iPad 2 Review

The iPad 2 has arrived. Our iPad 2 Review will show you what’s new, how the iPad 2 compares to the iPad, how the iPad 2 performs and most importantly help you decide if the iPad 2 is the right tablet for you.

The Apple iPad 2 is a 1.3 pound tablet computer from Apple which has a 9.7″ display and comes in black or white. The new iPad has WiFi as well as options for 3G connections from AT&T and Verizon and comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB sizes. The iPad 2 adds front and rear facing cameras, a faster dual core processor and several other improvements to the device that has set the standard for what consumers expect when they buy a tablet. The iPad 2 starts at $499 and goes up to $829 depending on the storage and connectivity options you choose.

iPad 2 Review Black iPad 2 and White iPad 2

The Apple iPad 2 is the most usable tablet device available today and we highly recommend the device.

iPad 2 Hardware & Design:

The iPad 2 is a refinement of the most popular tablet made. The refinements are small, like the iPad 2, but instantly noticeable when you hold the iPad 2 in your hand. While there are those who will argue that the iPad 2 is but an incremental upgrade, all of the incremental changes add up to deliver a markedly improved iPad.

iPad 2 Hardware Overview:

Advertisement

Once you get past the new lighter feel of the iPad 2, the edges are what stands out when the iPad 2 is held. They take their style cue from the new MacBook Air, tapering to a sharper edge on the front side and rounded towards the back of the iPad 2. This is part of the thinning of the iPad and leads to a new flat back.

iPad 2 Review Tapered Side

The new iPad 2 is made of just two pieces of aluminum, again similar to the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro unibody construction, which is one way that Apple is able to deliver the lighter and thinner iPad experience.

When you hold the iPad 2 in your hands, the new flat back, tapered sides and lighter weight combine to make it feel much more like a device that is meant to be held. It’s still a bit heavy for holding for extended periods, but we are impressed with how much difference .2 pounds really makes.

One side effect of the tapered edges is that plugging in the dock connector can be a bit challenging, especially if you try to do so in the dark. This is due to the oh-so-slightly different angle compared to the previous iPad. This takes a bit of getting used to, but you’ll get the hang of it after a few days use. The switches and buttons are also at a slight angle and take some getting used to, but we quickly adjusted.

One big upgrade is the built-in speakers. While the quality of sound is no better the volume is slightly louder on the new iPad, which is a plus. We still wish the speakers could go, “up to 11″, to handle noisy environments, but they are sufficiently loud for most settings. We didn’t notice an audible difference in the sound quality coming from the iPad to the iPad 2, especially with headphones plugged in, so don’t expect your MP3s to suddenly sound better.

iPad 2 Rear Camera

The most heralded upgrade is the two cameras on the iPad 2. The original iPad doesn’t have any while iPad 2 has a pair, on the front and the back. The cameras are not going to win a photo contest due to the quality; specifically they are a little poor for still images and are very grainy in low light. The cameras seem to primarily be intended for things like FaceTime or other video conferencing. It will be nice to snap photos of notes in a well lit meeting to import to Evernote. More on the iPad 2 camera quality further down the page.

Another difference is the iPad 2 has a gyroscope just like the iPhone 4. The original iPad did have an accelerometer like the new one, but the gyroscope adds one thing – the ability to sense rotation as well as movement. Accelerometers can feel when the iPad is moved up/down, left/right and backwards/forwards. A gyroscope adds twisting motions to this, which gives the iPad 2 much more accurate sensing of movement in space. As a result apps can take advantage of this for more accurate movement. Because of the gyroscope, the iPad is able to sense when to rotate much faster. Whereas the iPad may have needed a lift and perhaps a shake, the iPad 2 senses when you want to switch rotations much better, especially when you lay the iPad 2 into a typing position with the Smart Cover.

The two models have the same screen size and resolution, which means you get essentially the same reading and viewing angles as on the original iPad. The iPad 2 is much thinner than the original, as you can see in the photo above.

iPad 2 Review Tapered Edge

The iPad 2 comes with WiFi and Bluetooth on all models. Users can choose to get a 3G + WiFi iPad 2 from either Verizon or AT&T. These 3G models can connect to the Internet wherever you have a cell phone signal, and can connect in the slower Edge or 1x modes when needed. Data plans start at $14.99 for $250MB and range up to $80 a month for 10GB.

iPad 2 Performance:

The Apple iPad 2 has a new dual core A5 processor, essentially doubling the processing power of the tablet. Along with the new faster processor the graphics processor, which makes things look beautiful, has been upgraded to deliver 9 times the performance of the original iPad. The iPad 2 also gets an increase to 512MB.

