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Review: Say aye

April 09, 2011

When the iPad was launched last year, it was termed as “the most successful consumer product ever launched.” It created a new category of devices and the iPad’s appeal—portability that was ideal for checking email, surfing the Web, playing games, reading books and other boring stuff like work—had its popularity graph soaring.

The iPad 2 is becoming just as big a device if not bigger. Even the dead can’t wait to get their hands on it. Reuters recently reported that paper replicas of the tablet were selling out in parts of Asia, as revellers prepare to set the thing ablaze during China's Qingming festival Tuesday. As is tradition, paper versions of money, clothing, and, yes, consumer electronics are burned as offerings to the dead, and this year Apple's latest slate is apparently all the rage for techies dead and gone. In fact, one shopkeeper in Malaysia claimed that his stock of 300 paper iPad 2s sold out quickly, leaving him unable to meet demand.

The latest version of any Apple product is likely to be thinner and lighter than its predecessor and so it is with the iPad 2. The iPad 2 is roughly two-thirds the thickness of the original iPad, and 88 per cent of its weight. Though it’s thinner and lighter, it’s inherited many of the original features. The iPad 2 is still a 9.7 inches of LED IPS panel. It’s still 1024×768, 4:3 and glossy. The position of the iPad 2’s buttons and ports are, likewise, more or less undisturbed. There’s a sleep/wake button at the top right edge, a standard headphone jack at top left, a volume rocker and a sliding switch (configurable to lock screen orientation or mute alert sounds via the Settings app) at the top of the right side, a 30-pin dock connector port at the bottom, and a home button at the bottom of the front face.

What’s different is that the iPad 2 uses a new Apple-designed processor called the A5. The A5 is a dual-core version of the 1GHz A4 chip that powers the iPhone 4 and the original iPad. The iPad 2 also has 512MB of Ram—twice that of the original iPad—and a 200MHz bus speed, likewise, twice that of the original. Despite the boosts in processing power, Apple claims that the iPad 2 has the same 10-hour battery life as the original models.

The original iPad came in six different variations—Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi/3G versions, each available with 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of storage. The product was such a hit that Apple apparently decided that even more variations would be better—as a result, there are 18 different versions of the iPad 2. Talk about redefining the phrase, spoilt for choice.

On the entertainment side, the new Apple Digital AV Adapter lets the iPad 2 spread its wings. With this adapter, the iPad 2 can output high-definition video at resolutions up to 1080p, as well as Dolby Digital surround sound, all served via a standard HDMI cable. This enables Video Mirroring and for this feature alone we have fallen in love with the device.

The downside of the iPad 2 is the camera which the large screen exposes very quickly. The cameras in the iPad 2 are essentially the same as those in the fourth-generation iPod touch. The front-facing camera is the same one used in the iPhone 4 and the iPod touch, offering only VGA resolution (640 by 480 pixels). It’s grainy in low-light settings but will provide a decent quality for video chatting.

Final verdict: although the iPad 2 is an improvement on the original iPad in numerous ways, it’s still an evolutionary product, not a revolutionary one. If you’re happy with your current iPad, there’s no reason to dump it just because there’s a shinier, newer one available. Of course, if you’ve been clamoring for an iPad, now might be the time to buy an iPad 2.