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iPad 2 Review: More of the Same, but Still Better Than the Rest

RELATED GALLERY: iPad 2 and Its Rivals: How They Stack Up
The iPad 2 arrived on Friday to an estimated 600,000 customers. I was one of them, and standing in the line outside of the downtown San Francisco Apple Store was different from last year. First, instead of people doing all nighters, customers casually got in line throughout the entire day. Second, the customers were not traditional early adopters or hardcore Apple aficionados, but older people, folks with children, and other types you would have not seen a year ago. Apple has clearly expanded its audience.

Last year I reviewed the original iPad and said:

...I found the iPad is a great device now with even more potential in the near future. It is not a full laptop replacement, but it is near ideal for entrepreneurs and heavy travelers.

Virtually the same thing can be said about the new iPad. Nearly every issue the iPad had is still there in the iPad 2, but users will appreciate it being even lighter and faster. Apple also manages just enough change to keep the growing competing tablets in the proverbial Stone Age. It is a great buy for road warriors like myself.}

First, the iPad 2's strengths:

  • Price: Apple has kept the price structure exactly the same: $499 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi only model and $629 for the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model. The prices go up $100 for the 32 GB models and $200 for the 64 GB models. In other words, you could purchase the most expensive, fully equipped iPad and still be paying only a few bucks more than the $799 Motorola (MOTO) Xoom. Furthermore, Verizon (V) and AT&T models are available for the same price from day one, so you can choose your favorite data carrier based on their respective data plans.
  • Lighter device: The iPad 2 weighs 0.2 pounds lighter than the original, which is significant because the first iPad was only 1.5 pounds. The weight loss makes the iPad 2 easier to carry with one hand. Equally impressive are the Smart Covers, the new iPad protectors that use magnets to cover the touchscreen. The covers for the original iPad were pretty bulky, and the lighter iPad 2 along with the even lighter cover options make for easy travel.
  • Live video: The addition of a camera was on the "that would be nice" list as far as I was concerned, but it actually works extremely well. First, Apple's FaceTime made it easy to video chat with other Apple users -- I had never used FaceTime before, and I was chatting on my iPad 2 literally seconds after I launched the app. More importantly, Skype was just as effective on the iPad 2. The popular video chat service still hasn't released an iPad-specific app, but the iPhone/iPod Skype app looked sharp on the big screen, too. When it comes to tablets, the iPad 2 will be the new video chat standard.
  • Smooth multimedia: The iPad 2's processing power really shines when it comes to multimedia. YouTube loads videos incredibly fast. Previously slow news apps are impressive, too. For instance, News Corp The Daily would take nearly two minutes to download the day's newspaper onto the original iPad. On my iPad 2, I downloaded today's newspaper in about 10 seconds. I'm using the same Wi-Fi connection I've had for months, so the speed is a testament to the iPad 2's faster processing. All this with the 10 hour battery life kept from the original iPad, too.

The reasons not to get an iPad 2 are very similar to the reasons not to buy the original iPad:
  • No Flash: Let's keep it brief: If you need Abobe (ADBE) Flash for your business, don't buy an Apple mobile device. It won't work on it.
  • No removable media: Despite rumors, the iPad 2 still does not accept memory sticks or SD cards. Media can only be transferred by connecting directly to a computer, or using a wireless service like Dropbox,, or Apple's own MobileMe.
  • iPad 3: As my BNET colleague Erik Sherman wrote, talk is already flying about an iPad 3 coming later this year. Sherman notes (and I agree) that it's ridiculous on a lot of levels, namely that Apple wouldn't want to halt a projected 35 million in iPad 2 sales this year by releasing the next model early. However, if you're paranoid about the device becoming obsolete by the holidays, you may want to wait.
  • The original iPad is great: If you bought the original iPad, what are you going to do with it now? The iPad 2 doesn't render the first one obsolete. I know of several companies that, in early adopter fashion, bought iPads for their entire staff. In this case, it doesn't make much sense to trash the older devices -- there just isn't that big of a difference between the two models. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the many original iPads being sold on eBay as we speak and grab the still great device very cheaply.
If you already have an iPad, do you have to get the iPad 2? Definitely not. Camera aside, what we have is leaner, meaner version of last year's model. Once you get it in your hands, however, you'll be hard pressed to go back to the first-gen one. It just feels better -- and, as a writer and speaker with a heavy travel schedule, I'm happy I upgraded.

Photo courtesy of Damon Brown

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