While the product specs for Apple's iPad 2 have been known for awhile--it's 15 percent lighter, one-third thinner and twice as fast--the latest update to Apple's wildly popular tablet is only now getting into the hands of tech reviewers. So should you buy one? Here are the takeaways from the lucky gadget gurus who got their hands one:
Apple nailed it, rejoices David Pogue at The New York Times, beating back the critics:
My friends, I’m telling you: just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience. We’re not talking about a laptop or a TV, where you don’t notice its thickness while in use. This is a tablet. You are almost always holding it. Thin and light are unbelievably important for comfort and the overall delight. So are rounded edges, which the first iPad didn’t have.
Some definite disappointments, says Walter Mossberg at All Things Digital. He maintains that the iPad 2 is still the best tablet on the market, however, poorly executed features such as the device's new front and rear cameras make it dispensable for current iPad owners. "Its cameras take mediocre still photos," he writes. "Also, the battery life... isn’t as strong as I found it to be on the first iPad." "Another drawback I encountered was that the new, more tapered design makes it harder to plug cables and accessories--including the charging cable--into the main port on the bottom of the device, because it is now angled."
It's so much faster, exclaims Joshua Topolsky at Engadget:
The CPU and graphics performance of this tablet felt extremely impressive to us -- the iPad 2 performed excellently no matter what we threw at it, games and graphically taxing apps seemed to have higher frame rates, and even when dealing with CPU intensive programs like GarageBand, it rarely (if ever) seemed to be struggling.
Its speakers are crisper, notes Peter Ha at The Daily, which, lest you forget, is an iPad-only publication:
A point of contention about the original iPad was its relatively weak external speaker. In hopes of addressing this problem for the iPad 2, Apple engineers placed the speaker on the back side of the device. Placing both versions of the iPad on a flat surface, I measured their respective sound performance using the Decibel Ultra app and streaming the same track through MOG. To my surprise each device averaged 105 decibels with a peak output of 112, yet for some reason the iPad 2’s speaker inexplicably sounded louder, crisper and cleaner.
Some nice software upgrades, notes MG Siegler at TechCrunch:
For the iPad 2 specifically, two great pieces of software now bundled into iOS 4.3: FaceTime and Photo Booth. Both are iPad 2 only because both obviously require a camera. But Apple says that the real-time rendering for the 9-photo view in Photo Booth also requires the graphical power of the A5 chip.
This is really going to infuriate the competition, writes Jason Snell at Macworld:
For Apple’s competitors in the tablet-device market, the iPad 2 is a bucket of water to the face. After more than a year of struggling to catch up to the original iPad, here’s a new model that addresses many of the iPad’s deficiencies, dramatically improves its speed, and doesn’t cede any ground on price, features, or battery life. The iPad 2 raises the bar Apple set a year ago--and it’s time for the rest of the industry to scramble again to catch up.
So if I already have an iPad should I buy one? John Gruber gives a direct answer:
My best answer: If you buy a new iPhone or iPod Touch every year, then, yes, you should replace your old iPad with the iPad 2. It’s thinner, a comparative joy to hold in hand, noticeably faster, gets the exact same battery life, and has more RAM (spoiler: 512 MB). If you don’t buy a new iPhone every year--if you have the good sense to hold onto them for more than a year before upgrading to a new model--then you’ll likely want to wait for a new iPad, too.