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Posted at 02:57 PM ET, 03/18/2011

iPad 2 review: the week-later edition

A week after Apple’s iPad 2 arrived in stores and I got my first look at the tablet (in the form of a 3G model loaned by Apple PR), I’ve had time to dig deeper into this device. Here are some further thoughts on this thing’s features.


A picture of the Post's newsroom taken with the iPad 2's higher-resolution camera. (Rob Pegoraro)

Battery life: The iPad 2 shares the original’s core advantage of freeing you from having to worry about a draining battery all the time. You can park this on a coffee table, picking it up and putting it down for days at a stretch, and not see much of a drain in the battery.

But for sustained use, the iPad 2 may not last as long as the first model. I put the loaner iPad 2 against a first-generation model--each one on the same WiFi signal, with their screens at the default “Auto-Brightness” level but set not to go dark automatically--and found that while the iPad 2 lasted a bit more than eight and a half hours, its ancestor ran for almost 11 and a half.

How could that be possible? The iPad 2’s screen did look brighter than the old model’s at the same settings, and the only way to make an LCD brighter is to crank up the backlight. Note, also, that the “teardown” dissection conducted by iFixit revealed that the iPad 2’s battery offers a rated capacity only a little higher than the original’s.

The A5 processor:This faster chip could be a factor in the iPad 2’s battery life too. It’s certainly a factor in the choice of software for Apple’s tablets: A small but growing number of applications, such as Apple’s own iMovie, require the iPad 2 because of that processor (and also, in some cases, its internal gyroscope). The difference is likely to become most dramatic in the area of games.

(Yes, video-game industry: Apple has quietly backed into a strong position in the business after years of irrelevancy.)

The cameras: They are, by any reckoning, lousy for still photos--not that I don’t expect to see people taking pictures with the iPad 2 anyway, then perhaps using an app like Instagram to make the results look artsy. (See the grainy shot at right, showing part of the view from my cubicle.) The back camera can, however, shoot high-definition video--but even then, you’re looking at hefty device to carry around for movie-making.

So I should have labeled this section “the webcams.” They do work well at that--and by freeing up families to do their videoconferencing anywhere in the house, instead of clustering around a laptop or desktop, they should help to make video calling more popular. It would help, however, if Skype would ship an iPad version of its app. Far more people use Skype than can run FaceTime--notwithstanding Apple’s initial description of it as an open standard. Skype also lets you know if a potential calling partner is online instead of making you guess.

The Smart Cover: This may be the first time I’ve ever committed two successive paragraphs to a screen cover for a device. But this $39 add-on--$69 if you compelled to get the leather version--is undeniably neat. As advertised, an iPad 2 goes to sleep when you close it (it senses the proximity of the cover’s magnets) and wakes up when you open it. It maintains a sufficiently strong grasp to the edge of the iPad that you can pick up the tablet by its cover, then can be folded to stand the tablet upright or position it at a good angle for typing.

Apple also touts the ability of the Smart Cover’s microfiber lining to clean the iPad 2’s screen. It mostly works as advertised--but its folds ensure that you’ll have three columns of dust and fingerprints visible.

The lack of availability: The iPad 2 does, however, suffer one glaring defect compared to the original and other tablets: You can’t buy one anywhere at the moment. Apple’s stores are sold out, and its Web site quotes shipping times of four to five weeks. Apple wouldn’t say when it hoped to catch up to the backlog.

For more thoughts on this device, see the video after the jump. Have more questions? Post them in the comments, and I’ll try to answer them there.


By  |  02:57 PM ET, 03/18/2011

Categories:  Tablets, Apple

 
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