March 6, 2013

APPLE IPAD 2 PREVIEW


Apple certainly likes to make the few people in India who like their products wait. Even then we somehow manage to get our hands on their products before they launch them here. Last year we were one of the first in India to get our hands on an iPad and publish our hands-on experience with it. This year, as luck would have it, our Head of HR decided to get an iPad for herself from the UK and was glad to lend it to us for a preview. Of course, we know better than to keep an owner away from their new gadget for long, so we only had enough time to do a quick preview like last time instead of a full review. Still, what follows is a sufficiently detailed description that should give you an idea of what exactly the new iPad 2 is all about. 


iPad 2


Design
The iPad was never particularly thick but it's only after you hold the iPad 2 do you realize just how thick it really is. The iPad had a curved back and almost a centimeter thick edge. The iPad 2 has a flat back and almost no side edge at all. Instead, the back just curves upward to meet the front side, just like on the fourth generation iPod touch. 
 

iPad 2


This does have a considerable effect on the ergonomics. While the new design worked against the iPod touch, it improves the feel of the iPad 2 considerably. The iPad 2 feels much better in hand and also gives you a better grip. The weight is also better distributed on the iPad 2 unlike the iPad, where the bulging center felt heavier than the sides. Apple has also reduced the overall weight, however, it still feels a bit heavy for extended single-handed usage. The problem, more than the weight itself, is the width of the device, which spreads the weight away from your hand, thus putting more strain on your wrist. 

iPad 2


When viewed from the front, the iPad 2 again looks smaller. It lacks the substantial metal border found on the iPad and in case of the iPad 2 the glass now seems to go almost till the edge. There is still a significant bezel around the display, necessary if you are to hold the device without touching the touchscreen. You may also notice the FaceTime camera above the display, with the ambient light sense located slightly above it. 



iPad 2


Around the sides, the volume control and the screen lock/mute buttons are in the same position as before. Again, unlike the iPod touch fourth generation, the change in design has had no negative effect on the ergonomics. The SIM card slot has been relocated on the iPad 2. It is now near the top edge of the left side instead of near the middle. On top is the 3.5mm headphone jack and the power button and the microphone is now in the middle of the 3G antenna. 

iPad 2


iPad 2


As mentioned before, the back is completely flat now. You can see the camera lens in the top left corner with a chrome surround. There is no flash on the iPad, even though it could have used one. Below you will see the new loudspeaker grille. I had my doubts about the new design until I saw it in person and it does actually look a lot better than it does in pictures. 

iPad 2


Build quality-wise the iPad 2 is just as good as its predecessor. It feels like a solid, well-built device. Although the thinner design and the lower weight does give it a slight toy-like feel there is nothing cheap about it. 

Display
A lot of people expected the iPad 2 to have a Retina display but that was a tall order, even for Apple. Quadrupling the resolution of the iPad would have put serious strain on the hardware and consumed more power, neither of which are desirable. Thus the iPad 2 comes with the same display as the iPad, but there are some changes. 

For starters, the display is now even closer to the protective glass surface, which gives the feeling of touching the actual display instead of the glass and also increases the already excellent viewing angles. The display is also slightly brighter and livelier than the previous model, although this is only noticeable when you have both the devices side by side. 

The display is protected by the same scratch resistant glass with an oleophobic coating. We tested the scratch resistance and found it to be satisfactory. The oleophobic coating doesn't really do a good job of keeping the fingerprints away though. After a few minutes of using the device the screen gets littered with smudges. What it does though is make the screen easier to clean, so a couple of swipes with a soft cloth are enough to get the smudges off the glass.  

 Hardware and Software
The iPad 2 runs on a 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 processor with 512MB of RAM, which Apple claims is twice as fast than the A4 in the iPad. The graphics have been upgraded from PowerVR SGX535 on the iPad to SGX543MP, which Apple claims is nine times faster than before. As usual, we would suggest you take these claims with a pinch of salt. However, there is no denying the fact that the hardware is considerably faster than before.

