iPad 2 - Evolution, not Revolution

As I unboxed my iPad 2 this morning, I kept thinking to myself how many Apple products I actually own and how much money I’ve spent over the years on said products. It’s not that I jump to purchase every new device or updated model that Apple launches into the mainstream. I happen to like their products very much, and when I feel compelled, I buy them.

That brings us to the iPad 2. When originally announced, I was instantly debating whether to get this second iteration of the device or to wait for a more substantial one a year from now. Then there was also the Motorola Xoom that had intrigued me as well as the yet-to-be announced flood of Android tablets that will be landing in the coming months. After a few days of deliberating, I decided that the thinner, sleeker device along with the faster processor was enough to entice me to jump. I carry the iPad with me every day and, while not heavy, the thought of a slimmer, lighter device was definitely appealing.

And now my review.

The Good – The first thing you notice about the iPad 2 as compared to its older sibling is how truly thin it is. In my opinion, this is what the original model should have looked like. It’s easy to hold with one hand for reading and, although only slightly lighter according to specs, it feels much lighter in the hand. Some of that may be psychological due to the thinness. Unlike the original model, the iPad 2 is tapered at its underside similar to the iPhone 3G/3GS. It makes the device appear even thinner than it actually is.

The screen appears to be slightly brighter and with more vivid colors. As I compared the two models side by side, the difference was obvious in some games and in almost all photographs. There appeared to be more detail and a sharper image based on my unscientific tests.

It’s fast. Loading apps is noticeably faster. Games run smoother and web pages load much more quickly. Frankly, I never had any speed complaints about the original iPad, but side by side, you notice the speed difference. This will be helpful for some apps that push the processor. It will also  allow developers to build more sophisticated apps.

The Bad – There are three major issues I have with the device. Two are with this model specifically, and one is with the iPad line in general. The camera on the iPad 2 is simply adequate. It’s nowhere near as good as the camera on the iPhone 4 and is rather disappointing for still shots. For video it appeared about as good as the iPhone 3G/GS camera. I don’t plan on using it to take still photographs and even Apple’s own commercials depict people taking video with the iPad2 rather than still photographs. That being said, if they were going to put a camera there, it would have been nice if it were a good one. The iPhone 4 camera would have been perfect, but instead they settled for a lesser camera most likely with the intentions of keeping the cost down. Understandable. My other significant gripe with the iPad 2 is the storage capacity. Apple decided to keep the range of 16, 32 and 64GB. Almost all the speculators had assumed that we would see increased storage with the new iPad. Seemed logical as that is how Apple generally progressed with their products over time. I find myself constantly having to manage the content on my iPad and remove things regularly to make more room. a range of 32, 64 and 128GB would have been wonderful. My third complaint which is with iOS in general is the lack of Adobe Flash…still. While Apple may believe Flash is on its way out, there are still many sites that use Flash as their base and not being able to view them on the iPad is annoying. Apple claims it’s to spare battery life and processor speed. I believe there are also polotics involved. Either way, keeping Flash off iOS devices is a doing disservice to Apple’s customers.

The Ugly – Because Apple used a tapered bottom to the device, the sync/charging port is now at a slight angle. This may not seem like a big deal, but so every time I’ve attempted to connect the device to the cable, I’ve missed and scraped the end of the cable against the connector. It’s at an awkward angle as opposed to being on a flat surface directly at the bottom as every previous Apple device has been thus far.

My overall impression is that this is a very evolutionary update to a revolutionary product. There are logical progressions in size, weight and speed. The addition of cameras on the front and back are nice, but essentially keeping up with competition. The lack of a progression in storage is disappointing, but not a dealbreaker. Bottom line is that if you are thinking of purchasing a tablet, this is the one to get. If you already have an original iPad, there’s a lot more to consider here. If size, weight and speed are compelling factors in your decision making than the iPad 2 is for you. If not, I would probably wait and see what Apple has in store for 2012.