Review: Apple iPad 2 Wi-Fi / Wi-Fi + 3G GSM / CDMA (16GB/32GB/64GB)
Pros: An iterative improvement upon Apple’s first tablet computer, benefitting from modest size and weight reductions, two color options, as well as considerable under-the-hood improvements in speed. Still includes integrated apps for audio, video, and photo playback, web browsing, e-mailing, calendaring, mapping and more, plus a free downloadable book and PDF reading app, many improved at least a little over original 2010 versions; web browsing is markedly faster. In addition to running many of the original iPad’s nearly 75,000 applications at higher speeds than before, adds dual-core CPU and graphics processor capable of running dramatically more impressive games and apps. New FaceTime cameras enable video calling and simple photography/videography. Improves upon predecessor’s 10-hour battery life by adding 20-60 minutes of added juice under some situations. Improved video output capabilities, including screen mirroring and maximum 1080p output, when used with HDMI or VGA accessories. Now offered in separate GSM and CDMA 3G versions, accommodating Verizon and other CDMA customers.
Cons: New integrated cameras produce blurry, grainy images that are unacceptably weak for still photography and look poor when forced to fill the display; video recorded by the rear 720p camera is only acceptable. Modest reductions in headphone port audio and mic performance. Front glass continues to attract visible fingerprint smudges and suffer from glare issues, requiring film or a cover to improve usability outdoors and indoors. Still cannot run Retina Display iPhone/iPod touch apps at full resolution, and similarly downscales or crops HD videos to fit 1024x768 resolution, 4:3 display. Would benefit dramatically from combined GSM/CDMA 3G model; CDMA version exhibited slightly higher cellular battery drain and slower cellular data speeds, lacks SIM card slot, and offers fewer options for international travelers.
The iPad 2’s packaging has a lot in common with the original iPad’s. Once again, Apple ships the tablet inside a white cardboard box with a color image of the device on the front, alternating between dark gray “iPad” and silver foil Apple markings on its sides. This time, the front image is designed to show a wedge-like angled side profile of the black- or white-faced iPad 2 rather than a detailed look at its Home Screen. By using this angle, Apple obscures any view of the top 3G antennas and/or micro-SIM slots found on the more expensive iPads, enabling one box to suffice for all nine different iPad 2s of the same color.
Oddly, though the new boxes are a little narrower and visibly shallower than before, they make no reference to the “iPad 2” name, suggesting that Apple decided on it late in the process. The iPhone 3G, 3GS, and iPhone 4 all had the correct names on their boxes despite annual name changes, making this an unusual oversight for the typically detail-obsessed company. Even the customizing stickers on the backs of the otherwise white boxes refer to the devices as “iPad Wi-Fi,” “iPad Wi-Fi 3G,” or “iPad Wi-Fi 3G - Verizon” without any “iPad 2” branding. This slight naming confusion carries over to Apple’s “iPad Smart Cover” accessory, which is actually specific to the iPad 2 and will not work on the original iPad.
Regardless of which iPad 2 version you select, the contents of the box are nearly identical. The iPad 2 arrives wrapped in clear plastic on a plastic tray above a cardboard folio. Inside the folio is an ultra-brief explanatory card, a warranty booklet, two Apple logo stickers, and generally only two packed-in items: a USB to Dock Connector cable, and a 10W USB Power Adapter. U.S. versions of the GSM iPad 2 also include a micro-SIM card and SIM card tray that arrive pre-installed in the iPad 2’s upper left corner when viewed from the front, adding slightly to its weight.
A SIM card removal tool is included with the GSM iPad 2, looking different and cheaper than the one previously included with the prior 3G iPad and some iPhones—the new tool is thinner, and resembles a bent paperclip. It’s hard to remove the SIM tray without use of one of these tools; a colored paper clip we tried was too thick, and a stripped twist tie was too thin. Apple’s instruction card for the GSM iPad 2 is just a little different than for the other iPad 2 models, acknowledging the presence of the SIM tray, card, and tool, which are not found in the SIM-less Verizon iPad 2 or Wi-Fi only model.
As was the case with the original iPad, you’re still left to buy headphones, a stand, a case, and other accessories separately—no surprise at this point. Some prior Apple and third-party iPad accessories continue to work with the iPad 2; others do not. We discuss the notable ones in the Accessories section of this review, below.