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First Australian iPad 2 review

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ipad2thumbapple tablet

It’s been less than a year, actually 10 months, since the original iPad went on sale and created a whole new category of consumer tablet computing.

Not only has the iPad 2 been improved in a number of new areas – thinner, faster, lighter – it is also cheaper.

There’s also a camera front and rear for FaceTime video calls and shooting HD 720p resolution movies. 

And it’s available in black and white so even more choice for the customer. For my review I used a white 64GB wi-fi + 3G model.

See Stephen Fenech talking about the iPad 2 on A Current Affair

The iPad 2 is thinner than the iPhone at just 8.8mm

DESIGN

The iPad 2 has an all-new design and feel which is not immediately obvious when you are looking at the screen (unless you’re looking at the white model) but flip it over to the aluminium back panel and you’ll notice plenty of changes.

It has now flatter and can rest more securely on a table without any wobble at all.

The iPad 2 has an all-new design including a remodelled aluminium back panel

Rather than having an edge like the first iPad, the iPad 2 curves upwards until it meets the sides of the screen. So now the lock key, volume up and down and rotation lock/mute switch is now on this backward curve.

Even the headphone jack has a slight curve to it but the headphones still clip snugly in place.

At only 8.8mm thick, the iPad 2 is actually thinner than the iPhone 4 and I couldn’t resist putting the two devices next to each other and, sure enough, the 9.3mm iPhone 4 – a product that I carry around in my back pocket – was slightly thicker.

This makes it easier to slip the iPad 2 inside a bag or a case or just hold it in your hands for extended periods.

It is also 15 per cent lighter and while the original wasn’t exactly a brick it is now even easier and more comfortable to hold and carry around.

The white iPad 2 provides a different experience as well and the white frame is not too distracting and still easy to focus on whatever is on the screen.

It has the same 9.7-inch diagonal LED backlit display with a resolution of 1024 x 768.

SPEED

The iPad 2 is noticeably faster than the first and in side-by-side tests apps and menus opened quicker.

This new zippiness is due to the Apple’s new A5 dual core processor which literally doubles the processing speed.

At the same time the graphics performance is also enriched by up to nine times. This was noticeable while playing games and viewing movies.

I played Real Racing HD on the iPad 2 and not only was the picture slightly smoother there was also a new layer of textures and reflections that aren’t noticeable on the first iPad.

I could even notice things like more detail in the shadows as well as the clouds in the sky above the race track.

Opening the settings windows and it springs to life almost instantly and selecting things to delete all at once like pictures and emails was also noticeably faster.

CAMERA

Perhaps the biggest difference between the first and second iPad is the addition of the two cameras – one on the front and another on the back.

The front facing camera can be used for FaceTime videos calls and, during my testing, was a handy way to connect anywhere.

I am used to making FaceTime calls on the smaller iPhone 4 screen but it was an even richer experience on the iPad 2.

iPad 2 has a front facing camera for FaceTime video calls

And because I had more screen to play with I could turn the iPad 2 on its side and make the viewing area even bigger so I could sit with my entire family and fit everyone in the frame.

Users can also easily switch to the rear camera to change the view for the person they are chatting with.

The front-facing camera can also be used with Photo Booth – an already popular application on Mac computers.

Well if you thought Photo Booth was fun on a Mac – wait until you try it on the iPad 2.

Now it is possible to move and expand the effects around the screen using your finger or a pinch zoom to enlarge or shrink the effect you’re going for. And, if you’re brave enough, you can even share these funny photos to others right off the device.

The rear camera is capable of capturing 720p resolution video and is positioned on the top corner of the device so there’s less chance you’ll cover it with your fingers when you’re holding it.

Still images were acceptable quality without being great but the videos looked crisp and clear.

GYROSCOPE

The Pad 2 now includes a gyroscope so apps can respond with even more detail in any plane of movement.

This feature is already included in the iPhone 4 but can only be truly appreciated when it is seen on a larger scale like the iPad 2’s screen.

I tested this feature playing a first person shooter game NOVA HD. Users have the choice of engaging the gyroscope in the settings.

Without it players have to scroll up and down the screen to move in any direction but when the gyroscope is engaged it completely changes the dynamics of the game.

Now moving the iPad 2 left and right moves the players view in the same direction and the only time you touch the screen is to fire your weapon.

Expect a raft of new apps which will take advantage of this feature on the iPad 2 and I expect first person shooters to make up a few of these.

3G

Users who opt for the 3G version of the iPad 2 will be able to connect to the internet even outside wi-fi hotspots using a micro SIM card to access the cellular network.

iPad takes advantage of a faster HSUPA connection which will see upload speeds of up to 5.8Mbps – a 15x increase over the first iPad.

This makes the device a lot more useful for those using the device on the go instead of a laptop computer.

VIDEO MIRRORING

The iPad 2 has an added capability called video mirroring which, by using a small adaptor plug, means users can display everything they see on their iPad 2 onto a high definition flatscreen TV.

This is ideal for teachers or businessman showing a presentation with the option of exact mirroring or partial mirroring.

Partial mirroring is useful for people using presentation apps and want access to their notes and the timer while their audience can only see the presentation.

And because it connect via a HDMI cable what you see on the TV screen out of the iPad 2 is in high definition whether it’s an app, your photos or a movie.

BATTERY

One of the thing users loved about the original iPad was the battery life which delivered more than 10 hours of usage.

This usage has been equalled on the iPad 2 which, despite not improving, is still impressive because the device is significantly thinner yet can deliver the same battery performance.

SMART COVER

The new Smart Cover is typical Apple design and innovation.

It locks automatically in place using magnets and, when attached, looks like it is actually a part of the iPad 2.

iPad 2's Smart Cover attaches to the device with magnets

When it is clicked in place the cover fits precisely over the screen and, thanks to sensors inside the iPad 2 can be woken up simply by lifting the cover.

There’s no need to slide to unlock – it turns on instantly as soon as the cover is even partially lifted off the screen.

And the same thing happens in reverse when you close the Smart Cover across the screen. Once the display is completely covered it goes to sleep without having to hit the lock key.

This may not sound like much but it just makes it quicker to access the iPad 2 screen and put it away when you’re done.

The Smart Cover also acts as a stand and the magnets built inside the four part covering folds back and attach themselves to each other so you can make it sit up at a gentle slope for typing or more upright to watch a movie or use an app.

Peek a boo! The iPad 2 wakes as soon as the Smart Cover is lifted off the screen

CONCLUSION

The iPad 2 is a significant improvement over the original.

If you’ve been holding off buying an iPad until now – there is really no excuse to hold off any more.

For those who already own an iPad and are not yearning for faster operation and cameras they will more than likely stick with what they’ve got.

But for many existing owners, the iPad 2 will be too hard to resist and they will find the upgrade worthwhile. The only thing these people have to worry about is what to do with their old one.

Apple has delivered yet another product which will mesmerise anyone who gets one in their hands. Its combination of design, speed and functionality – and improvement over the original version in such a short time – will be very difficult to match.

If you’re looking to invest in a tablet computer in 2011 – it will be hard to look past the iPad 2.

PRICING

One of the biggest attractions about the iPad 2 is the price. It is actually cheaper than the original.

iPad 2 goes on sale across Australia at 5pm on Friday

$579 – 16GB wi-fi (original iPad price $629)

$689 – 32GB wi-fi (original iPad price $759)

$799 – 64GB wi-fi (original iPad price $879)

$729  – 16GB wi-fi + 3G (original iPad price $799)

$839 – 32GB wi-fi + 3G (original iPad price $928)

$949  – 64GB wi-fi + 3G (original iPad price $1049)