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Product Review: Apple iPad 2

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Product Review: Apple iPad 2

The tablet, redefined, act II

When the first generation of a product is one of the most talked about products of the year (or more), follow-ups can be tough. Let's see how Apple did with the iPad 2.


Apple's iPad 2 had big shoes to fill and with a rush of competition, it no longer has the tablet market to itself. So, how does the iPad 2 stack up?

 

 

Design

Right out of the gate, the iPad 2 is a head-turner. It's super-thin, measuring in at .34-inches at its thickest point—that's thinner than the iPhone 4. At 1.3 pounds, it's barely perceptible in a brief case or backpack. Complimenting the trim design is a cool "smart" cover which attaches to the tablet magnetically and folds into several positions to prop the iPad up for typing or to stand it upright for video chatting. There are several Smart Cover colors to choose from and the device itself is available in black or white.

Performance

The iPad 2 boasts a far more powerful processor than its predecessor with a 1GHz dual core processor called A5, with 512MB of RAM. These specs are much closer to a smartphone than a souped-up laptop, but the iPad handles all of its apps with few hiccups.

The iPad 2 also delivers strong battery life, with up to 10 hours of operation on a single charge. Simply close the "Smart Cover" and you can put the iPad 2 to sleep. Since it uses flash memory, it springs to life quickly from sleep mode or even when it's completely powered-off.

Connectivity & Memory

You'll have two ways to connect to the net with the iPad 2—via Wi-Fi or through Wi-Fi plus 3G cell networks from AT&T and Verzion. You'll pay more for 3G connectivity, and you'll need to buy a data plan from a carrier as well, but the 3G option does give you a truly mobile Internet device. Wi-Fi only is a nice option to trim back the cost of the iPad 2.

If you want to pair the iPad 2 with a keyboard or headphones, you'll find built-in Bluetooth. The iPad 2 is also compatible with all the docking devices introduced for the original model.

As far as internal memory goes, the tablet is available in capacities of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. Prices start at $499 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi iPad 2. Unfortunately, there's no slot for memory cards, so if you opt for a 16GB iPad 2, you're stuck at that capacity.

Features

One major difference between the iPad and the iPad 2 is the inclusion of two cameras: a front-facing camera for conducting video chats that's VGA resolution, and a rear-facing camera for snapshots. Neither camera is all that great, particular the rear-facing camera. Let's face it, there's no real reason to take photos with a tablet. It's just way too cumbersome. The front-facing camera is definitely valuable, but Apple had more on-screen resolution on the iPad 2 that it could have delivered a higher-megapixel camera.

The 10-inch display is quite crisp with a resolution of 1024 x 768. You're not at Full HD resolution (though an HD resolution iPad is rumored to be in the works) but it's certainly adequate for web browsing and some video-gaming. The screen is backlit, so viewing outdoors is more challenging than in lower light environments. If you're considering the iPad 2 as an e-reader, keep this limitation in mind. Other than that, reading text on the device is certainly a pleasant experience - the large screen and adjustable font sizes make it a compelling e-book reader - but the iPad 2 doesn't have the ultra-long battery life and e-ink display that make dedicated e-Readers so popular.

Then, of course, there are the apps. (Go here for dozens of AdoramaTV reviews of iPad apps for photographers.) The iPad 2 is decked out with a number of software applications for viewing photos, sending email, Web browsing and viewing videos on YouTube. The iPad requires an app for YouTube since it doesn't support viewing Flash videos. Apple defends the move for security and stability reasons but it limits your Web experience, given how much online content is Flash-based. Still, with access to Apple's large and growing app store, you won't want for things to do with the iPad 2.

Bottom Line

Apple literally resurrected and redefined the tablet computer category with the first iPad and while the second generation model isn't as Earth-shattering, it's still the tablet to beat. The primary limitations - the lack of Flash support and no way to expand memory capacity - are outweighed by the sleek design, crisp display, speedy processor and enormous app store.

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