The iPad 2. I waited 6.5 hours in line to get it. That should tell you how excited I was about Apple’s latest device. When I finally got my hands on it though, the excitement went down instantly. I already owned an iPad and I didn’t think the 2 new cameras and a slightly slimmed down casing would make a huge difference. Boy was I wrong.

Since I bought it a few days ago, I can’t seem to be able to let go of it. I want to touch it all the time, I want it to replace my laptop and my desktop computer. I want to use it for everything I do. In short, I fell in love all over again with the iPad.

If I had to make an analogy about going from the iPad 1 to the iPad 2, I’d have to say that it feels like I’m an older man ditching my wife of 45 years for a 20 something hottie. Not only the iPad 2 is lighter, it is also thinner, and snappier, making it this close to be a laptop replacement.

This being said, it kinda sets the tone for this review, which you guessed it, is going to be mostly positive.

The Design

First things first, let’s talk about the design of the iPad 2. Esthetically speaking, the iPad 2 is a beauty, just like any other Apple product. While it’s not a dramatic design change from the previous model, you can definitely tell it’s newer because it simply looks better.

As I mentioned above, and as you probably read in many other reviews, the iPad 2 is definitely thinner and lighter.

While it’s still too heavy to hold in one hand for more than a few minutes without developing a tendinitis, the iPad 2 is significantly lighter than its predecessor, which to me felt a little bulky and bloated. Holding the iPad 2 in your hand feels like you’re holding a Kindle, or even better, an actual paper magazine. It feels good and it fits good.

I believe the iPad being thinner and lighter is what actually makes me like it even more than the older model. To me, it feels more natural. Again, I don’t feel like I’m holding a piece of electronics in my hands, I feel like I’m holding a magazine.

The Speed

iPad 2 could have been named iPad S, in reference to the 3GS, which didn’t bring anything new but speed to the older iPhone 3G. While the iPad 2 is not impressively faster than the first model it definitely feels snappier.

Apple didn’t bother giving us the details of the new A5 processor, and that’s fine by me because I couldn’t care less. “512MB” doesn’t mean anything to me. “Loads a web page twice as fast as the iPad 1” does speak to me though, and I assume it speaks to most people out there too (ie. my Mom, or your Mom, who don’t even know what MB stands for).

Where I can tell the iPad 2 is faster is when using Safari. It loads websites much faster than the iPad 1. In a few informal tests I conducted, it seems iPad 2 was loading 50% faster than iPad 1. Because I use my iPad mostly for web browsing, this is a huge improvement to me.

I could also notice a speed difference when using Reeder for iPad, my favorite RSS reader. It seems to download news and display images much quicker than the old iPad did. Again, the speed improvement isn’t amazing by any means, but faster is always better, no matter what.

I can really appreciate the speed improvement when using the app switcher. On my old iPad, the app switcher worked fine but was sometimes lagging when switching from one app to another. Forget that on the iPad 2. It’s just blazing fast. Add this to the fact that the iPad 2 can cache more web pages without having to reload them if you get away from them for a few minutes, and you have an experience that gets a lot closer to true multitasking.

The Cameras

If you follow me on Twitter, you might remember me ranting about the cameras’ quality a few days ago. Turns out it’s not as bad as I thought. When I first tried the cameras, I was in our bedroom with very low light, which created terrible images.

For the purpose of this review though, I tried the camera during the day where there was much more light coming in the room. The results were different from my first attempt at reviewing the cameras, which got me to go from bashing them, to actually think they’re not doing a bad job.

Although Apple doesn’t give us the stats of the iPad 2 cameras on the spec page of the device, the camera module is supposed to take 0.7 MP photos, which obviously is well below any industry standards.

Apple fanboys like Gruber will tell you that it doesn’t matter whether the camera is good or not because the iPad 2 wasn’t made to be used as a camera. Of course the iPad wasn’t made to be used as a camera. My car wasn’t made to listen to music but I’m glad the manufacturer put a decent CD player in there, and I’d be glad if Apple had done the same with the iPad cameras.

Here are a few pictures I took with the iPad.

Front facing camera:

Back camera:

Another back camera picture (click on image for full size):

This camera was actually designed for video more than it was for still photos. I recorded a short video that will give you a quick idea of the quality. At some point in the video, I am accidentally covering the microphone with my hand, which explains why the sound gets partly muted.

So all in all the cameras on the iPad 2 aren’t as bad as I thought and are definitely doing an ok job. As I read in a review of the iPad 2 last week (can’t remember which one), the iPad 2 cameras are not good, they are at the bottom of acceptable, which of course gives plenty of room to Apple to upgrade the hardware next year.

The Battery

The battery on my first gen iPad is amazing. I’ve never actually ran out of batteries when I really needed my iPad (ie. on a flight, or while traveling). I expected a similar battery life on the iPad 2 but unfortunately it isn’t.

Now I’m not going to go too much into details here because I think my battery problem comes from the fact that I set up this new iPad from my previous iPad’s backup, which usually is a recipe for battery problems (and sometimes even worse issues).

