“iPad 2nd Generation” – Technology Review

Tablet media Player and PC running iOS 4.3.

Available in 16GB 32GB and 64GB models, with or without 3G.

 

The first generation of iPad was one of the very first mainstream Tablet PCs. As impressive and successful as it was, many consumers agreed the iPad was still reasonably lacking, especially with the recent hype over tablet PC’s and a lot of upcoming competition. So, on the 25th March 2011 its successor was released, the iPad 2nd generation. Both generations were developed by the renowned Apple Inc.

 

A tablet, put simply, is very much like a laptop, but conventionally with a touchscreen and no keyboard. They also typically run optimised or completely re-designed operating systems made for speed and ease of use. Tablets are, as a results, usually less powerful than laptop and desktop PCs; I would class a primary PC like a laptop or desktop as a household essential where as tablet PCs are definitely non-essential and largely luxury items.

 

The iPad 2 is still very similar to its predecessor, but has been upgraded in a few vital areas; such as graphics, memory, processing speed, cameras, and physical size. These updates have become particularly necessary for Apple to keep its lead in the present day as there are now several other high specification tablets in – or soon to be in – the market, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, the Blackberry Playbook and the Motorola Xoom, to name a few.

 

The iPad 1st gen was well known for speed of use, in spite of it having surprisingly weak specifications. However, Apple still wasn’t happy so decided to double the RAM to 512Mb and switch from a single core to a dual core version of their new and improved “A5” processor. Apple claim these increases allow for up to twice the processing speed of the iPad 1st gen and up to 9 times the graphics performance; these high claims are debatable, but the iPad 2 is no doubt noticeably fast and would put most desktops and laptops to shame when it comes to the time taken to boot up and run software.

 

This brings us straight on to the graphics and display of the iPad 2. It is a particularly large screened tablet at 9.7inches, with a resolution of 1024×768 pixels. For a device of its size, the resolution has an impressive pixel density (especially compared to televisions), meaning videos at lower quality will look relatively better. However, although the iPad 2 can play HD movies, due to its slightly awkward resolution, it will either have black bars above and below your video or can be forced to full screen at the loss of around 200 pixels wide worth of video on both sides. The display is of course touch screen, but furthermore is a “multi-touch”, meaning it can respond to multiple physical inputs to allow gestures such as pinching to zoom. The screen also claims to be “finger-print resistant” and “scratch resistant” and from personal experience, the screen seems to be very resistant to scratching and marking, however gathers fingerprints quickly and constantly.

 

One very specific quality the iPad has, and has kept in its update to the iPad 2, is extremely high battery life; most laptops will rank anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours, moving closer to the lower end of that interval when running CPU heavy processes like watching videos and running complex software. The iPad however boasts a 10 hour battery life when running regular CPU straining processes and to be honest the iPad really does live up to this claim.

 

Now for the iPad’s internet capabilities; the iPad is largely marketed as a media player and also a fast-boot “pick up and surf” device, so one would expect the best possible browsing experience. The iPad’s 3G and Wi-Fi capabilities are equally ranked to those of mobile phones and laptops respectably, although the iOS safari browser falls short; an existing issue in the 1st gen iPad was the 100% lack of Adobe Flash compatibility and the iPad 2 follows this trend, with Apple Inc putting their foot down and claiming they intend to keep their devices this way. The problem is, the majority of online games, videos, music, animations and general media are made via flash, due to its simplicity and quick running; even websites like YouTube work via flash (certain YouTube videos are playable on the iPad however, due to their newer encoding technique of AVC video compression).

 

The upgrade from 1st to 2nd gen was far from insignificant, as the iPad 2 now features a front facing VGA camera, a rear facing HD 720p camera and also the addition of a gyroscope. The cameras, for some odd reason, were not included in the iPad 1st gen which no doubt confused potential buyers, as tablets are a marketing medium for “face time” or video conferencing. Also, the gyroscope was a great inclusion to increase the way the iPad behaves with its environment; as this allows the iPad to record not only how quickly and in what direction it is being moved, but to know its current orientation and movement to very high accuracy.

 

There’s no doubt that the best part of the iPad 2 is iOS 4. This is one of the fastest, most user friendly and most all-round fun operating systems I have ever used, with a gargantuan collection of Apps exist for download via the App store. This store really brings out the functionality of the device, containing apps that allow playback of almost any video format, apps for photo editing, apps for reading e-books, productivity apps like “Pages” and “Numbers”, similar to Microsoft Word and Excel, all of which arranged and executed with ease from the home screen, which is very much the focal point of iOS.

 

Some of the best features of iOS are the quirky flares that Apple adds, like the swiping though apps on the homepage, pinching to zoom onto a map in the maps app, or the ability to grab your photo collection and squash or expand the selection with your fingers. Also, a relatively new feature is the multi-taking capability; it’s a very odd way of multi-taking as instead of continuing to run software in the background the iPad “freezes” whatever app you are using, and moves it to the quick launch bar (double click the home button). The advantage of this is 2 fold; firstly, you can pick up an application from where you left off and secondly, freezing the app requires almost no CPU usage – allowing for many apps to be frozen and kept in the multi-tasking bar for later without jeopardising battery or processor speed, unlike all conventional laptops and all current other tablets.

 

In short, the iPad and the improved iPad 2 have earned their status as top of the Tablet food chain and have left many other companies eager to develop a high selling “iPad killer”. The iPad 2 is undoubtedly my most preferred tablet on the market today, although the Motorola Xoom and Blackberry Playbook are tablets to watch, in my opinion. I wish I could rate the iPad 2 slightly higher, although for me Adobe Flash is an essential web browsing component. Also, other up and coming tablets do offer more impressive cameras and higher pixel density displays. Hopefully in its next incarnation, Apple will fit the iPad with better quality cameras and also I would like to have seen a “Retina display”, a display screen featuring higher resolution, contrast ratio and sharpness, which is featured in Apple’s most recent iPhones.

85/100

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