All of these increases lead to an overall zippier iPad 2. You’ll notice that little things like opening apps and switching between apps seems snappier. Even loading webpages in Safari is faster and iBook page turns feel smoother. There are plenty of small places where you will feel the extra speed in normal use.

ipad 2 review infinity blade ipad

Infinity Blade on the Original iPad

The graphics power comes in handy when you open up an intense game such as Infinity Blade, which runs smoothly and looks gorgeous on the iPad 2. We have a full look at how app performance compares between the iPad and the iPad 2 further along in the review. As you can see in the image below, there’s much more visible detail in the character’s armor and shield on the iPad 2 compared to the original iPad.

ipad 2 review Infinity blade on ipad 2

Infinity blade on the iPad 2

The RAM increase translates into a more enjoyable browsing experience. Common problems with the browsing experience on the original iPad were the wait for pages to load and the need to refresh a page after switching between tabs.

On the old iPad, due to the lower RAM total, the pages had to be redrawn instead of loading from memory. But on the iPad 2 none of them had to be reloaded. While scrolling in a very long page filled with text and images the old iPad could not keep up and you would get the grey checkerboard pattern until the iPad caught up and redrew the content. On iPad 2 there wasn’t any grey checkerboard pattern.

The refreshing issue on the original iPad could range from annoying to problematic. The iPad 2 delivers a faster browsing experience and there is often not a need to refresh the pages when you jump between tabs.

iPad 2 vs. iPad Browser Showdown:

iPad 2 Audio:

The iPad 2 has a new larger speaker that graces the lower right back of the iPad 2. Unlike the somewhat hidden speaker on the original iPad, the new speaker has a much larger grill that is more on the back than on the bottom. While the speaker is still Mono, it is not blocked by cases and your hands as often as on the iPad. This means that you get louder sounds in many settings. We found that the new placement makes it easier to cup your hand near the speaker in order to direct sound towards you for louder, more directed, sound.

iPad 2 Review Speaker Closeup

The audio won’t win best of show with audiophiles, but it will meet the needs of practically all other users. If you need stereo sound, plug in a decent pair of headphones or jack into some speakers to pump up the volume.

The iPad 2 retains a built in mic, moved to the center of the iPad 2, which can be used to chat, make FaceTime calls, record iMovie voice-overs and more. This mic will pick up background noise, but is usable in many settings. If you need a cleaner sound, grab a Bluetooth hands free headset.

iPad 2 Battery Life:

The iPad 2 maintains the stellar battery life which we have seen on the previous iPad. This is actually pretty impressive considering the smaller size and weight as well as the faster processors. In our usage test with the 32GB WiFi model we were able to hit the 10 hour mark during a full day of heavy use that included audio, gaming, web surfing and a lot of typing.

On the iPad 2 with 3G connectivity from AT&T our test showed that it doesn’t suffer too much even using the 3G cellular radio sparingly during the day, delivering just under 10 hours of battery life.

ipad 2 Battery life iPad 2 Review

iPad 2 Battery Life Remains High After a Long Day

If you wanted to get stingy with the options, you could turn on airplane mode and dim the screen to stretch out the battery life by a few more hours if you are on a long flight.

When it comes to charging up, you will need to look for a USB port or charger with an extra dose of power. The existing iPad chargers put out 10V, which is enough to charge the iPad 2. You won’t be able to charge the iPad 2 over all computer USB ports or with all car and home USB power adapters. Some computers will charge the iPad 2, but will do so at a slower rate than others.

iPad 2 iOS 4.3 Features:

The iPad 2 comes loaded with iOS 4.3, the same update that has brought new features and speed to the original iPad. The new version of iOS is available as a free download to iPhone, iPod touch and iPad owners. For the comparisons in this review we have been comparing the iPad with iOS 4.3 to the iPad 2 with iOS 4.3.

In addition to the faster browsing which you can read about right below this section, the new software delivers a group of additional features and improvements that further refine and enhance the iPad 2 experience.

iTunes Home Sharing: First up is a much better iTunes Home Sharing feature. This feature allows you to connect to your networked computers and stream audio and video files. This is very nice for users who have a massive music library, but only a 16GB iPad 2. Once you enable this feature you can connect to your home computer within the iTunes app on the iPad 2 and play the music over your home network.

ipad 2 review home sharing

Home Sharing Library Selection on the iPad 2

In our tests of iTunes Home Sharing, we were able to listen to music and watch videos without any noticeable audio or video quality issues. Will this replace other apps that allow you to watch videos over your home network like Air Video? For some users iTunes Home Sharing may suffice, but if you want to play a wide range of file types you’ll appreciate the ability of other tools to convert the video on the fly to go to your iPad.

