Categorized | New Products

Slim Fast: Apple’s iPad 2 Leads the Race

Everybody wishes the iPad 2 had a higher-resolution display like the iPhone 4, but Apple didn’t even have to go there yet.

All Apple did was put the iPad on a treadmill. The tablet shed some weight and gained some speed to become the iPad 2, and it’s incredible what a difference that makes. It feels like a brand-new product.

Most important of all is the iPad 2’s thinness. The iPad 2 is 0.34 inches thick, about 33 percent thinner than its predecessor. Now, reaching your fingers across the screen to swipe and tap is far easier than it was on the chunkier iPad 1.

People who enjoy reading will love the thinner body: Cradling an iPad 2 in your hands for an hour doesn’t feel that cumbersome. You’ll also be surprised how often you’ll be using the tablet with one hand. Even though it’s only a few ounces lighter than the older iPad (1.3 pounds versus 1.5 pounds), the changes to the tablet’s weight and ergonomics feel substantial.

The iPad 2 is only slightly thicker than a pencil.

Imagine how significant thinness and weight are for people who are considering tablets for use in a professional field that requires a lot of moving around, such as doctors who could use the iPad to replace a stack of X-rays, architects relying on an iPad as an interactive display for blueprints, or students using the iPad as an all-in-one textbook, note-taker and daily planner. The thinner and lighter a tablet gets, the more useful it becomes for various types of customers.

As a standalone device, the iPad 2’s soft keys still aren’t ideal for typing compared to a physical keyboard. However, this problem seems to be eroding over time, as the skinnier profile already makes it easier to hold the device with one hand while pecking away on keys with the other.

Also, Apple’s Smart Cover protective accessory (sold separately for $40 to $70) is a cover that folds to create an angle to prop up the device so you can type on it more comfortably. The built-in magnets, which cling to the side of the iPad, are very cool and make the cover extremely easy to take off or put on. Personally, I prefer using most gadgets bareback, but the Smart Cover is the only cover I’d consider keeping with the iPad 2 since it’s so easy to take off.

The other most important change is speed. Apple claims the new A5 processor in the iPad 2 offers double the performance of the original iPad. Indeed, apps and websites load more quickly, and 3-D games look more detailed; the entire iOS experience is just buttery smooth.

Web performance has largely improved, thanks to iOS 4.3, the latest software update shipping with the iPad 2, which includes an improved JavaScript-rendering engine for Safari. The iPad 2 took 2,180 milliseconds to complete a SunSpider benchmark test, whereas the iPad 1 took 3,353 milliseconds. Running the earlier iOS 4.2, the iPad 1 took over 8,100 milliseconds to complete the same test. That means JavaScript-heavy websites (such as Gmail) should run significantly faster.

Surprisingly, despite the major speed boost, the iPad 2 retains a 10-hour battery life, the same as the slower, first-gen iPad.

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