Apple iPad 2 versus iPad

The iPad 2 has proved just as popular if not more so than its predecessor, with reports suggesting that stocks across the UK ran dry 24 hours after launch.

After a good 72 hours of testing of the 64GB 3G model, we share our thoughts about how it stacks up against the original iPad.

 

Design
There are a handful of key areas where the iPad 2 outperforms the original tablet. The redesigned chassis is the most obvious change, with our 64GB model weighing in at 613g, a full 117g lighter than a comparable first generation model.

Despite the reduced weight, the device is still far from light enough to hold in one hand for prolonged periods. Still, with a 9.7in screen this is to be expected and the device is easy enough to handle with both hands and is comfortable when placed on a lap.

Measuring 241 x 186 x 8.8mm, the newer model is much thinner than the 243 x 190 x 13mm original, making it easier to grip and allowing it to slip into the narrowest gaps in a bag.

 

Apple has kept the solitary home button at the bottom of the screen, with the only other additions being two cameras. There is a front-facing VGA webcam, which allows tablet users to use the FaceTime video calling software, and a 0.7 megapixel camera on the rear of the device, minus a flash.

Although these additions are welcome we are disappointed that Apple did not add a high-end rear-facing camera as images appear extremely grainy. The quality of the VGA webcam is passable and the Photo Booth app, which manipulates pictures in real time, is a good feature.

However, FaceTime was a let-down with the image on the iPad appearing jerky and distorted during our tests. This is a feature that could have and should have been better

Software/applications
The iPad 2 ships with iOS 4.3 so users can wirelessly stream music and video via Airplay and remotely locate devices using MobileMe. An iOS 4.3.1 update is also available to download, which fixes some minor bugs and connectivity issues.

The onscreen keyboard is near identical to its predecessor and Apple does not seem to be moving forward as quickly as Android when it comes to improving this feature, for example the addition of keyboard shortcuts.

In terms of the applications, the iPad 2 doesn’t offer anything that will not work on the original tablet. However, this could change as developers create apps that use the enhanced graphical capabilities of the second-generation device.

Enterprise-friendly features include support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and VPNs. IT administrators will also have the ability to set policies and manage devices remotely.

The iPad 2 also offers multi-tasking, but this still resembles applications switching rather than true multi-tasking, which will be seen on the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Internet performance is one of the standout features, with web sites and video loading requiring minimal buffering, even over 3G.

One of the best features of the tablet is to have a range of content at your fingertips. Several apps, including those for The Metro and The New York Times were very useful during the morning commute.

However, there is still no support for Adobe Flash, which restricts the video experience and is a weakness that Android tablets such as the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, as well as the BlackBerry PlayBook, will look to capitalise on.

Hardware
Another area that has been improved is the display. The 9.7in LED-backlit screen comes with the same 1,024 x 768 resolution as the original, but does appear brighter when contrasted head-to-head.

Apple has refrained from adding any ports, with the 30-pin connector still the only native port. Although there are various adaptors available, those for VGA and SD card input start at a rather pricey £25.

Disappointingly, there are no headphones included with the device and a pair with an in-built microphone starts at £26.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the iPad 2 is the battery life, which even forthcoming high-end Android Honeycomb devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and Motorola Xoom could struggle to match.

Much like the fabled Duracell bunny, the iPad 2 showed no signs of running out of juice even when watching videos and using the web for prolonged periods. Apple’s claim of up to 10 hours of battery life appeared to hold up, and the device lasted longer than the original did in our tests.

The iPad 2 lasted 20 hours before cutting out. We clocked nine hours of actual use including browsing the internet over Wi-Fi and 3G, watching three hours of video from BBC iPlayer and a two-hour film. The remaining 11 hours were spent in standby, eight hours of which was overnight.

Bearing in mind that the brightness was turned up to full throughout our test and that video use was heavy, we think that it is possible to get at least three full days out of the iPad with moderate use.

Our device was running on a Vodafone SIM-card, which included 2GB of data allowance and up to 1GB of data use at BT Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots.

The one-off cost of our 64GB 3G device was £379, with new users required to sign up to a £27 per month, two-year contract. Other contracts and pay-as-you-go options are also available.

Overall, the iPad 2 is a sleeker device that offers a noticeable step up in performance.

However, owners of the first-generation iPad are not advised to splash out on an upgrade at this point, unless there is an urgent need to use FaceTime. It would be sensible to wait until competitors are rolled out, as this is likely to drive down the price of the iPad 2.

BlackBerry users are also advised to hold off, as the PlayBook looks to be a very enticing prospect and will slot into the enterprise environment seamlessly.