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.
Due to the changes Apple made to the iPad 2’s body—shrinking it a little in every dimension, modifying its curves, and adding a camera to the back—most of the cases developed for the original iPad will not fit. Loose-fitting pouches and bags are obviously an exception, though they are even baggier with the new model than before. Until other cases become more commonly available, we’d recommend a soft bag-like case such as Moshi’s Muse as a possible option, though it should be noted that partially magnetized cases such as Muse should be used only with the iPad 2’s iPad Cover Lock / Unlock setting turned “off.” If this setting isn’t disabled, the iPad 2’s screen may lock and unlock at random when exposed to certain magnets.
Screen protectors designed for the original iPad will not fit the iPad 2 properly given differences in the dimensions of their glass; some protectors may also cloud the front-facing camera and ambient light sensor. Any original iPad screen protector with integrated opaque bezel coverage, such as Moshi’s iVizor XT, will create even larger issues on iPad 2; temporary use of an inexpensive screen film will have to do until properly cut versions hit the market. Though we know that Apple will sell many of them, we do not recommend the iPad Smart Cover, which is overpriced for the modest coverage it provides. It was preceded by superior Incase and Speck designs, which will surely be re-released for the iPad 2.
Stands, docks, and speakers developed for the original iPad are all in the “maybe” category, at least from a physical compatibility standpoint. Here are a bunch of the notable iPad-specific items we’ve previously reviewed, and how they work with the iPad 2.
Twelve South’s Compass Stand: Works without issues.
Jensen JiPS-250i: An unencased iPad 2 fits inside the plastic cradle but does not receive proper support on the sides; unsafe to rotate into landscape mode.
Apple iPad Dock and iPad Keyboard Dock. Both work without issues so long as the iPad 2 doesn’t have a case on. This portion of the review was typed using Apple’s iPad Keyboard Dock, which continues to accommodate the iPad 2 without any issue—except that it’s still not particularly case-compatible, and doesn’t support landscape mode use of the iPad 2 or iPad.
Apple’s Wireless Keyboard. This was typed using Apple’s Wireless Keyboard, the Bluetooth-based option we prefer to the Keyboard Dock. When paired with a stand, the iPad 2 can work in landscape mode and/or inside a case while using the Wireless Keyboard, and you can place the accessories wherever you prefer for ideal typing and viewing angles.
Apple iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter and Apple Digital AV Adapter. Both of these accessories enable the iPad and iPad 2 to connect to high-resolution external displays; the VGA Adapter works with computer monitors and older projectors, while the Digital AV Adapter has an HDMI port for connection to modern high-definition televisions. The iPad and iPad 2 can both output high-definition video to these external devices; iPad 2 also mirrors its screen when connected, automatically selecting the television’s highest supported resolution mode for mirroring, and performing whatever video (up to 720p for iTunes-synced movies, 1080p otherwise) the tablet might alternately be outputting from its Dock Connector port. Mirroring enables you to show FaceTime camera output on a large-screened TV—albeit with somewhat inaccurate color. We believe that this issue is traceable to iOS software and capable of being fixed in an iOS update.
Clamcase Keyboard Stand: Has enough space inside its top frame to passively hold the iPad 2 inside, but is not molded to properly hold it or provide access to all of its features.
Sena Cases Keyboard Folio: Holds iPad 2 just fine, but partially obstructs front camera and fully blocks rear one.
tyPad Gen II Case + Wireless Keyboard: Holds iPad loosely, blocking front and rear cameras.
Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit: Both the SD card reader and USB adapter continue to work with the iPad 2 as they do with the original iPad, allowing the transfer of photographs and videos either from a card or from a self-powered camera.