It’s no secret: I’m an Apple fanboy.
If there’s a new product coming out, I’m thinking about buying it. Friends and family know it. My wife hides the checkbook every time the Apple Store goes offline for updates.
But lest you think it’s mindless devotion to the shiny fruit logo, believe me, it’s not. For instance, I appreciate the iPhone 4 but I prefer a BlackBerry for daily use.
Over the years, I’ve gritted my teeth and sat thru more than a few keynotes and new product releases and OneMoreThings(tm) while muttering a mantra that may be familiar to many of you: “It’s not that big a difference. I don’t need it. I’m happy with what I have now, it’s practically the same thing.”
I think what I’m trying to say is, for an avowed fanboy, I still do exhibit a bit of self control on occasion.
So why, you may ask, am I typing this on a just-released iPad 2 within barely a week of its release when almost EVERY single review out there, including this one (spoiler alert) will tell you: It’s not that big a difference. You don’t need it. You should be happy with what you have now, it’s practically the same thing.
I’ll tell you why. Because for me, the original iPad was a revolution that changed my workflow and lifestyle – I subscribed to the whole tablet deal big time, and I love it. It just works for me. And now we’ve got an evolution on revolution? Sign me up. Dig out the checkbook.
In fact now that I’ve had some time to use it and compare, I think to call the iPad 2 “practically the same” might be a disservice. Let’s go into the details.
BLACK OR WHITE?
For one thing, the new iPad comes in white. If you haven’t placed an order yet, read this paragraph very closely. A lot of people will be tempted to order the white just because they’ve got so much pent up frustration towards Apple for taking so long to release the white iPhone 4. If you watch a lot of videos, or play a lot of games, or basically just do stuff on your iPad other than reading ebooks, you might be happier with a black one. Ordering a white iPad was a deliberate choice for me because most of my iPad leisure time is spent on ebooks and Instapaper articles. During my short but wonderful stint with a Kindle reader, I appreciated the way that the Kindle’s cream colored bezel seemed to blend into the onscreen page. I’m glad to report that the white iPad does the same thing and I feel good about my decision. But for most anything else, especially watching videos, the white frame somehow makes the screen feel smaller. It’s an optical illusion, of course: it’s exactly the same size. But it might be something you want to keep in mind.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE
I mentioned the Kindle reader. The first words out of my mouth were “Oh wow, it’s like a color screen Kindle!” as I picked up the iPad 2 in my hands for the first time. It’s not THAT light, of course. But pictures will never do justice to how thin and light it feels compared to the first iPad. Again, it’s just another nifty bit of Apple sleight of hand – the rounded edges make you feel like you’re holding something much thinner than it actually is. But hey, what do you know, it works.
The tradeoff: it’s a lot harder to plug stuff into the iPad 2, or perhaps I’m just not used to it yet. Go back to Part 1
and watch me try to plug the Digital AV Adapter in. It takes me forever! The plug keeps sliding off the rounded edge rather than into the socket. And it took a while to properly slot the iPad 2 into the Dock that I have on my office desk. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, and it works fine otherwise. Same deal with the volume buttons and other hardware switches (welcome back, rotation lock!): if you’re used to the original iPad, your fingers will be fumbling and sliding around for a few days.
On to the screen. Now, a lot of people were disappointed to find that this generation iPad didn’t have a Retina Display like its iPhone and iPod Touch siblings. I have to say, I don’t really mind. I like the screen the way it is right now and I assume Steve Jobs is saving the display bump for iPad 3. It’s bound to happen, of course, but it’s not here yet and that’s all right with me.
Yes, I’ll be honest and straightforward: the front and rear facing cameras suck. Picture the noisiest, blockiest, most pointillistic image you can remember seeing lately, and slap that on a big screen – that’s the iPad 2 when shooting still photos. No wonder the word “megapixel” never escaped Steve Jobs’ lips – he would have been laughed out of his own keynote. They may be the same exact cameras that are on the iPod Touch, but the screen of the Touch is small enough that you don’t notice how bad things are.
But as I said in Part 1, the cameras only suck for still photos. For Facetime video chat, or for shooting with iMovie (see the quality of the video in the postscript below) they’re perfectly adequate. All I can say is, considering how thin the iPad is I’m amazed the cameras are there at all and I’ll be putting them to good use shooting product reviews and videos for Technoodling. But if I need to do still photography, I’ll reach for my beloved S95
Also mentioned in Part 1 of my review
: the iPad 2 is definitely faster, but it may take some close observation to notice it. Apple boasted double the processor speed and nine times the video performance, and while they weren’t lying, prepare to be surprised if the iPad 2 doesn’t feel all that different from its predecessor, depending on what apps you use most often. I expect that a few applications might be rewritten to take advantage of the additional muscle, but for the most part the iPad OS was designed cleverly enough that you never found yourself really bumping into any performance thresholds, even on the original iPad. But run a particularly complex game or open a large PDF on iPad 2 and stuff happens quicker. That’s always a good thing.
CONCLUSION: SHOULD I BUY ONE?
And so, back to where we started, a couple of paragraphs ago.
It’s not that big a difference. You don’t need it. You should be happy with what you have now, it’s practically the same thing.
Do you need something so incrementally improved? No one needs an iPad 2, or even an original iPad. But once you’ve grown accustomed to how it fits into your life, it’s hard to live without one.
Can you possibly lead a happy life as the owner of an original iPad, knowing the iPad 2 is around? Of course you can. Consider it a remix.
Will you be happier if you buy an iPad 2?
Yes. You will be.
BUT WAIT … THERE’S ONE MORE THING
In the video above, you’ll see the results of a casual bit of testing with both Garage Band and iMovie. I was exploring all the different features on Garage Band on my original iPad, while continuously shooting everything with the iPad 2 so I could practice editing the footage on iMovie later on. No instruction manuals, no help files, nothing. And the results were pretty decent for a seat-of-the-pants experiment.
Consider it a teaser. Makes me excited and eager to see what I can accomplish for the full review!
Oh and if you’re wondering how I shot the video, I duct taped the edge of my iPad 2 (yes, literally duct taped) to a ledge in lieu of a tripod (triPad? LOL). Pretty ghetto, but hey it worked.
Keep an eye out for that next article. But in the meantime, don’t forget to share both this review and Part 1 to be in with a chance to win your very own iPad 2!