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iPad 2: Hands-on preview

Following an hour’s worth of fun and a relentless slew of specs and stats updates, Apple has finally decided to let us get our grubby mits on an iPad 2.

The first thing that we can say is that its faster- plenty faster.

Unlike other Android powered dual-core tablets we have seen so far, Apple has designed new apps around the added power the A5 brings. Things like Garageband and iMovie operate at the speed you would expect to see them run at on a desktop. Everything else is super smooth and ultra snappy, which is hard to believe given how speedy the current-gen iPad is. Apps loaded almost instantaneously and processor intensive games like Infinity Blade ran without any problems whatsoever. This, combined with the multitasking capabilities of iOS, made the device feel like the most complete tablet experience we’ve had so far. You can tell that the extra power is there if you want it and that app designers won’t take long to design some seriously impressive applications.

I opened up loads of applications in a row in order to try and push the processor to its absolute limit but not once did the device struggle. Even when zooming in and out of large movie clips on iMovie or hitting drums in GarageBand, the tablet was always quick.

Steve Jobs talked about how the iPad was very much a “post-PC” device and that its simplicity was aimed at it being an ancillary aspect of home computing. We’re weren’t convinced, the speed we saw the iPad 2 run at convinced us that it could very easily replace a laptop for everything.

The hardware redesign is less impressive. The thinner size makes the tablet feel so incredibly light and small that it just doesn’t have that robust feel of the original. The addition of a white option is definitely nice and it looked really good when compared to that of the black original. It did however feel much more portable, particularly when it had one of the smart covers stuck on the front. 

The FaceTime camera that sits at the top turns out a decent enough picture for video calling, and the rear mounted camera appears to record equally good HD footage. We had a very brief play with the tablet and thus didn’t get to properly put the cameras through their paces, but they appeared to deal very well with colour casting in what was quite unusual lighting. Colours also appeared well saturated and balanced, with video being both sharp and smooth.

The iPad 2 screen is totally identical to that of the original in that it still looks brilliant. For those who currently own the original iPad, don’t expect anything particularly exciting.

We will say that the slightly thinner tablet design does make the 9.7” display appear smaller. The A5 processor did make the display even more responsive to touch but the improvement was so negligible only the most obsessive of tech fans would notice.

Little else can be said about the iPad 2 until we get a lengthy period to test one out. From our brief play through we’re convinced that Apple has simply improved on what was a device already a long way ahead of the competition. There just wasn’t any changes there that were enough to get excited about. Even the hardware design is relatively low-key and nothing on the scale of the switch from  iPhone 3G to iPhone 4 .

That said, the extra speed, front and rear cameras put the iPad 2 in direct competition with the majority of laptops that cost the same price. And this offering from Apple is lighter, smaller and easier to use.



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