AirPlay Improvements: The new AirPlay improvements in iOS 4.3 allow for more interesting slideshows and will allow Apps to stream over AirPlay to your big screen. You can see our hands on video below. It will take a little time for developers to embrace this new feature, but we expect to see some interesting use cases come soon.

iPad Switch: Another difference is the ability to change the function of the iPad switch. With iOS 4.3, you can choose to have the switch mute your iPad 2 or lock the orientation. You can change this in Settings, General. Select either Lock Rotation or Mute in the “Use Side Switch to:” section as seen below.

iPad 2 Side Switch Options

iPad 2 Web Browsing:

As much as we talk about apps making the iPad and iPad 2, the browsing experience is a major component and a make or break part of any tablet experience. There is still no Flash on the iPad 2, but it manages to deliver one of the most user friendly web browsing experience on a tablet.

When you move between the iPad and the iPad 2, the browser is noticeably faster, loading pages so quickly that you often don’t need to look at the checkered gray background that was commonly displayed on the iPad. Below you’ll see the results of the SunSpider benchmarks comparing the iPad to the iPad 2.

ipad 2 v ipad browser benchmark

Comparing the iPad 2 to the iPad with Browser Benchmarks

Even though the Safari browser does deliver a pretty spectacular performance, the iPad 2 still retains the same user interface which requires users to tap to view tabs and then tap to switch instead of a “real” tabbed browsing experience. We still wish that Apple would deliver a “Private Browsing” or “Guest Mode” to make it easier to hand off your iPad 2 to a friend or coworker without worrying that you’ll be mixing browser histories and personal data.

iPad 2 AirPlay:

With the advent of iOS 4.3 AirPlay is more functional. Since the iPad comes with the new iOS we wanted to demonstrate it for you.

The best part of the new update is that now the Photos App can use AirPlay to show slide shows. But boring photo slide shows are not all it can do. First, start playing a song from the iTunes app and then fire up the Photos app and start a slide show, which can be displayed through AirPlay on the Apple TV for a more enjoyable slideshow. We hope that Apple or another developer will deliver an app that allows us to create nifty on the fly slideshows like you can from within iPhoto.

Third-party app developers are free to include the feature in their apps. While apps like Netflix and Keynote don’t use the feature now, we hope they will be updated so that a user could connect to the Apple TV and display presentations or slide shows without having to connect the iPad 2 to HDTV’s or projectors with cables. No more long cable runs would be necessary in large rooms or auditoriums. Until then, things like Videos, Photos and YouTube will work. Others developers are adding the functionality, like the StreamToMe app which streams visual content from a Mac or Windows PC through iTunes.

iPad 2 Cameras:

Sample Image from the iPad 2 Rear Camera

Sample Image from the iPad 2 Rear Camera

Perhaps the biggest complaint about the original iPad was its lack of cameras, which meant users couldn’t use Facetime or other popular apps that require a camera. Apple addressed this complaint by adding two cameras to the iPad 2- one in the front and one in the rear. Unfortunately the cameras on the iPad 2 aren’t great.

It’s as if we collectively asked Steve Jobs for a glass of water to quench our thirst and he gave us a muddy glass of water from a rusty tap. Yes, we have water to drink, but this makes us wonder if we still want it.

The front camera is designed to work with FaceTime and PhotoBooth and records VGA quality video, which is to say that it is a basic video camera. It works for FaceTime and is fun with PhotoBooth, but it leaves us wanting more.

Sample Image from the iPad 2 Rear Camera Indoors

Sample Image from the iPad 2 Rear Camera Indoors

The rear camera is able to shoot 720P HD video, but it’s not up to snuff with many cell phone cameras or any handy point and shoot video camera. The video taken with this is grainy and noisy, especially in low light settings. You can have fun with it and record clips to edit in iMovie, but aspiring movie makers should keep looking. Photos taken with the rear-facing camera are of low quality and resemble the results of photos taken with the current iPod Touch, rather than the iPhone 4.

You can see our sample of the video quality on the iPad 2’s front and rear cameras, as well as a look at how good the internal microphone handles in our iMovie review below.

iPad 2 3G Performance

The iPad 2 can be purchased with a 3G connection from Verizon or AT&T, which opens up a lot of opportunities for using the iPad 2 on the go.

. Previously we used the first iPad with a MiFi while on the road. But with the free month of 3G from AT&T and Best Buy for launch day buyers, we were able to see what it is like to have connectivity built-in. It is nice!

The throughput is pretty fast. Notice from our Speedtest X screen shot below that we nearly hit 3Mbps download and had 893.45 Kbps upload speed. That’s faster than some people get from a home DSL Internet connection. In our area AT&T is either excellent or almost non-existent. For most areas it is great and the iPad doesn’t disappoint.

However, there are some dead spots that make it useless. That is an AT&T issue and not an iPad issue. However, users won’t care who’s to blame. So before adding $129 to the cost of an iPad just for the 3G coverage, check your area either by asking a friend who has a 3G device from either AT&T or Verizon or check with your own 3G device if you have one already.

iPad 2 GPS

The GPS on the new iPad is accurate and also one of the reasons that many are buying the 3G version even though they may not use the 3G feature itself. We talked to several buyers waiting in line at a Best Buy store in North Carolina and that was their conclusion – it is nice to have the feature if you need it.

