With the iPad 2 a mere two weeks from its UK launch, the reviews are already beginning to pour in. Is Apple’s new tablet a triumph or merely an incremental update, not worth getting yourself worked up about? Basically, should you buy one or not? We’ve summarised the expert opinions of three leading sites below to help you make up your mind.
Build and design
As we all know the iPad 2 is 33 percent thinner and a wee bit lighter than its predecessor, and the consensus is, unsurprisingly, that this is a good thing. SlashGear says that the slimness makes one-handed use more practical, while Engadget calls it an “incredibly handsome and svelte package” that “feels really, really great in your hands” with construction that gives it a feeling of “heft and permanence”. Macworld likes the way the flatter back means the iPad 2 is “less wobbly” when placed on a flat surface, and says that while it still isn’t light enough to hold in one hand for extended periods, its lower weight does make this easier than before.
The screen is the same 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 panel as seen on the original iPad. Macworld mentions that while it isn’t as hi-res as, say, the Motorola Xoom’s screen, it’s still “among the best on current tablets” thanks to the lack of ghosting/discolouration whichever angle you look at it from.
There’s still a single speaker, which Engadget feels is “clearer if somewhat quieter than the old version” and no better on the placement front. The iPad 2’s buttons and ports, and their placement, are also largely unchanged, although the side-mounted sliding switch is no longer locked to a function via the firmware: you can configure it to either mute volume or lock screen orientation in the Settings app.
Apple claims the iPad 2’s new hardware – an A5 dual-core processor and double the RAM of the first iPad – makes it twice as fast in operation and nine times faster when it comes to graphics performance.
Macworld says the iPad 2 “absolutely” measures up to this, calling it the “fastest iOS device ever made, by a long shot”. Apps and Safari run far smoother and SlashGear says large PDF files are “easier to handle, rendering more quickly, scrolling and zooming more smoothly”. Engadget cites Geekbench test scores of 721 for the iPad 2, 442 for the iPad and 375 for the iPhone 4, and says that when running CPU intensive programs like GarageBand “it rarely (if ever) seemed to be struggling”.
On the battery front, Engadget’s video benchmarking test saw the iPad 2 last an “astonishing” 10 hours and 26 minutes, compared to 9h33m for the iPad, 8h20m for the Motorola Xoom and 3h26m for the Dell Streak 7. SlashGear also got more than 10 hours use from their test sample.
Cameras and FaceTime
Macworld says the iPad 2 cameras are “essentially the same as those in the fourth-generation iPod touch” and “not particularly impressive in terms of quality”, although it does call the front-facing VGA camera “perfectly serviceable for its intended purpose”, video chat.
Engadget calls the cameras “really pretty bad” and incapable of producing “remotely satisfying results for still shots”. The back camera comes in for a particular bashing, being described as “utterly second rate”.
FaceTime is more warmly received (just), with the video chat app described as “satisfying” by Engadget and “good enough” by Macworld.
Macworld says iOS 4.3 is “hardly earth-shattering, but does [offer] a few nice new features”, namely Home Sharing and video support (including for third-party apps) in AirPlay. SlashGear bemoans the lack of widgets, though.
Engadget says the iPad 2 “isn’t just the best tablet on the market, it feels like the only tablet on the market” but points to the cameras, OS and screen as all leaving room for improvement. SlashGear says the iPad 2 “over-delivers” in most areas and extends Apple’s position as the “vanguard of the market”. Macworld calls it “a triumph” that follows the original “with aplomb”.
We’ll be reviewing the iPad 2 ourselves very soon. Is there anything in particular you’d like us to take a closer look at? Let us know in the comments below.
Engadget iPad 2 review score: N/A
Macworld iPad 2 review score: 4.5/5
SlashGear iPad 2 review score: N/A