The iPad 2 works on GSM as well as CDMA networks and supports 3G connectivity on either. It also supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth v2.1 and A-GPS on the 3G models. It has built-in accelerometer, magnetometer and now also a gyroscope. It is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities.

The iPad 2 also comes with two camera, the front one capable of stills as well as video in VGA resolution at 30FPS and the rear one can record stills in 960 x 720 resolution and videos in 1280 x 720 resolution at 30FPS.

Software-wise, nearly everything is identical, expect for certain apps that take advantage of the new hardware in iPad 2. There is the FaceTime app that lets you do video calls with other iPad 2, iPhone 4, iPod touch and Mac users over Wi-Fi. There is also the Photo Booth app that lets you take pictures with various effects. Then of course there is the camera app for taking photos and videos. The camera application is the same as the one on the iPhone 4 and the iPod touch, but isn't as easy to use. 


iPad 2


The culprit is the camera shutter button that is placed awkwardly on the screen. No matter which orientation you hold the device, it is in the bottom left corner of the screen. This makes it difficult for you to access the button with your thumbs, especially in landscape mode, where you will have to use one hand to hold the device and other to press the shutter. Coming from Apple, which usually spends a lot of time honing the design of their applications, this ergonomics disaster comes as a real shock.

iPad 2


The last difference that we noticed was the iPad cover option we found in the menu. The item is only visible after you attach the cover for the first time. It lets you choose whether to lock/unlock the iPad 2 when you close/open the cover.

iPad 2




Performance
We expected the iPad 2 to be faster and it did not disappoint. On the homescreen the difference is not perceptible, but fire up some applications and the dual-core processor immediately makes its presence felt. In Maps, for example, the map curling animation for showing additional options faltered on the iPad, but was butter smooth on the iPad 2. We loaded some 3D games and immediately noticed a smoother framerate on the iPad 2. In some cases, the difference wasn't noticeable. Only those apps that pushed the limits of the first iPad's hardware show noticeable improvements on the iPad 2.

Developers are already coming out with games that take advantage of the iPad 2's improved hardware. Games such as Infinity Blade now have better details, textures and anti-aliasing effects on the iPad 2.

The extra RAM comes in handy while web browsing or multitasking. On the iPad if you open several heavy pages one after the other, by the time you reach the last one, the browser would have removed the first page from the memory, causing it to reload when you try to access it again. This is not a problem anymore on the iPad 2. Also, when scrolling, you see the chequered pattern far less, unless you scroll really fast. While multitasking, if you open too many applications on the iPad, it would eventually close them in the background and when you try to access them they would restart instead of resuming their state. Again, this does not happen on the iPad 2.

If you thought that becoming thinner would affect the performance of the loudspeaker then you were wrong. The loudspeaker actually sounds better than before. It is slightly louder and has better clarity. In comparison, the iPad's loudspeaker sounds slightly muffled as if being blocked by something. The iPad 2 loudspeaker also uses the surface to bounce sound off, something the iPad cannot. We are still disappointed by the lack of stereo loudspeaker on the device though. Having the sound coming from one corner of such a large device feels weird and imbalanced, even if it is clearer than before.

One of the major additions to the iPad 2 are the cameras on board. Unfortunately, their quality leaves a lot to be desired. It almost feels as if Apple added them only for the sake of having them and not because they wanted to. The cameras are same as the ones used in the iPod touch. The camera on the back is capable of recording 720p video of decent quality. The still images, however, are quite poor in detail and very noisy. 

 
iPad 2


iPad 2

 



The front camera will be used mostly for video calls and for that purpose it has good enough quality. We do have an issue with the location of the camera. As we noted in our Samsung Galaxy Tab review, the camera is located way too high from the center of the display. This means when you look at the screen at the other person, the other person will feel as if you are looking down somewhere and not at them. If you look at the lens the other person will feel you are looking at them, then you cannot see the screen below. 

This wasn't much of a problem on the iPhone 4 or the iPod touch, where the camera is located very close to the center of the display. Also, if you hold the device as you usually do, then your face will appear at the bottom of the screen. You will then have to tilt the iPad 2 for your face to appear in the middle of the screen. If only Apple had tilted the camera slightly, it would have solved this situation. As for the first problem, there is no way to solve that. Holding the device sideways only makes things worse. 