We really wish that Apple would have included a GPS receiver in the WiFi only iPad since maps can be stored locally, but we assume this is probably one of the ways that Apple is able to keep the iPad 2’s cost down.

The iPad 2 GPS works. There is not much more to be said. We tested both the Maps app which uses Google maps and Navigon’s very good GPS app that adds turn-by-turn directions and recommend the latter solution. It does cost a little more at $29.99 for the regional version and up to $119.99 for the European version. We used the USA & Canada version which is $59.99. The GPS signal locked on quickly, both on the road and in the basement of our house. Having such a big screen to glance down at while driving is a big improvement over an iPhone or tiny GPS device.

iPad 2 FaceTime

FaceTime iPad 2

FaceTime on the iPad 2 with the Author of Halo: The Cole Protocol

Thanks to the included cameras you can video chat with your friends that own Apple products. FaceTime works with Macs, the iPod Touch, iPhone and the iPad 2. You can video chat with the front or rear camera and the internal mic will handle the audio.

We tested FaceTime out, calling a Mac and several other iPad 2’s. The ability to call and see your friends is nice and actually a bit more fun with the larger screen of the iPad 2 than it is on the iPhone 4.

FaceTime can use either of the cameras and you can switch between the two cameras while on a FaceTime call to show your recipient around the room. For best results, you’ll want to be in a well-lit room and keep your iPad 2 stationary.

FaceTime only works on WiFi for the time being, so you will need to be near a hotspot to use FaceTime. Unfortunately, this means iPad 2 WiFi + 3G users cannot use Facetime while connected via 3G. This is disappointing considering these users are  paying for data by the GB.

The quality of your FaceTime call will depend on the quality of your WiFi connection. If you are on a speedy home connection the quality will be much nicer than on a WiFi call form the local coffee shop. You can connect the iPad 2 to a mobile hotspot, like the MiFi, to complete a FaceTime call, but the quality will degrade further.

To make a FaceTime call you need the phone number or the email address associated with the user you want to call. FaceTime calls are free and you can sign in with the same Apple ID you use to make iTunes purchases.

iPad 2 PhotoBooth:

Even if we aren’t sold on the quality of the built in cameras, the PhotoBooth iPad 2 App is loads of fun. As the name implies, PhotoBooth is a digital version of the funny photo taking booths you can find in malls and other places.

PhotoBooth iPad 2 App

PhotoBooth Effects Selection Screen

PhotoBooth allows you to use either the front or rear facing camera to take pictures with one of 8 different effects. You can also choose to take a photo with no affect if you prefer an untouched image.

PhotoBooth iPad 2 App ExamplePhotoBooth iPad 2 App Photo Effects:

  • Thermal Camera
  • Mirror
  • X-Ray
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Normal
  • Light Tunnel
  • Squeeze
  • Twirl
  • Stretch

It’s hard to explain why we like this app so much, but it’s a blast for passing around a room of friends or for taking abstract snapshots of whatever you have nearby. You can change the effect of each of these modes by using your fingers to move point of focus or to zoom in depending on the PhotoBooth Effect you are using.

iPad 2 iMovie:

iMovie Overview iPad 2 Review

iMovie App for the iPad 2 Main Editing Screen

One of the new apps that arrived with the iPad 2 is iMovie for the iPad. The iMovie app is available for the iPad 2, and won’t work with the original iPad. This is likely due to the slower processor found in the first generation iPad.

iMovie Sound Effect Selection iPad 2 Review

iMovie Sound Effect Selection

If you have purchased iMovie for the iPhone, you can use it one your iPad 2 without purchasing it again. If you need to purchase it, iMovie for the iPad is available in the App Store for $4.99.

iMovie allows you to make movies with video, photo and music you have on your iPad. This includes video taken with the iPad 2 cameras or imported, though you can’t import every file type with the camera connector. You can use the photos you shot with the internal cameras or those in your photo library.

We also tested importing movies from an iPhone 4 by plugging in the USB to Dock connector cable in the USB iPad Camera Connection Kit adapter. It imported the video into the Camera Roll and made it available to iMovie.

Finally, iMovie comes with a collection of sound effects and theme music to accompany your movie and you can use music from your iTunes collection.

