The iPad 2- what to say that hasn’t already been said, perhaps better, by someone else already? Well, here we have the perfect tech talk device. New and revolutionary in it’s approach, like it’s predecessor, it is a machine not so much based around it’s hardware, amazing though it may be, but around what you can do with it. Right now, with other tablets thin on the ground and lacking many of their own apps, it currently faces little serious opposition, though of course will probably change.
My ‘review’ of the first iPad was as a non-buyer, disappointed that opportunities to make the most of it’s form factor had been lost with the sparse hardware given. Much as I wanted to jump on the train heading towards tablet/slate/pad bliss, I just couldn’t justify the expense for a machine lacking in so many areas. The iPad’s defenders at the time argued that they were esoteric features that only tech-heads would want, but I’m not so sure. It seems that Apple agrees with me and fixed many of the issues in this update and from what I’ve heard, as with the response to newer versions of the iPhone, sales are rocketing as never before. So what are the improvements over iPad 1?
* Front and rear cameras capable of HD video (though with unfortunately poor resolution), so now Facetime and soon Skype can be used with this. Whilst iPhone 4 has Skype, like many other functions (see more below), it’ll be far more satisfying on the iPad’s larger screen
* Slimmer, lighter and with a thinner bezel around the screen, which makes it easier to use with one hand and a lot more slick and stylish. Being that few mm thinner should be enough to entice many hardcore Apple fans to update in and of itself (!)
* Faster, dual core processor of a newer generation (A5 vs the former, single core A4)
* A claimed 6x increase in graphical abilities
* Double the ram (512mb vs 256mb), and of a newer type running at twice the speed
* Through an adapter, allows HDMI screen mirroring or, with video and photos, 1080P output, which is perfect for seeing video on an HDTV, or making presentations or slideshows. It’s also great for audio if you want that digital clarity.
* A similar IPS LED 9.7 inch screen, some say with better colours, which makes photos and videos look amazingly good even off-angle, far better than on most most laptops or netbooks.
What’s Not so Good
* No true USB, just an ability to transfer from some cameras
* Small memory of only up to 64gb and expensive at that.
* No SD slot of any flavour, making it basically unexpandable (though the cloud could fix this.
* The same screen resolution as before (1024×768), no-where near the pixel density of the iPhone 4’s retina display (132 ppi vs. retina’s gorgeous, print-like 326dpi). I was hoping this would be updated, but maybe next time?
* The poor cameras. They might not get used much, but by having lower resolution than the screen itself (some say they are probably the same as those in the latest iPod), they may well never get used again, save for video. Which is a shame, having a decent digital camera with a 9.7 inch screen would be quite an experience.
For me personally, this time around, the pros outweighed the cons and I got one. Having a webcam ensured it could be enough to take only my iPad on a trip and still video-call home if I wanted. The HDMI output also makes it a better portable computer or HTPC if needed and I find it great for sharing many things in a way the former VGA just couldn’t suffice. Also, by being faster it is far more capable and smooth to use. With the first edition, I couldn’t stand the idea of paying so much for something that was actually less powerful than my iPhone 4, which had double the ram. Also, the weight of the first one was off-putting, giving it a chunky rather than hi-tech feel, which was more than fixed in this update, which raised the bar again on what is possible for a tablet/slate/pad or whatever they actually are (I’ll just say tablet from now on, as it’s a term everyone recognises).
So, basically, I see it as a decent leap up from the first iPad, in my view enough of one to make it a worthwhile purchase for anyone on the fence before. Of course, there are already rumours of a newer model coming out as soon as September, with possibly double the screen resolution and presumably a newer graphics/ quad-core cpu to feed it with. It wouldn’t totally surprise me, especially if we start seeing Android tablets coming out over the summer with similar abilities and Apple finds a need to compete with them. Tablets being so ascendant, I’d hope that soon we’ll see 6-monthly updates, much as we see with laptops which might not be irresistible upgrades, but would more quickly push the technology into areas where the laptop still reigns supreme, such as graphical design. Once that starts, we really will be in the ‘post PC era’. Yet, it is perhaps more likely that Apple will stay with it’s yearly cycle (although they broke this with the iPhone 4, which is still to be updated), as even higher-tech tablets will take a while to challenge the iPad on the software front.
This post has focussed mostly on the technical advances and advantages of the iPad 2 over it’s predecessor. Although it’s not perfect, I feel it gives a good balance of features which make it a worthy purchase. Like anything in the world of tech, there is bound to be a better one around the corner, the main question for a lot of potential buyers being how far away that corner is and if in itself the one now is good enough. You could well end up waiting for ever and not being able to enjoy the experience of using one. On that note, my next post will be more about why I think it is a special device simply in the way that you use it and that even if you think it’s a waste of time, could actually show you a new way to do familiar things that makes them far more enjoyable.