Smart Cover
Smart Cover is the name given by Apple for their range of covers designed for the iPad 2. It features a magnetic latch that lets it attach itself automatically and precisely at the same position every time. You just have to bring it close to the iPad 2 and it clings automatically. Smart Covers have magnets placed all over them that attract to the magnets present in the bezel on the iPad 2 that helps them stay put when you close them. It also lets the iPad 2 know when you open or close the cover, so it can automatically unlock or lock itself. 

 
smart cover


smart cover


smart cover


Smart Covers can fold into a triangle and form a stand so you can use it to watch a video on the iPad 2 or raises one side so you can type comfortably. The cover for the first iPad could do something similar but it also added a lot to the thickness of the device and getting the iPad in and out of it was also a pain. The Smart Covers are really thin. Even with the cover on the iPad 2 is thinner than the first iPad. 



smart cover


smart cover


What it did though was cover the iPad completely, something the Smart Cover does not do. It leaves the back side vulnerable, which is bound to pick up scratches over time. Actually, the back side is more sensitive than the front, as it has a scratch resistant display and we would have preferred if Apple had come up with something that protected the back rather than the front. We also don't like the way the Smart Cover refuses to cling to the back side when you open it and just tends to hang around. 

smart cover


smart cover


You can fold it in half and put it under your fingers but then that would increase the thickness of the iPad 2. If you are indoors it is just easier to remove it when you are using the device and snap it back on when you are done. The microfiber lining underneath the cover rubs against the display and reduces the fingerprints and dust. 
 
smart cover


smart cover


The Smart Covers are available in polyurethane and leather variety and in five different colors each. The polyurethane covers are priced at $39 and the leather ones are priced at $69. Apple's website mentions that the leather covers may eventually lose some of their color and sure enough our red colored cover looked slightly faded. It also picks up scratch marks that remain permanently visible on the surface. A lighter colored version would not have had this problem. 


Battery Life
Apple claimed a 10 hour battery life figure for the first iPad, which the device managed to deliver, as we found out ourselves in our review. For the new model Apple has claimed a similar figure. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time with the device to test the claim but from what we have seen from other reviewers who have used the device the iPad 2 once again manages to match the manufacturer's claim, at times surpassing it.

For a device which became thinner and at the same time more powerful, to deliver the same battery life is nothing short of astonishing. The fact that none of the other tablets are able to match it further proves how genuinely impressive the battery life of the iPad 2 is.

Verdict
The iPad 2 is priced at the same price points as the first generation model. This makes it much better value than the model it is replacing, which already was good value. It is thinner, lighter, much faster, has cameras and a slightly better display and loudspeaker. Also, unlike the first iPad, the iPad 2 enters the market with thousands of applications developed specially for it and this is something few other tablets can claim to have. 

 

iPad 2


For a new tablet buyer, the iPad 2 is a logical choice. But for current iPad owners, I don't see too many reasons to upgrade. Unless you are one of those who must have every latest gadget out in the market and have pockets deep enough to fulfill this desire, we wouldn't really recommend upgrading to the iPad 2. 

I have been using the iPad extensively since it launched in India two months ago and even though I was tempted buy the new iPad 2 I could not see a big enough reason to upgrade. The faster hardware in iPad 2 means you will get games that will have better visuals but that does not mean people will stop developing apps for the millions of iPad users out there. You will mostly get apps and games that switch depending upon what device they are being installed on. FaceTime could be a big draw for some but the fact that it only works on WI-Fi and with Apple devices makes it slightly less desirable. 

Then again, for someone in India, all this discussion is moot. The bottom line is the iPad 2 is not on sale in India and we don't know when it will be. For somebody in India it really doesn't matter how much better the new iPad 2 is. But if you are someone who can acquire it from abroad, don't already have an iPad and know what to do with one, then we would highly recommend the iPad 2. Anyone else need not bother, yet.

0 comments:

 

TECHS2IN Copyright © 2013Terms & Condtions -- Powered by Techs2In