When you are ready to create, you can choose one of themes to accompany your clips. You can then place titles over your clips and adjust your theme music.

iMovie Theme Selection iPad 2 Review

iMovie Theme Selection and Options

iMovie for iPad Project Themes:

  • Modern
  • Bright
  • Playful
  • Neon
  • Simple
  • Travel
  • News
  • CNN iReport

iMovie has been redesigned for the iPad 2 and comes with a touch friendly interface that is pretty intuitive. You can add clips to your project by tapping or dragging them to the project area and you can edit clip length and other properties by tapping and then dragging. Overall the interface is well laid out and it is pretty amazing to be editing video on an iPad.

iMovie Clip Options iPad 2 Review

iMovie Clip Options

iMovie Overview:

What can you do in the iMovie app: The iMovie app for the iPad 2 doesn’t replace the entire desktop video editing experience, but it does let you create a decent video. Professionals can do even better.

  • Trim clips
  • Record Voice Overs
  • Add Background Music
  • Add Titles
  • Choose Transitions

iMovie Record from iPad 2 Mic iPad 2 Review

Recording from the iPad 2 Internal Mic

What can’t you do in iMovie: With iMovie, you can do quite a bit, but it isn’t as full-featured as iMovie on the Mac. One of the notable differences is that there are fewer captioning options. When you apply a caption to a clip it will last the entire clip. This means you will need to edit down your introduction and outro clips to have short captions.

iMovie for iPad Review: Overall, iMovie for the iPad 2 is an amazing application. The fact that we are able to really edit movies on a device that we hold in our hand isn’t lost on us. We think that iMovie is worth the $5 price of admission and works really well on the touchscreen. We can easily see ourselves shooting video at the next family outing or soccer game and sharing a finished clip before the event is over, a clip that since it is edited down might actually hold the audience’s attention until the end.

Still, if given the choice, we are going to import our clips to iMovie on a MacBook and edit in the full version of the app where we have access to more themes, trailers and more flexibility with captions and audio.

Sample Movie Shot and Edited on the iPad 2 with the iMovie App:

iPad 2 GarageBand:

GarageBand brings the useful music and audio app from Mac OS X to the iPad 2. GarageBand for the iPad arrives alongside the iPad 2, but will also work on the original iPad. The GarageBand App brings plenty of content creation and fun to the iPad and is optimized for the touchscreen. GarageBand is available in the App store for $4.99.

The GarageBand experience on the iPad 2 is one that even musically inept users will appreciate. The app brings many of the features off GarageBand to the iPad, but it is still a mobile app, not a full fledged OS X application.

It is a fun program even for musical neophytes. We liked it so much after just an hour of use that we chose to make it our Notebooks.com iPad App of the Week at our sister site this week. Usually we don’t do that until we’ve played around with an app for at least a week, but it wowed us.

Guitar from GarageBand for iPad

The key elements of the app are the playing and recording of music with built-in synthesized instruments. They have the following instruments and audio recording sources:

  • KeyboardGarageBand iPad app Tracks
  • Drums
  • Guitar Amp
  • Audio Recorder
  • Sampler
  • Smart Drums
  • Smart Bass
  • Smart Keyboard
  • Smart Guitar

The smart instruments almost play themselves. They are designed for people who don’t really have the ability or knowledge needed to play the instrument. Just tap buttons, almost like one would do playing something like Rock Band or Guitar Hero. It is almost that easy to make music. The other sources are more for people who know something about playing a keyboard, drums or guitar.

We really like the fact that you can hook up an electric guitar and use the iPad as an amp to record your music via the amp “instrument”. And it has a great sample maker where you can record your voice and use it as an instrument with a keyboard as the method of changing the pitch.

We made a short sample of what you can do with Garage Band for you to enjoy: GarageBand Sample.

Instrument Selection Screen in GarageBand for iPad

While playing an instrument, the music can be recorded into multi-track recording interface. The result is a composition that one might use for movie background music or even a track for a little Karaoke. If you had the chords of a song you could even perform that song on the piano or guitar just by tapping the screen to the right rhythm of the song. GarageBand will export the song to iTunes via the File Sharing section of the Apps tab in iTunes when the iPad is connected.

GarageBand Demo:

A Brief Apps Comparison and Some Thoughts on Using My Friend’s iPad 2 (Section by Warner)

The big difference we are hearing about the iPad 2 from its earlier sibling beyond the feel of it in your hand has to do with speed. Apple, and rightly so, likes to tout this in the context of user experience and not specs. In comparing a few Apps and their responsiveness between the original iPad and the iPad 2, I can say that users who move from the earlier generation to the newer iPad 2 will feel like they’ve made a wise investment. Things are just much faster, or snappier, or well, there’s a pop to some things that wasn’t there before. Don’t get me wrong, I had no real complaints with the how things worked on the original iPad, but in testing my buddy Steve’s iPad 2 a little bit I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a difference I noticed. First time iPad buyers probably won’t notice the difference however.

Here’s a couple of Apps I looked at in the comparison. Note that Steve was preparing for a trip out of town and hadn’t loaded that many Apps on is device and I really only looked at what Apps we shared in common.

