minor changes (such as the speaker now being in the rear) the iPad 2 is essentially an original iPad in a tighter dress.
Ports and connectors
As per the original, the iPad 2 has just two connectors – the 3.5mm headphone jack and the 30-pin Apple connector.
But with the iPad 2′s sloping edges, the jacks themselves are slanted, which places them behind (instead of perpendicular to) the screen. This makes each jack a little more difficult to locate. Your instinct is to angle the connector before pushing it, but you don’t have to. And the connection doesn’t feel as solid as it does on the original iPad – but it is. These jacks just look and feel a bit…off.
Obviously, video and gaming are two major reasons why you buy an iPad. As advertised, the second iPad is faster on all accounts – app booting, Web page and video loading – but it was rarely twice as fast as the original iPad, as you’ll see in the comparison videos.
Even though it’s still pretty useless in sunlight, the iPad 2′s screen is as brilliant as the original for indoor usage. The screen on our original iPad seems to have faded quite a bit, which is barely detectable in the videos but far more obvious in person.
Instead of a speaker behind a grille on the flat perimeter, the iPad 2 has the speaker behind a perforated part of the solid rear casing. The first iPad had enough bass to physically feel the beat of a song when you held it, which the iPad 2 lacks. It also sounds thicker, hollower, and warbles as you move it around. It’s definitely not an improvement, but you’re more likely to use it with earphones, where you’ll detect no major differences between new and old.