I haven’t had the courage to restore and set it up as a new iPad yet, which I assume will fix this issue.

But even with the battery problems I am experiencing, battery life on the iPad 2 is still more than acceptable. I’ve spent hours surfing the web, tweeting, reading news, and playing guitar (yes, playing guitar) on it before I had to recharge the battery, which I’ve done only once since last Friday. So, battery problem or not, we’re still doing great on that side.

The Smart Cover

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Smart Cover since day 1.

While the concept of the Smart Cover is brilliant, it is not very practical for intensive usage of the iPad. It does a great job at protecting the front of your iPad but it will not do anything for the back, which led me to rename it the Dumb Cover.

When I complained about it on Twitter, someone sent me a quote from the Smart Cover description on Apple’s website: “The slim, yet sturdy Smart Cover protects your iPad screen without covering up its durable aluminum back“. Ok, I understand that the Smart Cover was designed to protect the screen only, but after a year of using the first iPad, I can tell that I’m actually more worried about the back of my iPad than the front.

By putting my first iPad on our coffee table or kitchen countertops many times before, it actually made hundreds of micro scratches (and some bigger ones) on the back of the iPad. I quickly bought a case for my first iPad but it was too late.

I suspect that without any kind of protection for the back, this iPad will get the same treatment. So far, I make sure to put my iPad on our coffee table screen first (protected by the Smart Cover), but it’s just not practical or even logical.

I actually find myself taking off the Smart Cover more often than not while using it.

However, the cover becomes convenient when you need to type something. Simply roll up the cover in a triangle shape and start typing. This is probably the one reason why I haven’t returned the Smart Cover to Apple yet.

I can’t wait to see what other manufacturers come up with.

Should You Buy an iPad 2?

This is the question you might have on your lips if you haven’t purchased an iPad 2 yet. Should you buy an iPad 2?

The answer is pretty simple. If you don’t have an iPad yet, go for it. There is no reason why you should wait for the next iPad which is going to come out at the same period next year, even though rumors have it that Apple might release an iPad 3 in September (nonsense).

If you already have an iPad and you’re satisfied with it, then save your money for the iPhone 5. If you already have an iPad but really want to do FaceTime, record videos, shoot photos, and enjoy a lighter device to hold in your hands, then go for it.

Ultimately, the decision is yours. I don’t think the iPad 2 justifies spending another $500+ for a new device if you already own one, but Apple lovers like me can’t help it.

At the end of the day, the iPad 2 is an amazing device. As we said before though, the iPad 2 is evolutionary, not revolutionary. It is right in the middle between your laptop and your iPhone. To me, it is still not enough to do any kind of productive work on it, but it is much better than your iPhone (or even your laptop) for browsing the web or Facebooking from the couch, which really is what the iPad was designed for. I know my Mom won’t disagree with that when I offer her her very first iPad next week.

  • Whtlime

    The cameras aren’t bad at all. When I did my test at an Apple store I wasn’t too impressed, but that was for still photos.

  • Rajat

    great review. better than mossberg’s for sure.

    typo in ‘recipe’

  • Mossberg focuses on the non-technically literate group. Which makes sense seeing as they are the majority of buyers.

  • Rose

    Sebastien, nice review you made me want to buy an iPad 2 now. 🙂

  • AppleBits

    Nice review!
    I can agree with much of your analysis.
    However, I have what I think are horrible battery issues, for one thing. I did NOT to a restore from a backup of iPad 1. I just started from ground zero. My battery on 2 stinks. Full 100% charge this morning, ran one movie (full brightness), no other background anything running, battery dropped to about 74% in that 2 hours. I’ve re-started the movie, trying to run battery down totally. I have an hour left, and battery is now at 64%. My iP1 would run this movie and leave me with about 93% left on it! Also, just surfing the web, reading blogs, whatever, runs it down from 100 to lower 80’s in about 2 hours. EEEK!
    I’m with you on the smart cover. Good and not good. I think I will invest in either a Zagg shield for the back, (already have the front), or a full case. (My iP1 had the Incipio tri-fold case. It was perfect. But it doesn’t work for this iP2 with the Smart cover on it.)

    Also, there’s been talk of “light leak”. Yep, I have that. Both mine and my hubby’s do. Probably not a huge deal breaker, but what really irritates me is that my iP2 screen seems yellowish to gray. Not pretty bright white at all!!
    I may not have noticed so much, but before I sold my iP1, I set the 2 units side by side to set up iP2 the same as iP1. And the difference in screen display was flabbergasting!! I was soooo UNDERWHELMED!! And really mad! >(
    No matter how I adjusted the brightness….it just kept the yellow/gray tint. I put my hubby’s next to mine, same thing. Yellow.
    Now, he doesn’t seem to mind. It’s his first ipad. BUT, he surfs, and his battery is just as pathetic.

    I may wait a month, take mine back to where I got it, hold it up next to a display model and see if there is a difference there. If so, hello exchange! If not, I guess it is what it is. All I know is that had I known the battery thing and the screen thing before standing in line Friday for 5 hours, paid out the nose for new ipads, (like you said, we fans have to have them…), I may very well have passed on this round. Just my 2c for what it’s worth.

