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Apple iPad 2 - Review


Apple iPad 2 - Review


The Apple iPad 2 features a 9.7-inch multi-touch display, up to 64GB of internal storage, a rear camera for photos, a secondary camera for video calls and is powered by a dual-core A5 processor.The iPad 2 is available in Black and White and has a 3G variant which is available in the U.S. through Verizon and AT&T.

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The tablet market has evolved tremendously over the course of the last year thanks to the revolutionary onset of the Apple iPad. Prior to its release, tablets were merely thought of as secondary devices, or even expensive luxuries that rendered them almost completely incapable of reaching mass appeal. However, the iPad surely has taken things to an entirely new direction as consumers gobbled it up thanks mostly to its intuitive operation, portability, and more importantly, its manageable low cost of ownership.

Naturally, it’s only expected to find its successor, the Apple iPad 2, to step things up a notch in various aspects to make it a moderate improvement over its predecessor. And rightfully so, we’re greeted with a product that pushes the envelope in the design and hardware department, while still retaining that gold standard of being ticketed with a minimum $500 cost of ownership. Precisely on cue, its arrival should stem the tide of recent competitive offerings from tampering with its reach, but let’s hope that the tablet experience is up to the task of complementing its fashionable exterior and impressive hardware.

Design

The first thing to catch our eyes with the iPad 2 is its impressive slim profile. While the original iPad was a testament to the prowess  of Apple's engineering team, Apple’s engineers truly did a number in cutting out a lot of the fat from its body – leaving it almost unimaginably lean. In fact, it went from the original’s 0.50” thickness, all the way down to a mind boggling 0.34” thick, which happens to be thinner than the Apple iPhone 4.

Besides its razor thin profile, the overall industrial design of the iPad 2 remains the same, though, we're presented with tapered edges that comfortably provide a decent amount of grip when holding it with both hands. Its brushed aluminum back cover exudes that utmost premium finish that’s generally accompanied by most of Apple’s products. For something packing a decently sized touchscreen, its weight is also reduced to a mere 1.3 pounds and requires little effort in holding it. Meanwhile, its solid construction tastefully makes the iPad 2 one magnificent looking tablet that doesn't skimp out with even the smallest of details. However, you may want to exercise some caution in handling the iPad 2 since it does tend to slip out of your hands now and then.

The iPad 2 features the same 9.7 inch IPS touch display found on its predecessor. While there are higher resolution displays on competitors tablets. the quality of the iPad 2 display is still one of the best. Relatively speaking, there is no problem in making out even the tiniest of text, but it doesn't quite have the same sharpness that’s evident with the iPhone 4’s Retina Display. Despite that, we’re actually still mesmerized by its naturally colorful output and blinding luminance that manages to retain itself at all viewing angles. Even more, we still find it quite viewable under the presence of the sun, however, it’s obviously mostly distinguishable when set to the maximum brightness setting. 

Below the display, you will find the recessed home button. Fittingly, it still provides that springy response when it’s pushed down – which translates to zero accidental presses.

Apple has even included a 0.3 megapixel front facing camera this time, which is located above the display and perfect for video calls.

If you happen to get the 3G version of the iPad 2, you'll find its microSIM card slot placed at the upper left corner of the device – with a pinhole next to it that’s used to access the slot.

Meanwhile, both the silence switch and volume rocker are placed at their identical positions on the right edge of the tablet. Prominent in nature, they’re both easily distinguishable to feel out – with that solid tactile response with the volume rocker.

Moreover, the 3.5mm headset jack, microphone, and the angled dedicated power button round up the items located on the top side of the iPad 2. 

Conversely, the proprietary 30-pin connection port and the notches for the speaker are all found at the bottom edge.

In the rear, we’re greeted to that instantly recognizable Apple logo that’s placed dead center, with the rear camera placed towards the upper left corner. Also, there is a small black strip located on the top edge with the 3G versions of the iPad 2 which houses the tablet’s built-in 3G modems – whether it be compatible with Verizon’s or AT&T’s 3G network.


Hardware

The iPad 2 is powered by a dual-core Apple A5 processor, which should be a decent upgrade in performance over the first generation iPad. With internals which include a compass, accelerometer, and gyroscope, the iPad 2 will be a great bet for gamers.

