Apple iPad 2 review: first look
So we now know what the iPad 2 will look like, what the specifications are and what it can do. You know when it will be here and even what the price will be like (click here for our live blog of the announcement and the news story). But what is it really like in the metal, what is it like to hold and use?
At the launch event we had the opportunity to hold one of these babies, use it and experience it. And our first impressions are positive. That’s not suprising, given that its predecessor was a pretty polished product, but the iPad 2 takes things to the next level.
Physically, it’s a subtle, yet significant change. The iPad 2 is much thinner and lighter than its predecessor: in fact, at 8.8mm front to back, it’s thinner than the iPhone 4 and rivals Samsung’s upcoming super-slim Galaxy Tab 10.1. At 601g for the Wi-Fi version compared to 680g of the previous version it’s much more svelte, and when you pick it up the design changes are immediately noticeable. You could never call the original a porker, but this embarrasses it.
In the hand it’s like a giant iPod touch with a matte aluminium rear panel, and as you’d expect from Apple, it feels supremely well built, with nary a hint of creak nor mismatched seam anywhere. And the port, buttons and switches are all found in familiar places. There’s a front-facing VGA video camera, and in the corner on the rear, a 720p-capable camera too. As for the rumours of Thunderbolt integration, well they turned out to be just that – rumours.
One really nice feature about the new design is the new screen cover. Using magnets built into the case of the iPad 2 itself, this snaps neatly into place on the long, left edge of the device. It’s self-locating and protects the screen without adding too much to the bulk or weight.
The IPS display is unchanged, though, and that’s a mild disappointment: it’s still 9.7in from corner to corner, still sports a resolution of 1,024 x 768, which means it lags behind many of the upcoming Google Android Honeycomb tablets. It still looks lovely, though, and the IPS technology ensures great viewing angles and excellent contrast.
It was difficult to tell how the new processor, and the improvements to Safari, affect the performance of the device, but it did feel extremely responsive and the new hardware should give plenty of headroom for more demanding applications in future (the new iMovie and Garageband apps to name but two).
Just to reiterate, however, the iPad has a new dual-core 1GHz A5 processor, and uprated graphics. Apple claims “up to nine times” faster performance for the latter – a typically vague statement from Apple – but it again should give games developers headroom to develop even more ambitious titles. What should also add to the gaming experience is the new three-axis gyroscope, allowing finer control for steering in driving games and the like.
The only concern we have is over battery life. Apple claims its engineers have managed to keep its efficiency to the same level as the original, but with a far more powerful dual-core processor and slimmer profile it’s hard to believe that the device will last for the 10 hours continuous use Apple is claiming.
But with prices that are set to come in at the same level as the previous version (the Wi-Fi version will cost $499, $599 and $699 for 16GB, 32GB and 64GB; 3G comes in at $629 $729 and $829), and a design that’s lovelier than ever, we have no doubt the iPad 2 will be a huge success. We await our review sample with interest.
Second opinion – The iPad 2: yes, but still, what’s it for?