    Thanks for the article!

    • Something is definitely wrong your iPad 2 and I would suggest returning it as soon as possible. The screen is beautiful and although not at a higher resolution it still is better than the iPad 1.

      • George

        Nothing is wrong that’s what the new iPad 2 is battery issues, the news is every where on the net,many say and are finding out the iPad original is just as fast if not faster than the ipad2, one guy on here said about the net being faster on iPad 2 garbage use other browsers if you have problems,Question? Where did you go on the net to test this? did you actly use the same sites for testing at the same time of day.LOL,did you use safari?,

  • Hey, good article but I just wanted to point out that the Smart Cover can be folded flat behind the iPad to protect it while in use, in fact that’s how it is as I type this. But for transportation, you’re right, the Smart Cover is insufficient – I personally use the Smart Cover in conjunction with an iPad sock.

  • Rey

    Great post…I especially liked this statement:
    “It is right in the middle between your laptop and your iPhone. To me, it is still not enough to do any kind of productive work on it, but it is much better than your iPhone (or even your laptop) for browsing the web or Facebooking from the couch, which really is what the iPad was designed for.”
    Reason why I have held back on purchasing a tablet

  • Vic

    Thx for the review 😉

  • Verkonika

    I bought an iPad 2 last Saturday with a smart cover. I like it a lot, but I have also noticed the battery life is nt as great. Is it really because I restored the info from my previous iPad? I

    Regarding the Smart Cover, was concerned that the metal to metal contact could scratch the side of my new gadget. So I took an old InvisiShield left for my previous iPad 1, made some cuts for the speakers, switches, camera, mic and done deal. I have the back and the front protected from scratches, at least until 3rd parties come with a smarter solution.

    • George

      Garbage about battery life restoring has nothing to do with your iPad 1 info to iPad 2 ,firmware works on any of them ipad1 or ipad2 Excuses many I know returned 2 and said it’s built cheap and camera sucks.

  • whtlime

    @verlonika Battery life sways depending upon which type of media you play. ex: High Def. videos will consumer more battery life than 720p videos.

    Walt Mossberg performed a rigorous test on the iPad 2 and found the battery life was reduced. The test used was the same applied to the first iPad. While original iPad yieled 12-13 hours, the iPad 2 still held on to 10.

  • dcipher

    aesthetic not esthetic

  • bc

    Good review. thanks. I was a little confused when you said, “When I finally got my hands on it though, the excitement went down instantly.” and then you gave it a positive review.

    • That happens to me every time I really want something. I really really want it and the second I own it, I’m like “hmm, do I really need that?”

  • The Front Camera Quality looks realy great (with only 0,3 MP)!

  • AlfieJr

    i’m going for that 20 year old hottie!

    buying an iPad 2 is a whole lot cheaper than a divorce!!

    good review. best one-liner yet. #2 is that it’s “the Microwave Oven of Computing.”

  • iPhoNerd

    @Sebastien Have you tried 4/5finger swipe option with the new iPad2? It is really cool, use 4 or 5 fingers to swipe upwards, you will get the task menu, left or right to switch between apps, multi finger pinch to close the app. It is really fun 🙂 Well you need to spend $5 in Mac App store to enable this feature, I bet you already know it 😀

  • @iphoNerd Thanks for the tip. I knew they had released new gestures in the Beta, but Apple never mentioned anything about it. Will definitely make sure to get this when I get my iPad tomorrow.

  • iPhoNerd

    @whtlime Apple not yet made it for public. This is still available for Developers. However, if you download Xcode from Mac Store for $5 you can still activate this on the iPad2.

  • @iphoNerd Ah.

  • It’s interesting that your front-facing camera video actually uploaded at 720p because it doesn’t actually record at 720p.

    By the way, GOOD to see you! I think this is the first time I’ve seen you a video. I definitely encourage you to make more videos if you can. And, dude, get GarageBand. It’s pretty awesome for musicians. I already have the Apogee JAM on order through the Apple Store. Since you’re a guitarist you might appreciate that. 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by, Clay. I’d love to make more videos but they take so long. It takes me as long to record a video than it does to write a post. Plus, a video has to be edited and all that stuff. More people have been requesting we do more videos though, so that’s something we’ll definitely have to do sooner than later.

  • Cip

    The best review i’ve read so far.
    My iPad should arrive next month, since I am in a military base and I had to order it online trough
    I have owned the 2g, 3Gs, iPod 4 so far from apple, and I dont think that the ipad2 will disappoint me .
    As I said, nice review: keep it up!

  • Looks impressive might get this one. Its just sad that this time next year there will be a new one and this one will be old news.

    p.s nice review

  • Harpman

    I just had to send mine back because it will not charge, only had it one day!…either from ac or USB. getting another one sent to me but what a hassle. Apple does not make a quality product anymore.

  • Scott Lanford

    “…feels like you’re holding a Kindle”…seriously??? Have you ever held a Kindle? It is much smaller and less than half the weight.

  • Scott Lanford