Apr 30, 2011

iPad 2 review


The iPad 2. Successor of the tablet that went from being a complete joke to one of the best-selling device in tech history. I never thought I would lay my eyes with one of these things, but here I am, already reviewing it. So go ahead and join me in this magical journey (Apple’s word not mine) into the review of the iPad 2.

Let me just remind you with the specifications of the iPad 2. Minor changes has been done since the original iPad, like having front and rear facing cameras, a new A5 chip dual-core processor, a slimmer body,  and that is pretty much it actually. You still have that really old 1024x768 resolution, no noticeable changes within the operating system, and still doesn't include Adobe Flash. Ok, now let's talk about the iPad's design.

Design

 I really love the design of the iPad. On the front side, you are presented with a massive piece of glass display, that is really gorgeous, although if you have owned a touchscreen phone, you'll be disappointed to know that smudges are a greater problem with this tablet. Although smudges do not obstruct you in viewing anything on the display on the iPad,  it just doesn't look good when the iPad is on standby. Dusts and other particles are also a problem (more on that on a bit).


On the back side of the iPad 2 is a silver aluminum cover that fits and feels nicely in the hand, just like the metallic alloy that is found on my Inspire 4G. The texture is great on a smartphone, but for a 9.7 inch tablet, I prefer a material that is not slippery. I think more than half of the time I held the iPad it almost slipped out of my hands.



I am really amazed with the engineers of the iPad with how they have made this device thinner. Comparing it to my Inspre 4G on the image above, it is my phone looks fat. But for a tablet that you carry around everywhere you go, this device is prone to damage more than any other devices you could own. That's why I think if you're going to own an iPad, you'll going to need to buy a cover for it, thus losing that benefit of it being thin. I don't know, the iPad feels sturdy but at the same time feels really really fragile.

Display

On my previous blog post, I showed you how awful the resolution is on the iPad 2. I compared it with a large text against other devices, but I realized that iPad's resolution performs worse on smaller texts. Here is another comparison of iPad's display versus my HTC Surround:



See, having a 1024x768 resolution on the iPad is really like using a device from the past. It's like a Nintendo DS, or the display on the PSP. In this modern times, fuzzy edges on screen texts should not be welcome anymore. As I have said with the previous post, It is really traumatizing.

I am really wondering what would Apple do with the next version of the iPad. Obviously an increase in resolution is the solution (slogan right there), but how high would Apple make it?

Now let's move on with the iPad's aspect ratio.  4:3? Really Apple? Really? I hardly know any other tech company that still releases a device that is with that aspect ratio. I admit, playing an HD content with the iPad is clear and smooth as butter, but HD content, or any other modern video content is made in 16:9 aspect ratio. Now you have two options in the iPad, both of which has their own disadvantages.

1. You can play the whole video at 16:9, but you will have it letterboxed, thus making your video look smaller. Or you can

2. stretch the video to fit the iPad's screen. Now this looks better in my opinion, but details on the video will be cut, specially texts.

So yeah. Either way, it is not a pretty picture. I really would love Apple to move on and adapt 16:9 aspect ratio, or if not, at least 16:10.

Camera

Uggh. I'm sorry that the camera is the next feature to review. This one is also a disaster for me. The camera reminds me of Nintendo DS. The DS has a poor resolution camera because kids that are going to use it will not know the difference between a decent photo and a poor quality photo. Are kids the one who are going to use the iPad 2? I mean, just look at the photos below. They are horrible. They looked like they were captured from a cell phone camera that is released in early 2000's. This is 2011. This kind of abomination is not welcome in this decade.
 


720p video capture is a little better, but it's still bad. Here's a sample shot:

 

Performance and Apps

I haven't used any iOS device before, but the iPad 2 is really fast. As I have said earlier, it plays HD content without any hiccups. Loading and switching to applications are also fast, I have not encountered any delay or lag to any of the apps I have used, except for Safari. I see checkerboards every now and then while loading a webpage, but pinch-and-zoom wise, this device excels when it comes to that.

One of the built-in apps on the iPad is the iBooks. There are plenty of books both free and paid on the iBookstore, and the page turn animation is what really makes this app cool. Unfortunately, reading on the iPad I can imagine to be really straining to the eye, not because it uses LCD, but (you guessed it) the low resolution screen.

Key things missing on the iPad that is present on the iPhone: Voice control and Coverflow. I don't get it. Coverflow would be amazing in this big screen. Instead you just have this big album art when you try to play something. Thankfully though, some apps on the app store at least try to mimic this missing features.

There are also a lot of apps that you can install on the iPad. I think I have never found an app that really made me busy (as with other OS's). Downloading an app is an easy process, if you do not want to view a description of an app, you can just tap the "free" button and tap it again to install the app. But what I do not like with Apple's app download mechanism is that it will always ask you for your password when you want to download an app.

I do not have a paid iTunes account so I can only test free apps. Another downside with having an iPad is that apps tend to be more expensive than their iPhone counterparts. The lite Fruit Ninja lets you play with another person, which is really fun and really fast paced. I also have downloaded Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and while it is fun steering your iPad, the graphics just doesn't compare to any PC game, and I can tell that to many iPad apps, except for Infinity Blade.

Facebook app on "Pixel Double" which is really ugly.

One big disadvantage of having a mobile OS on a bigger screen is that you are going to face many apps, Facebook in particular to have no iPad version. It's a really ugly place, specially when you zoom in the app (Apple fancily calls it "Pixel Double" which is crap) and it just gives you pixelated images and texts to a already ugly screen resolution. "There's An App for That" huh? Well apparently there is no official Facebook app designed for iPad.

Notifications and Keyboard

You might already know this, but iOS has the worst notification system in all of the modern OS's today. When you get a message, a mention, or anything that requires notifications, it will pause whatever you are doing and then asks you whether you want to cancel it or to view it. You don't get a chance to view your notifications later.

The keyboard on the iPad is pretty standard I think, although it is really hard to type on if the iPad is not laid on a flat surface. You'd think that Apple would create some sort of smaller keyboard if you're using the iPad using two hands.

Smart covers

Smart cover as a stand.

Now this isn't necessarily a part of the iPad, but just an accessory. I think the smart covers functions better as a stand than a cover. It works well as a stand, but it couldn't cover or protect the iPad in anyway in scratches or in case you dropped it. It also do not clean your screen as advertised. In fact, it even gives your screen dirt from what it gathered wherever you placed it as a stand. I really wonder what does Steve Job mean when he said it cleans your display? It doesn't clean fingerprints, it even gives you dirt. That is not cleaning guys.

Conclusion
Well, there you have it. iPad 2 just isn't for me. There are a lot of things that are bugging me such as the low res screen, missing features, and low quality camera. I think I would prefer the iPhone 4 or the next dual core iPhone against this one. I don't understand why this tablet gained so many positive reviews, like Engadget for example, that gave it a 9/10 just the same with the iPhone. I strongly disagree. That being said, the iPad still have a great market share and people do not really care about the things I pointed out. So yeah. I just hope I helped someone into deciding what to pick on their next or first tablet.


 
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