In terms of connectivity, customers have plenty of choices to go with the iPad 2 since there are versions that will work specifically with the 3G networks of Verizon and AT&T. However, it’s worth noting that AT&T’s version is a GSM enabled device that will work globally as opposed to the domestic use only of the CDMA Verizon iPad 2. In the event you’re out of any cellular data network, you can always fall back on using the iPad 2’s 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi. In our usage, it manages to keep a steady strong connection to an access point that’s placed approximately 30 feet away. Furthermore, it features aGPS which will identify your location, and Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR to get other wireless devices to connect with it. In our experience, we’re able to get a lock on to our location with Google Maps after 10 seconds of loading the app.

Apple’s engineers have managed to impressively make the latest iPad 33 percent thinner than its predecessor – while still retaining its purported 10 hours of continuous video playback. Strictly using Wi-Fi and manually setting its brightness to the 50 percent mark, we’re able to get at least two solid days of normal usage with the iPad 2. Clearly it’s more than acceptable since even heavy users can go on for even a good day without the worry of charging it.


Camera

While the iPad 2 comes with two cameras, but the rear shooter only offers a maximum still shot resolution of 960 x 720 pixels – which translates to something almost close to 0.7-megapixels. Obviously, it won't raise eyes for any serious photographers out there.

Horrifically, the camera interface is an exact port of what’s found on the iPhone, and it’s safe to say that designers didn't bother to think about its layout. By far the biggest frustration we have with it is the location of the on-screen shutter when holding the tablet in landscape. Instead of placing it closer to the sides, the shutter key is located directly in the middle of the bottom edge – which is rather difficult to access if you’re steadying the iPad 2 with each hand grasping onto its sides.

When shooting a photo, the natural inclination for those familiar with using an iPhone is to press an area on the screen to kick in touch focus. Instead, it now simply adjusts the exposure according to the area you've pressed. In terms of quality, we’ll be frank and to the point with this one, but it’s just terribly horrendous. Not only are we presented with muddy looking images that lack a good amount of discernable details, but color production isn't as rich as we’d hope for. Even worse is its performance indoors in low lighting conditions because it’s filled with an abundance of digital noise that reduces it to nothing more than a garbled mess. So don't imagine taking photos with the iPad 2 just for the fun of it. It's clear that the camera on this thing is meant to be used for video chats, augmented reality and other applications which might need it, but not for photography.

Meanwhile, its 720p video capture is is much better. Its captured at 29 frames a second, which naturally makes it look acceptably smooth. As you move and pan around to different areas, the exposure will automatically adjust, however, you can manually do this by simply touching any portion of the display while shooting. Details are for the most part satisfactory, and we’re also glad to see it capturing some rich sounding audio that doesn't seem distorted in any way.

Having a VGA front facing camera, it’s more than equipped in handling video chat via FaceTime. Although we’re still restricted to using it over Wi-Fi. Granted that it’s pixelated due to the iPad 2’s large display, its responsive action in registering movements is immaculate over pretty much anything else out there. Moreover, voices are crisp and easily comprehensible which basically makes for one satisfying video chatting experience.

Software

The iPad 2 comes with iOS 4.3 pre-installed, which should be an easy transition for iPhone users.

Apple has included a new Photo Booth app. In fact, when you tap on the icon, you’re instantly transported to this interesting looking 9-paneled interface that breaks down each unique photo effect – these include thermal, mirror, x-ray, kaleidoscope, normal, light tunnel, squeeze, twirl, and stretch effects. Obviously, it provides you a preview of what the image will look like, but when you click on one, you’re then positioned to take the shot. Without a doubt, it makes for some funny looking photos at first, but after a while, it’s seen more as a novel thing than anything else.


Conclusion

As much as Apple touts its wonderfully new slimmer design, which we openly agree as being eye catching, one of the most alluring things about the iPad 2 is its spot on pricing. At $500 for the entry-level model, you’re presented with a fantastic looking tablet that’s filled with plenty of goodies to make it a worthy successor. Although it might not be a dramatic leap over its original in terms of pure hardware upgrades, it’s fittingly more in line as being an evolutionary step for the line. There is no doubt that the iPad 2 will continue to be a successful product in the tablet market for Apple.

On the software side, iOS still falls behind Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which offers a unique tablet experience. As much as we adore its simple nature, it’s going to require some work in polishing up some key aspects of its interface to truly deliver that surreal next world tablet experience. Looking at the rapid pace that Android is evolving, iOS will quickly need to follow in a similar structure with each new iPad release in order to keep its masterful hold on the market.
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