Mail. Of course this depends on your connection as much as anything, but the Mail App on the iPad 2 loaded much more quickly.

Safari.
We’ve already got some great video showing off the difference here. Make sure you check it out. Again, your connectivity is a key here.

Pandora. This App never seemed to load slowly to me. But with the iPad 2 I see a noticeable difference.

Infinity Blade
. Well, let’s just say that a premier game for the platform is really helped by the improvements of the iPad 2. Again, I never felt this game had slow moments or slow response time on the original iPad. But on the iPad 2 it is much faster and much more responsive to the touch interface. And on these Tablets, isn’t that what this is all about.

Garage Band.
There’s no comparison here. Garage Band was obviously written for the iPad 2. It works OK on the original iPad, but on the iPad 2 it is just a delight to use. The difference could be called night and day. I’m sure that has as much to do with the iPad 2 having more memory as it does with the A5 processor. When you look at this App, Apple did not have to make this App as big a graphic intensive powerhouse as they did. But it really shows off how much thought went into the design of not just the App and its ins and outs, but how an App can take advantage of what the iPad 2 has under the hood. I’m hoping others will learn from this.

Nook Reader
. Steve is a Nook guy. I’m a Kindle guy. I do have the Nook Reader on my iPad so I used that as a comparison. I’m not sure the Nook Reader has been optimized for the iPad 2, but I do notice that moving from page to page is much more responsive.

For my two cents, and I dropped more than a few cents on a 3G + WiFi 64GB iPad 2 that I’m still waiting to see ship, the iPad 2 looks like Apple focused on the right things. Improving an a user interface (which translates into experience) by beefing up the processor, graphics, and memory may not sound sexy when you’re talking about a new version of a device. That’s something we’re all used to taking for granted with new devices. But in this case, at least so far in my testing, the difference is one of the biggest I’ve seen on any device.

iPad 2 HDMI Adapter:

The Apple Digital AV Adapter , HDMI adapter as most people are calling it, connects to the dock connector of the iPad 2 for HDMI output and charging. The real benefit of this accessory over last year’s VGA Adapter is now the video from the iPad 2’s screen is mirrored on the external display and the iPad 2 can be charged via a typical iPad USB charging cable.

Apple Digital AV Adapter Close Up

Apple Digital AV Adapter with 2 ports for HDMI and USB Charging

In our tests the video quality was not as good as we expected, but it was acceptable. It works as advertised on the iPad 2. On older iOS devices it will only work in apps that support sending video to an external display. The user will not be able to display everything on the screens’ of the iPad 1, iPhone or iPod Touch like she will with the iPad 2. Only apps like the Videos and Photos apps from Apple will show their video or pictures on the external display through the cable.

Other third-party apps like Netflix or one of the many presentation apps like Whiteboard will work like they did with the VGA cable too. As a rule of thumb, if the app would send images to the external display through the old VGA adapter, it will work the same way on older iOS devices with the Digital AV Adapter.

Apple Digital AV Adapter

Apple Digital AV Adapter mirrors the iPad 2 display

A user might want this $39 adapter to play video on a TV, use the iPad as a video game console on a larger screen, to deliver presentations, show slide shows of pictures or for teaching with any app that might be useful in a classroom setting. There are dozens of educational apps that teachers can use showing the images from the iPad on a projector with the mirrored display capability of the iPad 2.

iPad 2 Digital A/V HDMI Adapter Video Demo:

iPad 2 Smart Cover:

The iPad 2 Smart Cover is both a screen protector and a stand. It comes in two materials and a total of ten colors. The polyurethane covers come in very bright colors – light blue, pale gray, a neon green, light orange, and a hot pink. The blue cover looks nice with the white iPad. The polyurethane Smart Covers cost $39. The leather Smart Covers are $69 and come in more subdued colors – cream, black, red, navy, and light tan.

iPad 2 Review With Smart Cover

The most interesting part of the iPad Smart Covers is the magnetic system. Along the left edge is a metal strip with two magnets that snap into place when they are dangled within about an inch of the left edge of the iPad. The cover rests over the screen and magnets along the right side snap down onto the top of the iPad covering the screen and putting it into sleep mode. Lift the iPad Smart Cover off the screen and it comes on without having to slide the unlock button normally used to come out of sleep mode.

iPad 2 Review - Smart Cover Magnets

Finally, the Smart Cover has three lines that are actually separators between the hard material that protects the screen. This allows the user to fold the cover back onto itself so that it kind of rolls up into a triangle. Lay the triangle under the iPad and it lifts the iPad into a nice angle for typing.

ipad-2-review-Smart Cover Typing Mode

The iPad 2 with Smart Cover in Typing Mode

Then you can flip the iPad up and it will hold it up at a nearly 90-degree angle for viewing video or Photos. The only problem is that at this angle it can be a little unstable, though it is more stable than the Apple case for the first iPad. Just don’t tap too hard and you will be fine.

