Apple iPad 2 review

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The Apple iPad 2 was probably one of the most hyped launches of this year, but let’s be honest, it’s Apple and that comes as standard.

However, Apple had a few tricks up its sleeve with this launch and the majority of them we’re pretty happy with.

Let’s start with the look and feel of the iPad 2.

As widely publicised the iPad 2 is much thinner, lighter and has a slightly tweaked design over the original. It’s more rounded around the rear, but it’s the slimline chassis that gets us most excited.

As you may have seen in a blog by Know Your Mobile’s editor, she has always felt the original iPad was just too big to fit into her life. It’s too chunky and wouldn’t fit neatly in any bag, let alone a handbag.

Enter the iPad 2. It creates the illusion of being much smaller, somehow fitting easily into a bag, even if that bag is on the small side.

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Sure, it’s only a smidgen smaller than the original iPad when talking dimensions, but the thickness makes it feel dramatically smaller. At just 8.8mm thin, it’s thinner than the iPhone and every other tablet out there. Its curved rear also helps create the illusion it’s been on a bit of a diet.

The front is the same 9.7-inch high-res touch screen. We say the same, although it would appear the screen on the iPad 2 is much more likely to scratch. Within two hours of getting the iPad 2 in the office, there were two large scratches at the bottom of the screen, from the bezel to the screen area itself. A couple of hours later, there were about six more scratches around the home button and some more around the corners. No one had been rough with the iPad, it was just down to everyday usage.

Even with the oleophobic coating on the screen, it still attracts fingerprints too – not ideal on a screen that large.

At the top of the screen, there’s the VGA camera everyone got so excited about in the leaked shots up to the iPad 2 launching. We’ll come back to the quality of both the front and back cameras in a minute.

Round the edges there’s the same ports and switches as on the original iPad. The left-side is left clear for the Smart Cover, while the top houses the lock key, right hand side the volume and mute/screen orientation lock button and the bottom the charging/USB/HDMI proprietary Apple port.

One foible we’ve always had with Apple is its penchant for using the proprietary connector for everything. Nothing has changed here with the manufacturer integrating HDMI output, but via its own connector. We didn’t pick one up with the iPad, but as soon as we get one, we’ll add our impressions to this review.

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We’ve downloaded a fair few applications onto the iPad 2 since it arrived and we’re pleased to say all run smoothly. There’s no problem with compatibility with iPad applications and although some have been enhanced to make the most of the iPad’s faster processor (such as Infinity Blade), they are superior but not anything to write home about. It’s clear developers will need time to get up to speed with the improved architecture.

One issue we did have is downloading apps takes an age, especially large ones like an issue of Wired, or T3. iGizmo was the smallest of the three and still took a good five minutes over a decent Wi-Fi connection.

For viewing magazines, the iPad 2 is a dream, though. They make you feel so much more involved than just regular magazines as you prod and poke the different elements, swipe your finger across the screen and view 360 objects in 360 degrees. Some aspects didn’t work, although, we’re not sure if this was the iPad 2 incompatibility or an error on the e-magazine’s behalf.

Facetime is a new addition to the iPad, thanks to it having two cameras – one on the front and one on the back. Neither are the highest performance, in fact both are really grainy and reminiscent of the first iPhone’s camera, especially in low-light conditions. They don’t have much use except for Facetime.

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The larger screen does make Facetime a little more worthwhile. Although the quality is, quite frankly, abysmal, it does add a sense of personality to a phone call. The sound wasn’t as clear as we’d like it, but that could be partly down to the iPhone on the other end as well as the Wi-Fi connection.

Our iPad 2 is Wi-F only, so Google Maps when out and about was useless (only the 3G version has GPS enabled). Mail is intuitive as ever, with emails showing in full page mode while portrait is enabled, or the split screen orientation in landscape mode. Nothing has changed here with the latest iteration of iOS 4.3, and that’s because no changes needed to be made.

By far one of the most impressive pre-installed applications is Safari. Compared with the original iPad, it whizzes through rendering and brings up the Know Your Mobile homepage in a couple of seconds, compared with the ten seconds we’re more accustomed to on the original iPad.

Navigation itself seems so much smoother than with the previous iPad. Apple has injected its latest iOS 4.3 operating system to the iPad and a faster processor, making all operations complete faster.

Now onto battery life. Apple has claimed the iPad 2 will have the same battery life as the first iPad and when we first received the tablet, we were pretty sure it was a false claim. Within about four hours of use, the tablet had dropped from 100 percent to 35 percent. Sure, we had been testing it rather thoroughly, as had everyone else in the office, but it was disappointing nonetheless.

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However, the battery life started to get better as we made our way home. On a two-hour car journey, with playing games, it only went down three percent. When we got home, we started downloading apps over Wi-Fi (including iGizmo, Angry Birds and Wired). It went down to 28 percent. In the morning, after leaving the iPad 2 to sleep all night, we were left with a healthy 22 percent for the journey into work. Battery life is as good as the iPad, better in some cases, particularly during video playback.

Overall, the iPad 2 is a welcome upgrade to the iPad. It was well in need of some slimming down, speeding up and cameras to keep in line with other tablets launched at CES and Mobile World Congress earlier in the year, and Apple has done just that.

If you already have an iPad though, you may feel it’s too soon to shell out another £500 to get your hands on one. There’s not too much to make it worth a whole new upgrade – after all, you can still use the same applications. This upgrade is designed for those who don’t have an iPad, and desirable it will be to those who aren’t yet equipped with one.

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