The first reviews of Apple's iPad 2 are starting to appear and we're rounding them up for you. Here's a look at all the early impressions, from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times to PC Magazine and Laptop Mag.
The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg made it a point to share some of the drawbacks of the device:
The iPad 2 does have some drawbacks. Its cameras take mediocre still photos and Apple won't even reveal their megapixel ratings. The company says they were designed for video, not still photography. They did capture decent video in my tests, including high-definition video from the rear camera and video good enough from the front camera for satisfying video calling. But, for a company known for quality, which bundles a new still-photo app with the device, the cameras are disappointing.
Also, the battery life, while very good, isn't as strong as I found it to be on the first iPad. In my tough battery test, where I played full-length movies until the battery died, with the screen brightness at about 75% and both Wi-Fi and cellular radios running, the iPad 2 just barely exceeded Apple's claimed battery life, dying after 10 hours and nine minutes. That's 2.5 hours better than the Xoom did on the same test, but more than an hour less than I got from the original iPad, which clocked in at 11 hours, 28 minutes.
Another drawback I encountered was that the new, more tapered design makes it harder to plug cables and accessories-including the charging cable-into the main port on the bottom of the device, because it is now angled.
The New York Times' David Pogue sounded like he found the iPad 2 experience almost magical:
My friends, I'm telling you: just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience. We're not talking about a laptop or a TV, where you don't notice its thickness while in use. This is a tablet. You are almost always holding it.
Macworld's Jason Snell was happy to discover that the iPad 2 was far more comfortable to hold than the prior generation:
The end result of all this slimming down is that the iPad 2 is easier to handle than the original model. In my review of the original iPad, I said it was "heavy enough and slippery enough that I found it difficult to hold in one hand." In fact, the original iPad turned out to be a product that really demanded a case of some sort, just to make it easier to handle...The iPad 2 is easier to carry with one hand, and the decreased weight makes it easier to hold for longer periods of time.
Engadget's Josh Topolsky wasn't particularly impressed by the iPad 2 cameras:
Let's just put this out there: the iPad 2 cameras are really pretty bad. They're not unusable, but it's clear that the sensors employed are not top shelf by any measure. If you have a fourth generation iPod touch with cameras, you can expect the same results...For video duties and FaceTime calls, the cameras are reasonably useful — but we would never trade a dedicated camera (or at least a smartphone with a 5+ megapixel shooter) for this.
SlashGear's Vincent Nguyen ran some speed tests:
Something you can't really complain about is the iPad 2′s speed. iOS 4.3 whips along almost instantaneously on the new Apple A5 processor, with apps loading more swiftly, running more smoothly and the whole thing feeling incredibly responsive. The original iPad never exactly felt slow, but side by side with its successor the difference is noticeable in daily use.
We turned to Geekbench, a synthetic test of processor and memory performance, comparing the new iPad 2 with its predecessor and the iPhone 4. The iPad 2 scored 749 overall with its dual-core chip and 512MB of RAM, almost double the iPhone 4 – at 377 – with a single-core processor and the same amount of memory. The first-gen iPad – with the single-core processor and 256MB of memory – scored 453 under iOS 4.2; strangely, after upgrading to iOS 4.3, that actually dropped slightly, to 448.
The Daily's Peter Ha was impressed by how powerful yet battery-friendly the iPad 2 is:
Despite a slimmer body and a processor that performs like it's been shooting steroids, Apple claims the iPad 2 maintains a 10-hour battery life - just like the iPad 1. Initial tests showed that the iPad 2 can go the 10-hour distance under normal operating conditions - I played Tiny Wings and watched both "Inception" (in SD) and "Wall-E" (in HD) on the flight back to NYC from San Francisco without the battery conking out. But we're not about testing things under "normal operating conditions" at The Daily.
Laptop Mag's Mark Spoonauer ran some performance test to see how good the graphics are:
Apple claims that the iPad 2 also has up to 9X the graphics performance of the iPad. We did notice less lag when playing Infinity Blade, both during cut scenes and when engaging the enemy. In the GLBenchmark app, the iPad 2 matched the iPad in some tests. But in the more demanding Fill Rate test, the iPad 2 handily beat the iPad by a count of 852,314,048 versus 164,815,168 (measured in texels per second), which comes out to 5.2 times better performance.