iPad 2 Review Smart Cover Pink

We tested several Smart Covers for this review in both the polyurethane and leather finishes. The Smart Cover is one of our favorite iPad 2 accessories and puts the old Apple iPad case to shame. With a variety of color options and snappy magnets, you’ll be attracted to this case.

iPad 2 Review - Smart Cover Landscape

iPad 2 Dock:

ipad 2 review iPad 2 Dock

The iPad 2 can fit into the new iPad 2 Dock Accessory which allows you to place the iPad 2 in portrait mode while you charge it. This $29 accessory is a good one to pick up if you want to use the iPad 2 for FaceTime calls without holding it in your hands and for using the iPad 2 with a Bluetooth Keyboard.

ipad 2 review iPad 2 Dock Back View

Additionally, the iPad 2 dock can be used with the HDMI A/V Adapter allowing you to place the iPad 2 at a more usable angle while it is connected to your big screen or a projector. The Dock also has a line out, which is nice for connecting to an external set of speakers without adding another cord to plug and unplug from your iPad 2.

Value of the iPad 2:

The iPad 2 is the best value for consumer tablets. With a starting price of $499 and the best collection of currently available features of any tablet, the iPad 2 continues to define the price and features that consumer tablets need to deliver.

While other tablets may offer better specs and other features, the entry-level price and the fact that you don’t need a contract and a monthly data subscription add to the overall value of the iPad 2.

The Apple iPad 2 starts at $499 for the 16GB model and rises to $599 for the 32GB iPad 2, topping out at $699 for the 64GB WiFi only model. On the WiFi+3G side, the 16GB iPad 2 with connectivity for Verizon or AT&T is $629, the 32GB WiFi+ 3G model is $729 and the 64GB WiFi+ 3G iPad 2 ends up at $829. There is no price premium for choosing Black or White as your iPad 2 color, but the iPad 2 in white is harder to find at launch time.

The range of prices for the iPad 2 is a strength in the value department. Rather than including a 3G radio or limiting users to one size of storage Apple allows you to choose the connectivity and size that fits your needs, so that you don’t pay for a feature you don’t want and need.

Overall the iPad 2 offers a value that is hard to beat, especially by the current crop of Android HoneyComb competitors like the Motorola Xoom. Actually, the best competition may be the original iPad, which can be purchased refurbished from Apple for as little as $349.

At this point we still recommend that most new iPad shoppers go with the iPad 2, which is faster and has several new features; but you’ll have to look at the review and play with an iPad 2 yourself before determining if the upgrade is worth it.

All of the writers who have contributed to this iPad 2 review upgraded form the iPad and all are happy to have made the choice. As mentioned throughout the iPad 2 review, the thinner and lighter form factor, speedier processor, improved graphics, and cameras on the iPad 2 add up to a great value; even for owners of the first iPad.

iPad 2 Review Conclusion:

We’ve spent the past year using the iPad as the measuring stick for what a consumer tablet should be, and now, 11 months later, just as competitors like the HP TouchPad, Motorola Xoom and other Android tablets are arriving, we have the iPad 2.

The iPad 2 delivers a collection of seemingly incremental upgrades that come together to form a much more refined iPad. An iPad that the competition needs to react to and adjust to before the average consumer considers purchasing a different tablet.

Is the iPad 2 perfect? No, but with the current competition it doesn’t have to be perfect, just better. The iPad 2 will continue to be the tablet that most consumers look for when they think of getting a tablet and the tablet to beat for other manufacturers.

We recently tried to explain to a friend how a tablet like the iPad 2 could fit into their life. This is a difficult task to imagine with the capabilities of many modern smart phones and the thin and light new laptops on the market, but in the end we explained that you just have to use it to understand it.

A year ago, we called the iPad a “wait and see” device, and once we had a chance to use it and integrate it with our lives the need and the reason for owning one became clear. Apple seems to have come to the same conclusion, with the friendlier return policy that gives you a 14 day period to use the iPad 2 without any risk. It’s like the Total Gym trial, Apple’s so sure you’ll like the iPad 2 you can try it out at home, at work and at play for 2 weeks risk free.

In the end, the iPad 2 remains the tablet to beat. We are still looking for good cameras and wishing for an even lighter iPad down the road, but Apple has delivered the best consumer tablet experience available today.

