Monday, March 14, 2011

My iPad 2 (Early) Review

Although I had to work a lot before and after I bought my Apple iPad 2, I think I've had enough time to use it and write down my thoughts on the device.

I got the ultimate iPad 2 device - the 64GB AT&T 3G model with my unlimited data plan grandfathered in from last year.  As I explained in my previous post, I had to get white because black ran out for my specific model.  So far, the white border has not distracted me but, of course, this is a subjective matter.

Now on to the review:

Size & weight

My previous iPad was the 32GB AT&T 3G model.  Generally, the 3G models are noticeably heavier than the Wi-Fi models.  When comparing the 3G models of the original iPad and the iPad 2, it seemed to weigh about the same when both devices are in your hands.  The iPad 2 is actually up to 15% lighter but perhaps because it is in a smaller shell, it feels as weighty as the original iPad.  But, sometimes your mind plays tricks on you.  Because the iPad 2 is 33% thinner, it is much easier to hold in your hands and it feels lighter.  The Smart Cover adds weight, but less than the traditional folio case since it only covers the front.

Screen


Now, a lot of people were disappointed when the screen resolution was not bumped up.  That included me because I thought we might get closer or equal to Retina Display resolution.  But that doesn't mean the screen isn't better than the first iPad.  I'm the kind of guy who can tell the difference between 720p and 1080p video.  So, I may be a bit sensitive to this but I do notice that the iPad 2 screen is better.

Adjusting the brightness to approximately the same levels, the iPad 2's screen is brighter and pops a lot more. The icons on the screen are more well-defined on the iPad 2 and everything looks generally better.  Some of it stems from the iOS 4.3 update because I noticed a slight visual difference on the iPad 1 when I upgraded it to the latest OS.  But, I think the screen hardware of the iPad 2 is actually nicer.

The glass face also feels very different.  It feels easier to swipe and it feels better on the fingers.  Some speculate the glass is Gorilla Glass but no one seems to know for sure.

Speed

The iPad 2 has the new Apple-constructed dual-core A5 chip which means the device is faster.  How much faster?  Apple says it is twice as fast as the original iPad doing your normal tasks.  When it comes to graphics performance, Apple says it's up to nine times faster!  Anandtech says it couldn't reproduce the 9x faster claim, but the iPad 2 is considerably faster than the iPad 1 and even the dual-core Motorola Xoom.  Some games optimized for the iPad 2 like Infinity Blade, Real Racing 2 HD and Asphalt 6: Adrenaline HD look a lot better and run smoother.  In my use, everything runs faster.  It does help that Safari got faster in iOS 4.3.  But, most apps load much faster.  Not that the original iPad was really slow.

Cameras & FaceTime

Although people have been clamoring for cameras on the iPad since day one, I think most people are disappointed on the quality of cameras on the iPad 2.  I never really wanted cameras on the iPad but it does open up some interesting possibilities.

The rear camera is capable of shooting 720p video, the same quality as the iPhone 4.  Now, that's where the comparisons end with the iPhone 4. The rear still camera reportedly has a megapixel count of ONE.  And I can't really dispute that.  Still picture quality isn't the greatest.

Here's an example:


This picture was taken with Instagram, which isn't optimized for the iPad.  Although there is a filter on this, the picture has a LOT of grain which would have been there without the filter.  There is also no HDR function in the iPad's camera app, which the iPhone 4 has.  The rear camera also has no flash which is fine because not even a flash can save the one megapixel pictures.

The front-facing camera is the same VGA camera on the iPhone 4.  Since you'll be using it for things like Photo Booth for iPad (which comes with every iPad 2) and FaceTime it doesn't have to be a high-quality camera.  When you do FaceTime, be prepared for a grainy image.  On the iPhone 4 it's not as bad because it's on a 3.5" screen.  But, when you FaceTime on a 9.7" screen the camera defects are much more noticeable.

Although I'm not jumping for joy about the iPad camera, it is interesting to use camera apps reserved only for the iPhone.  You already saw that I used Instagram.  I also loaded other iPhone camera apps like TrueHDR, DailyBooth, Pocketbooth, Pano, 360 Panorama, and MagicShutter.  I also loaded some post-production iPhone photos apps like ArtistaOil, MobileMonet, Paint It! Now, ToonPAINT, PhotoFunia, iMut8r, and 3D Photo.  I haven't used all of them yet.  That could be an article in itself.

Other Hardware Changes

One way Apple managed to make the iPad 2 thinner is by tapering the edges.  That means that there is really no flat edge like the original iPad and the iPhone 4.  So, that changed the layout of the buttons and the ports.

The volume rocker button is now on the tapered edge of the iPad instead of the side of the device.  When I used to put the original iPad on my Griffin A-Stand incorrectly, it used to depress the volume button all the way up or all the way down.  It is much easier to avoid this now.

The mute/orientation lock switch is above the volume rocker like the original iPad.  The sleep button is on the top right of the device when holding it in portrait mode with the home button pointing to the ground, just like the previous iPad.

One badly-needed change is the size of the speaker.  It is noticeably louder.  The speaker grill is also much larger.  The tapered edge helped to make for a larger speaker size.

The 30-pin dock connector is also on the tapered edge and some early reviewers had a hard time putting in the 30-pin connector cables.  Because the edge is tapered you feel like you want to insert the cable according to the face of the taper.  Instead, you need to insert the cable straight, flush with the iPad's screen.  I found out the trick and now I can do it without thinking too much.  This may take some practice if you are an iPad 1 owner.

The most frustrating thing for me with the iPad 2 so far is the SIM card slot.  It has been moved up from the middle of the device closer to the headphone jack.

Because it is also on the tapered edge, I wasn't sure if I had to insert the SIM tool perpendicular to the taper or flush with the iPad screen, like the 30-pin connector problem.

I found out that you have to insert the SIM tool perpendicular to the face of the taper.  Even knowing that, it was hard to make the SIM tray eject.  The SIM tray on the original iPad was much easier to eject.  It could be, though, that I'm an idiot.

Video Mirroring

Video mirroring is displaying exactly what is on your iPad 2 on an HDTV.  To do that, you need the Apple Digital AV Adapter, an HDMI cable and the 30-pin dock connector cable that came with your iPad (if you would like to charge your device at the same time).

I have to say this is magical.  I loved it!  Playing Angry Birds on your HDTV is priceless.  Now, since the iPad does not have a screen that is 16x9, it won't fill up your 16x9 HDTV.  I don't mind that very much.  If this bothers you, most HDTVs have the capability to stretch the screen and/or zoom in to fill the screen.  This is one of the reasons why I got the iPad 2.  Video mirroring does not work for the first iPad.

Conclusions

If you've always wanted an iPad, getting the iPad 2 is a no-brainer.  If you have the first iPad, you may not need to upgrade.  I detailed in an earlier article some of the reasons why I wanted to upgrade to the iPad 2.  But, those features may not be critical to you.  So, you have to weigh your needs, your wants and your bank account.

I have so much more to say about the iPad 2 but we'll have to leave that for future articles.

1 comment:

Ray said...

After reading your review I really want to change over from my iPad to the iPad 2. However I would wait for the black bordered one because the white drives me nuts. I work for Dish Network and mainly I watch TV with my Sling Adapter and the Dish remote app on my iPad. I am also pretty sensitive when it comes to screen resolution so I believe you when you say it looks much better.