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iPad 2 : thinner, lighter and faster

The Apple iPad 2 is neither a revolution nor a revelation. Rather, it's an evolutionary bump over its predecessor, which is enough for iPad 2 to be competitive with, and stay ahead of, its tablet competition, even if only by a hair. While the iPad 2 still leaves much room for improvement, it delivers a largely satisfying tablet experience at an appealing price (in 18 variants, starting at $499 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi-only version).

Compared with the original, the iPad 2 is physically streamlined: At 0.34 inch deep, it's thinner than the original's 0.5 inch, and its chassis is now surround by tapered edges, which make it easier to hold. The tablet weighs 1.33 pounds (Wi-Fi version; the AT&T and Verizon models weigh 0.01 and 0.02 pounds heavier, respectively, to accommodate the 3G radio). The 12 percent to 17 percent weight reduction as compared to the original iPad--which weighed 0.17 and 0.26 pounds more for the Wi-Fi and AT&T 3G varietals--truly does make a difference, particularly when holding the tablet in one hand. And you will use any tablet one-handed: Anytime you don't use the tablet when resting on a surface, you'll at some point have to hold it one hand while you use the other hand to navigate the screen. While the change in weight isn't enough for me to say I'd hold the iPad in one hand for reading a book for an hour, I found it did make the one-handed general operation much more pleasant and viable. And I found the difference in weight very obvious compared with the Motorola Xoom, an Android 3.0 tablet that weighs 1.6 pounds.
Like its predecessor, you won't find any ports, slots, or connectors (beyond the 30-pin dock connector and the headphone jack). Video-out is handled via a bulky but effective dock connector to HDMI cable.


The guts of the iPad have been stepped up to include 512MB of RAM (twice the RAM of the original iPad), a 200-MHz bus, and the new dual-core A5 chip. The inclusion of a dual-core CPU was necessary; competing Android 3.0 tablets all use a dual-core chip. The RAM on the iPad 2 is half that on the Android models, but whether this will truly impact usability or is merely a reflection of Apple's home-team advantage as both hardware and operating system manufacturer remains to be seen.

The Cameras

The iPad 2 adds both front and rear-facing cameras, for use in FaceTime chats and for video and still capture. Sadly, Apple's approach to cameras in iPad 2 feels cursory, as if the cameras are there just as a checkbox item; the company hasn't made tweaks, or included good enough hardware, for either camera to produce a truly satisfying experience. That stands in stark contrast to Apple's approach with the 5-megapixel, 720p iPhone 4 camera (which has satisfactorily captured over 3000 images and videos, and counting).

iOS 4.3 and Software

Apple has done little to push iOS's evolution. While this is disappointing, given its recent updating patterns that's not entirely unexpected: The company has announced major new iOS revisions at its Worldwide Developer's Conference, and released those updates tied to iPhone's summer bump first (last year, iPad didn't get its big iOS update until fall).

Battery Life

In my hands-on, I experienced no discernible difference in battery life compared with the iPad 1.Macworld's battery life tests confirmed this real-world usage impression; there, the 32GB iPad with AT&T 3G lasted 504 minutes, just 14 minutes longer than a 16GB iPad 1 with AT&T 3G. After using the Motorola Xoom, however, I must say I found the iPad 2's lengthy recharge time highly annoying: Compared with the Xoom's rapid recharge, the iPad 2's wall-connected recharge seemed to progress at a trickle.

No question that the iPad 2 lacks some elements that would make it a complete package. It has no built-in hotspot, it's cameras are weak, and the OS needs better notifications and greater flexibility for file handling and updating without a computer.
If you're considering upgrading from the iPad 1, you'll see your most satisfying boosts in the lighter weight and zippier performance. Gamers will want the new model for its graphics handling, which is improved thanks to the new processor design.
If you're in the market for a tablet today, though, iPad 2 remains the class act to beat. Yes, it has limitations and omissions in its hardware, but on balance, it is the tablet that is best prepared, right now, for the mass-market consumer. The question that remains to be seen is whether iPad 2 can hold its crown for a year, as its predecessor did.

[source : PCworld magazine 4/11]

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