Contributors: The GottaBeMobile iPad 2 Review was a group effort involving several iPad 2 models and writers. The writers contributing to this iPad 2 Review include Josh Smith, Kevin Purcell, Warner Crocker and Xavier Lanier. The tests included WiFi only and WiFi +3G iPad 2 models.

iPad 2 Gallery:

iPad 2 Specs:

Models WiFi Only WiFi + 3G
Size and Weight
  • Height: 9.50 inches (241.2 mm)
  • Width: 7.31 inches (185.7 mm)
  • Depth: 0.34 inch (8.8 mm)
  • Weight: 1.33 pounds (603.277 g)
  • Height: 9.50 inches (241.2 mm)
  • Width: 7.31 inches (185.7 mm)
  • Depth: 0.34 inch (8.8 mm)
  • Weight: 1.34 pounds (607.813 g)
Storage
16GB
32GB
64GB
16GB
32GB
64GB
Wireless and Cellular
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR technology
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR technology
  • GSM model: UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
  • CDMA model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz)
  • Data only3
Advertisement

Learn more about Wi-Fi + 3G

Display
  • 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
  • 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
  • Support for display of multiple languages and characters simultaneously
Processor
  • 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip
Cameras, Photos, and Video Recording
  • Back camera: Video recording, HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second with audio; still camera with 5x digital zoom
  • Front camera: Video recording, VGA up to 30 frames per second with audio; VGA-quality still camera
  • Tap to control exposure for video or stills
  • Photo and video geotagging over Wi-Fi
Power and Battery
  • Built-in 25-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music
  • Charging via power adapter or USB to computer system
  • Built-in 25-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music
  • Up to 9 hours of surfing the web using 3G data network
  • Charging via power adapter or USB to computer system
Input/Output
  • 30-pin dock connector port
  • 3.5-mm stereo headphone minijack
  • Built-in speaker
  • Microphone
  • 30-pin dock connector port
  • 3.5-mm stereo headphone minijack
  • Built-in speaker
  • Microphone
  • Micro-SIM card tray (GSM model only)
Sensors
  • Three-axis gyro
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
Location
  • Wi-Fi
  • Digital compass
  • Wi-Fi
  • Digital compass
  • Assisted GPS
  • Cellular

Comments

  1. Viet Huy says

    Not being able to use an ipad out of the box put me off, as my mian PC is a linux one. And the androids tablet still don’t seem ready, the playbook seem interesting but until it is released we won’t know.

  2. Brett @ Bad Elf, LLC says

    Wow! Great and thorough review.

    For folks who want GPS but don’t want the 3G/CDMA version of the iPad or who have an standalone MiFi access point, one option is to use an Apple-authorized external GPS receiver. My company sells one (the Bad Elf GPS), and there are a few others on the market as well.

  3. James J says

    The fact that the iPad 2 plays HD quality video is awesome. I use the Remote Access app from my employer, DISH Network, to stream live HDTV, and the picture quality is amazing. It surprisingly mirrors to other TV’s quite well. I had no idea that the picture quality would be so much better than the first iPad.

  4. Best iPad 2 Apps says

    It is indeed an impressive device. I’m an android fan but I gotta admit that I’m absolutely tempted to move to iOS. Feel sorry for those who just bought the first old fashion iPad ;)

  5. Uva says

    It is joy to look at, pleasure to touch, and fun to be with. No, not John’s new girlfriend, my new
    Ipad 2……… .

  6. Howardd21 says

    This was a great review guys – thanks! And as usual, I went and bought an iPad 2 this week (almost like Warner described what he bought: 64gb + AT&T 3G, and got it in white with Blue Cover the way somebody mentioned here) and THEN I read this review. :) But I learned some new things about Airplay I liked.

  7. Anonymous says

    Wow, what a great review. I just wish I could find one. I’ve been searching the usual sites like iPad2Tracker.com, and have had some luck, but still can’t find the model that I want for myself.

    Hopefully, with the Apple-AUO deal we’ll start seeing more of these in the stores (instead of just reading about how cool they are).

  8. Anonymous says

    Excellent review. If you’re still having trouble finding an iPad 2, it might be worth checking out iPad2Tracker.com. It’s still hard to find one, but it might help some people.

  9. Asfas says

    If u need apps or videos then download the app checkpoints and use the
    promo code spencerf for enough points for a free $25 itunes gift card.

  10. Fion says

    Iv read quite a bit about the apple ipad 2. mosty it would seem that its
    beautiful looking with some amazing, powerful technology inside but the
    problem is the physical usability. Badly located control buttons and
    awkward to use as a video camera due to its shape. Theres quite a bit of
    info on this site I agree. It is very fast with the new A5 which is
    amazing. problem is the buttons are awkward to press and the video
    camera is useless both because of the shape of the device. I mean who
    wants to be seen caturing those priceless moments on an aluminim tray?
    Loads of additional info on here:
    http://www.apple-ipad-2.co.uk/
    I also just read about the new HTC tablet. I personally think ill hold off and wait for that to arrive

  11. Eva says

    I am glad you take pride in what you write. This makes you stand way out from many other writers that push poorly written content.

Leave a Reply