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iPad  header logo
iPad 2
Better, faster, thinner
 Handset: iPad 2 
 Manufacturer: Apple 
 Price: £399-659 
by Will Wilson
Having watched the iPad slowly worm its way into my life over the past 12 months, getting hold of an iPad 2 was a bit of an underwhelming experience.

Rather than discover myself changing my living behaviour around the device, as I did with its brother back in 2010, I’ve instead merely found it filling the same gaps - it's the always reliable go-to machine around the house for web, film, books, and games.

In a way, it’s a sign that the iPad 2 is perhaps even more of an enigma for a reviewer than its predecessor was - here's a device the appeal of which is not only impossible to explain to those who don’t own a tablet computer, but which is just as hard to justify to those who already own an iPad.

Over time the new hardware will no doubt make a significant difference in terms of the quality of software, but right now the iPad 2 is basically the iPad, but more so.

Considering its predecessor was the best tablet PC money could buy, however, that’s not exactly a bad thing to be.

Raw power

In terms of raw specs, there’s a lot to get excited about. For one, it’s the first Apple device to use the new A5 chip - a 1GHz dual-core processor with an Imagination Tech SGX543MP2 strapped on the side.

This latter element has been shown in benchmarks to destroy the much-hyped Nvidia Tegra 2, currently the high-end graphics provider on Android tablets, and it’s obvious when running the swiftly assembled iPad 2-optimised editions of Infinity Blade and N.O.V.A. 2 that there’s a great deal of potential power in the redesigned body.

It’s this physical redesign that’ll catch you out the first time you pick up the machine.

Regular iPad users will spend the first few days fumbling for the 'volume' and 'power' switches - now located on the curve and hidden from view when looking at the screen - especially if you’ve rotated the machine.

Still, when compared to all the other tablets available (and, indeed, the ones that were demonstrated at Mobile World Congress), the iPad 2 is the most attractive in terms of looks, and the fastest in terms of specs.

Here's looking at you, iPad 2

The addition of the two cameras on the front and back of the device is an expected, but still welcome, inclusion.

Indeed, the device is far more suited to FaceTime than the iPhone ever was, mainly because it’s more than likely you’ll be using it at home connected to the wi-fi rather than on a train. The extra screen estate for the split image is a welcome bonus as well.

While the screen remains the same bright and high resolution version as before (including the frustrating aspect ratio), there’s now a new peripheral called the Smart Cover to keep it nice and safe during transit.

The Smart Cover is one of three additional iPad 2 only add-ons that really makes the machine stand apart from the iPad right now, the odd re-engineered game aside.

It’s a magnetic, foldable cover that locks into place without any effort on your part, sweeping across the screen perfectly in a second. There’s no realigning - it just works.

It also folds back, allowing the machine to sit upright for watching films, or tilted for typing. While that sounds insignificant - the iPad had a stand, if you remember - it’s the speed and ease at which these two things can be performed that makes the Smart Cover an excellent addition

If only it didn’t cost extra, though - it’s effectively as important to the new device as the (still brilliant) battery.

Play that funky music

Another two important additions that you have to pay for are Garageband and iMovie.

I come from a Logic background and studied music production at university so I treat Garageband, the free music studio for Macs, with a certain degree of snobby contempt. Not so with the iPad 2’s version.

Indeed, I so impressed that I gave the software to both a music distributor (whose clients include Native Instruments) and a producer (who’s clients include Sony records) to check I wasn’t just being blinded by the excellent presentation. They too were blown away with the speed, the ease, and the flexibility of the app for off-the-cuff recording and experimentation.

The velocity-sensitive instruments (which actually use the accelerometer to work) were particularly impressive, and I hope a similar system finds its way to the iPad’s many great art apps in the future.

Likewise, iMovie may not be quite as refreshing a sight on an Apple mobile device (having debuted on the iPhone 4 last year), but its implementation here on the iPad 2 is superb, with a great interface and superbly fast editing.


There are annoyances with the iPad 2, however, the primary one relating to Apple’s insistence on locking out the system from consumer ‘tampering’. If you can call adding extra space on the hard drive or having an industry standard HDMI-out as ‘tampering’, that is.

A mirrored HDMI cable for projecting the device’s screen onto a TV or HD projector is available this time around, but the comparatively high price for the cable stings hard when you’ve already shelled out a few hundred for the machine in the first place.

But then you’ve got to remember that the iPad 2, for all its fancy styling and quick speed, still remains a cheaper bang for your buck than any other tablet out there right now. Given the choice between this and the more expensive Xoom, there’s really no reason to plump for the latter unless you’re fervently anti-Apple (or just love your HDMI ports and file structures too much).

The iPad 2’s not going to worm its way into your heart in the same way the groundbreaking original did - the first device to make the tablet form ‘work’ - but it still represents a solid step forward that will have every other hardware manufacturer scrambling to catch up with it over the next 12 months.

Reviewer photo
Will Wilson 4 April 2011
Familiar yet different, the iPad 2 isn’t a revolution on the original design but is the best tablet you can buy right now
  IPAD 2
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Specs Size185.7mm x 241.2mm x 8.8mm
Battery10 hours of video, 9 hours 3G
CPUApple A5 1GHz dual-core
SoundMono speakers, stereo headphone jack, Dolby 5.1 surround via digital adapter (sold separately)
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