Apple announced the faster, lighter and better iPad 2 early last week and it is bound to hit the retail stores starting 5pm on Friday, March 11th 2011. As you can expect, the iPad 2 reviews have started to pour in and I had a busy time scanning them for those intrinsic details and opinions.
As you might know, I have always believed iPad to be the best tablet available (my iPad 1 review) for various reasons, specifically for superior form factor and availability of 65,000+ apps specifically designed for the iPad. When Apple launched iPad in India back in January this year, I was sure that iPad 2 is round the corner and hence sold off my iPad 1 in anticipation of a getting an even better iPad 2. How much better is iPad 2 as compared to iPad 1? Let us check it out.
Difference between iPad 2 and iPad 1
- 15% lighter than the original iPad
- 33% thinner than the original iPad
- 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 for the iPad2, as compared to 1 GHz Apple A4 in iPad 1
- Front and rear facing cameras
- Better RAM in iPad 2
- Gyroscope support included in iPad 2
- iPad 2 comes in both Black and White models
- CDMA model (Verizon) available only in iPad 2
- Added HDMI support in iPad 2
Now that we have listed down the differences, let us sit back and analyze how big and useful these added new specs and features are.
Where iPad 2 is Found Wanting
For someone like me, camera was not even a requirement on a tablet like iPad. I can’t imagine taking still photos using such a big tablet like iPad. Facetime though, might be useful for some people. It qualifies as a luxury, but not necessarily a requirement. If you are amongst those few who wanted to see cameras on iPad, you are in for a bad news.
As Walt Mossberg from WSJ notes,
Its cameras take mediocre still photos and Apple won’t even reveal their megapixel ratings. The company says they were designed for video, not still photography. For a company known for quality, which bundles a new still-photo app with the device, the cameras are disappointing.
Even Engadget’s Joshua Tapolsky feels the same about the cameras in iPad 2.
Let’s just put this out there: the iPad 2 cameras are really pretty bad. They’re not unusable, but it’s clear that the sensors employed are not top shelf by any measure.
2. Battery Life
This one is bit controversial. Some of the reviewers like Tapolsky found iPad 2 to be even better than the original iPad in terms of battery life. But some people like Mossberg and Peter Ha found it to be lacking, specially when running videos.
3. The usual misses
I had some rants when the original iPad was released back in January last year, which is still repeated by all the competitors and their supporters. Lack of USB support, flash support, microSD card support etc. Apple did add the cameras and provided an accessory support for HDMI out in iPad 2, but still leaves some people unsatisfied.
Where iPad 2 is better than iPad 1?
It is definitely faster than the original iPad, both in terms of processing and graphics. Having a Dual core A5 processor makes iPad 2 twice as faster as its predecessor and the reviews prove that. SlashGear’s Vincent Nguyen ran some tests to prove that.
iOS 4.3 whips along almost instantaneously on the new Apple A5 processor, with apps loading more swiftly, running more smoothly and the whole thing feeling incredibly responsive.
Apple claims that the graphic performance has been improved by 9 times in iPad 2 which can be seen when playing graphic heavy apps/games like Infinity Blade and Need for Speed. iPad 2 is definitely snappier than iPad 1, but it will take developers time to help users tap the extra horsepower.
Should you buy iPad 2?
This is the toughest question to be answered by anyone. It solely depends on the needs and requirements of the user and obviously differs from person to person. I will try to make it simple for you and hopefully help you make a decision. Mind you, iPad 2 is still the best tablet out there in the market and way ahead of its nearest competition when it comes to overall tablet experience. Most of the reviewers back up this claim.
Scenario 1: You don’t own a tablet
You have 4 options –
(1) Buy an android tablet – Motorola Xoom is the best of the lot. It is priced at $799 and will be available soon (Rs.35000 in India). It has better hardware specs than iPad 2 like 1 GB RAM, microSD slot and will have flash support & 4G LTE very soon. But then, Honeycomb isn’t as polished as iOS 4.3 and has far lesser apps (around 100) as compared to iOS (around 65k apps).
(2) Wait for BB Playbook or HP TouchPad – These two are expected to be released later this year and carry impressive hardware specs just like Xoom. Initial previews show that their OS are somewhat better than Android Honeycomb. But then, they lack apps and we aren’t sure when they will be released and at what price-points.
(3) Buy iPad 2 – Most of the reviewers are suggesting this. iPad 2 is simply the best and way ahead of its competition. At a starting price of just $499, it is the most popular choice. Now that it is lighter, faster and thinner than the original iPad, for many it makes the best option to go for. But wait, check the next option too.
(4) Buy iPad 1 (while stock lasts) – This is my recommendation. I might sound crazy, but I really feel this is a must consider option for everyone who doesn’t own a tablet yet. Why? Simply because Apple reduced the price of all the models of iPad 1 by $100. Now that is not a small amount. Not everyone would need those cameras (which are anyway bad) and better horsepower for basic usage. Trust me, iPad 1 was not a slouch. Though the specs look mediocre on paper, a polished operating system like iOS 4, makes it look slick and powerful. Heavy apps like Garageband and iMovie might struggle on this, but it can be a nice compromise for the $100 rebate you will be getting.
Scenario 2: You own iPad 1
You are in for some serious thinking before you take a plunge. It is very tough to recommend for or against upgrading to iPad 2. As TechCrunch’s MG Siegler notes,
If you have the disposable income, it’s a no-brainer to upgrade. Again, this is everything you like about the iPad 1, but better. But if you just bought an iPad 1, or you don’t want to drop another several hundred dollars, it’s not like the iPad 1 will be out of date anytime soon. Sure, it may feel like older technology to the touch, but again, it largely looks and acts the same.
So, it all boils down to your requirements and disposable income. If you never liked the original iPad, there isn’t a strong reason to like the iPad 2. If you were an iPad lover, you will love the iPad 2 even more. Before you decide to buy (or not buy) the iPad 2, weigh the pros and cons, just as I have done above and you will surely get an answer.
If you are wondering what I would do, I will buy an iPad 2 only if I can get it at its base price. Else, will go back to iPad 1 or may be Motorola Xoom!