Apple's iPad 2 offers significantly upgraded hardware compared with the original iPad, as well as better performance, both in general and graphics processing, and also an improved form factor. List pricing for the iPad 2 starts at £399 for the entry-level system, the 16GB (storage) Wi-Fi only model.
The iPad 2 has lost about 15 per cent in weight, and is smaller. It is now 241 x 186 x 8.8mm compared with the original iPad's dimensions of 243 x 190 x 13mm, making the iPad 2 slimmer by just over 4mm.
The original iPad had no cameras, but the iPad 2 now sports a camera at both front and rear, allowing both caller and callee to be viewed through the Facetime video call application.
With the iPad 2 the rear camera can record high definition video (720p) up to 30 frames per second, while the front-facing camera can record VGA up to 30 frames a second.
However, users will still have to go without removable storage ports, making the otherwise great tablet system a walled garden, unless you splash out on the accessories.
You could of course email files out to yourself, or better drop them into a online storage account, and access them that way. But the whole iPad ethos is to make workflow faster for users. This makes it slower.
Apple's business model with the iPad is to give users the basic system which they can then customise with optional accessories.
We can understand offering keyboards, VGA adaptor and a digital AV adaptor as separate accessories, but to not include USB or SD slots on board is taking minimalism a bit too far.
We reviewed a 64GB 3G version of the iPad 2 with mobile connectivity provided by Vodafone. Monthly data downloads are capped at 2GB, but there is another monthly 1GB of data available over BT Openzone Wi-Fi.
The iPad 2 we looked at costs £379, but users have to sign up to a 24-month contract costing £27 per month.
Users can check how much data they have sent and received over the 3G mobile network by opening the general settings tab [see picture].
Clicking on usage gives amount of data sent and received. We couldn't see any application for looking at upload and download data transfer speeds in real time.
Here Apple is king. It's easier to accomplish a lot of tasks on the iPad 2 which would take far longer on, for example, Windows systems. The touch screen was very responsive and using the on-screen keyboard, which pops up when any typed input is required, was quick and easy.
We recorded a SunSpider v0.9.1 value of 2070, four times faster than the result of 8400 that we recorded on the older iPad model. As a marker, our Labs test Mac Mini system had a SunSpider benchmark result of 340.
However, Apple's aversion to Adobe's Flash means you still can't view Flash-enabled web sites, and when we tried to look at some WebGL demos, all we got was, "It doesn't appear your computer can support WebGL."
The speed of the adoption of the iPad by corporates has caught many enterprise software, hardware and network vendors slightly flat-footed. They are rushing to market with applications to make enterprise integration much easier. Witness Aruba Networks launch of technology to make iPad network integration less painful.
Firms can integrate iPads into their business through the use of configuration profiles. An IT administrator can email this to users as a file that can then be installed to set up virtual private network connections [see picture].
The configuration profile also gives access to Exchange-based email and contacts access through company lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) or card distributed authoring and versioning (CardDAV) servers.
The new iPad has a big processor upgrade, from the single core A4 processor to a 1GHz dual core A5 model, both incorporating ARM’s technology, and manufactured by Samsung using a 40nm process. Memory is 512MB DDR2 running at 1066MHz – not too shabby for a mobile device.
We put the iPad 2 on our scales and it weighs 602g, about 15 per cent lighter than the original iPad. The dimensions have changed a little – now 190 x 130 x 11.2mm (7.48” x 5.11” x 0.44”) – still too big for normal pockets.
The iPad 2 has a 9.7in LED-backlit display, with the graphics being delivered through a separate processor inside the A5 system-on-a-chip (SoC), giving a 1024 x 768 standard VGA resolution in 32-bit colour. Apple says the display has an oleophobic [Greek – "oleo" – oil. "Phobos" – morbid fear] fingerprint-resistant coating.
Wireless connectivity is provided by standard 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and there’s also a version 2.1 Bluetooth radio, plus 3G connectivity able to use high speed uplink packet access (HSUPA) mobile technology.
A massive plus point with the iPad 2 is the battery life, which we estimated at around 10 hours, allowing the 25 Watt hour (Wh) three-cell Lithium polymer battery to provide users with the potential of lasting for a full working day without needing a recharge. Our usage scenario included intense computational activity with short-ish periods of the device being on standby.
The next iteration of the iPad sees it lose weight, gain performance, add an extra camera and more software functionality through an improved operating system (iOS 4.3). The user interface is the best available currently, and the iPad 2 is a very good system.
However, adding local storage (USB 3 or Apple's next generation 10Gbit/s i/O technology), allowing Safari to view Flash, having hardware enabled graphics acceleration and a move to support WebGL would silence a lot of its critics.
Will that happen with version 3 of the iPad?