USA Today's Edward Baig reminded us that the hardware isn't the only great thing about the iPad 2:
Apple continues to lead in the third-party apps sweepstakes by a wide margin. It has more than 350,000 apps, of which about 65,000 are optimized for the iPad. Meanwhile, Apple drummed up new iPad versions for two of its popular Mac programs: GarageBand, the virtual recording studio you can use with real or software musical instruments, and iMovie, for editing high-definition videos. At $4.99 a pop, the apps are a bargain for would-be rock stars and would-be Spielbergs.
The Root's Omar Wasow clarified that the iPad 2 isn't exactly for everyone:
Power users will still want a laptop. People primarily interested in reading text-only books might prefer a cheaper, lighter e-book reader. Less tech-savvy folks might find even the stripped-down interface of iOS too confusing. Last year I struggled to get my grandma up and running on an original iPad, and wished Apple offered some sort of "grandparental" controls to further simplify her experience.
The initial configuration of the iPad 2 still requires that the tablet be connected and configured from a laptop or desktop computer. This is not only a buzzkill amid the joy of using it for the first time but makes the iPad hard to use as a primary computer.
Also, if the smartphone market is any indicator, Android tablets will probably gain traction with developers and begin to compete on the app front.
Still, if you're in the market for a tablet, the iPad 2 is beautiful, powerful and delightful. It's a pleasure to use, whether you're browsing the news, skimming graphic-heavy pdfs, watching video or playing games. And so far, no other device comes close in price and performance.
TechCrunch's MG Siegler briefly answered the important question of whether you should buy this gadget or not:
At this point, you're probably thinking that the hardware, software, and smart cover all sound great. But you're still wondering if you should buy one or not. If you don't have an iPad and want one, it's the easiest call in the world. Of course you should. This is everything that was great about the initial iPad, but better.
Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky was annoyed by how the iPad 2 interacted with some accessories:
It's also worth noting that the iPad 2's new, tapered case makes it harder to hook up its docking and other cables, including the one that now connects it to a high-definition port on your big-screen TV. And pay attention if you spend the extra $39 or $69 for Apple's new "smart cover," which attaches to the iPad magnetically and automatically puts it to sleep when closed. Tossing the iPad into my computer bag, or even onto the seat of my car, jostled the cover enough to wake it back up by accident.
PC Mag's Tim Gideon felt that the browsing experience on the iPad 2 has improved a bit:
Surfing using Safari on the iPad 2 hasn't changed much from the original tablet. The browser is a bit speedier, however. Slideshows from the New York Times Web site load more quickly, if just barely. Even in scenarios with no Wi-Fi and a weaker Verizon signal (say, three bars or less), I found that the wait time to load a page was, while not lightning fast, never much longer than about six to eight seconds, worst case scenario.
Daring Fireball's John Gruber spent some time discussing how speedy the iPad 2 is:
In practice, the iPad 2 feels like the fastest iOS device I've ever used - faster in every way than the iPhone 4. It doesn't make my iPhone 4 feel slow, per se, but it does feel faster. Doing various side-by-side comparisons with an iPad 1, I noticed all sorts of places where the iPad 1 lagged. Apps that were launched slowly. Buttons that were pressed that didn't take effect immediately. Every little thing on the iPad 2 feels more responsive. The Photos app is one example. With the same photo library on both iPads (consisting of several thousand images), it takes about two or three seconds for the iPad Photos app to be ready for use after a cold launch on my iPad 1. On the iPad 2, it's ready almost instantly. This repeats itself throughout the system: apps launch faster, sometimes way faster, and every little thing within each app feels faster.
Apple, for whatever reason, never advertises how much RAM they include in iOS devices. It's easy to glean using Xcode, however. Last year's iPad had 256 MB of RAM. The iPad 2 has 512. This allows more apps to remain open in memory at the same time, and allows Mobile Safari to keep more web pages loaded in memory. Those waiting for a gigabyte of RAM will need to keep waiting, however.
Those are the earliest reviews to hit the web. We'll update as more become available.
The iPad 2 is arriving to stores on March 11. It is a lot faster than the first generation, it has a new design—a lot thinner and lighter—and it has two cameras built-in—one in the front for video-conference and one for high definition video and photos on the back. Here are all the details you need to know. Read all the details