Monday, April 11, 2011

Apple iPad 2

Light, thin, sleek and beautiful to hold
Fast A5 Processor
Huge App Store
No USB Ports or SD card slots for expansion
Very average rear camera
Decent front camera
The Bottom Line
Apple is at top of the tablet market game, and if you've held out till now, the iPad 2 is your best bet.


Apple has just delivered the 2 in the one-two punch with the iPad 2. Is it the perfect tablet? Read on to find out in our early review.

It's been a long time since the iPad hit the market, kick-starting the second tablet revolution. One year later, we are seeing the tablet form factor revolution hit every front, from education and medicine, to housewives finding practical uses for the device. In between then and now, we have seen everything from cheap Chinese knockoffs, to some great attempts, to companies trying and failing miserably. While the juggernauts wait it out patiently in line at Google, doling out doses of Honeycomb like patients at a mental facility, Apple has yet again displayed perfect timing and launched the iPad 2 erasing whatever little headstart the competition had.

The iPad 2 is almost the same as the last generation, except for the obvious, in-your-face exceptions of the front and rear camera and a new sleeker, thinner look. The first thing you notice when you remove it out of the box is the beautiful slim design, with the Apple logo in shiny black, looking sleek and evil. While the screen size still retains the exact same size and resolution as the iPad, the overwhelming bezel thickness of the original has decreased, folding neatly around the edge into a smooth, curved, aluminium unibody back. The curved back surface makes it easier and less slippery to hold. The surface is slightly granular in texture, making it easy to grip. The iPad 2 is tremendously comfortable to hold in your hands, and at an astounding 615 grams, the term "lug it around" will never appear in the equation.

With the iPad 2, Apple has not only reaffirmed their superiority in engineering and product design, but have also exibited their attention to detail. Like the neat little notches for the speaker. Buttons and rockers around the edges are camouflaged, neatly tucked on the curve of the sides so they don't stick out, and aren't visible when viewing the screen.

Apple has got the internals down perfectly. Inside the iPad 2 lies the 1 Ghz Dual-Core ARM A5 processor, Apple's new low-power consuming, high-output chip that also brings a dual-core PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics chip, guilty of rendering an insane level of 3D graphics for a mobile device. Processor and graphics intensive games like Infinity Blade were running extremely smooth with no stutter in framerate.

There were no graphical hitches anywhere. Not that the A4 found on the predecessor was a slouch, but the iPad 2 feels and runs faster, everything is more responsive, opening and closing at lightning speed. Garage Band, which runs with a bit of slowdown on the iPad, was working smooth as silk. The sound quality was quite good, coming from the little speaker at the bottom rear. It's decent for showing off a few clips to friends, or watching a show with your loved one, snug on the couch. The iPad 2 now sports a 3-Axis gyroscope, in addition to the accelerometer, which makes orientation more accurate.

The iPad 2 comes in 16, 32, and 64 GB memory variants that are, sadly, unexpandable. Given Apple’s stance on a closed business model, as well as in keeping the device thin and light, USB ports as well as SD card slots are not present. However, there is a SD card add-on you can purchase with the iPad 2. Popping up all over the internet are third-party USB/SD card add-ons that are available, or will be available in the coming months.

The screen remains the same as the old iPad - 1024x768 capacitive LED-backlit IPS. The stellar Retina Display tech has not made it to the iPad 2 yet. Not that the display is bad - it's still one of the best out there, and everything on-screen is crisp and clear. Yet, after being treated to the excellent display on the iPhone 4, it is a bit of a letdown; otherwise this would have been the perfect 10. The colour reproduction is excellent, with really good viewing angles. The screen remains crisp from any angle. It looks decent in sunlight, though the screen is extremely reflective and shows all your fingerprints. Yes, the glossy display attracts a lot of fingerprints. So keep a soft cloth handy at all times, or treat yourself to one of those nifty Apple Smart Covers.

The camera is one of the biggest additions to the iPad 2. It's about time, since Facetime has gained lots of ground on Macs and the iPhone, and Skype already has a huge market share on PC’s and other devices. To be sure, Facetime is perfect for the front facing camera.  The rear camera supports 720p video recording and 5x zoom, which is all ace, but the fact that there's no mention of a megapixel count on the Apple site generally means there's something black in the lentils.

The picture above was shot at the same time of day, but just indoors. I shudder at the thought of night shots. The video feature is quite good for family get-togethers, and you can quickly edit the videos if you have iMovie purchased, except shooting all that stuff on a large iPad2 is throwing subtlety out of the window. 

While the sub-par camera performance does not hinder the iPad 2 in any way, I just wish there was a better camera in there. It would help a lot for travel bloggers, students or journalists. The front facing VGA camera is quite adequate for what it does, and Facetime with an iPhone over Wi-fi was quite a lot of fun.

The iPad 2 is near perfect, doubly so because of the huge plethora of quality apps out there on the app store. This is an all-round device: for gaming, reading, writing and anything and everything in between. Should you get one? Most definitely, when available in India at a cheaper price of course. If you do own an iPad, save yourself an expensive upgrade unless you want to Facetime; I'd say wait a bit for the iPad 3, hopefully with Retina Display and better cameras. If you haven't, and have been waiting to buy one, this is a good time to take the plunge.

Image and Review Credit:


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