The iPad 2 is now available. Check out TabletPCReview's full Apple iPad 2 review here.
As rumor had indicated, the second-generation iPad will have an Apple A5 dual-core processor that Apple claims will provide more speed and power while not consuming more power than the original iPad's A4 chip. This will give it faster performance than its predecessor, as well as support for high-definition video out thanks to a new adapter. It will also be thinner and lighter than its predecessor.
But Apple's current tablet already has excellent performance, and is relatively thin and light.
What's Not New
As everyone was expecting, the iPad 2 has a front-facing video camera with FaceTime support, plus a new rear-facing one.
None of the radical predictions about new features panned out -- the screen resolution and size are the same and there's no SD card slot.
In addition, the iPad 2 is gaining support for for Verizon's 3G data network and keeping its AT&T data support.
I stick with what I originally said: there's nothing in the iPad 2 that's going to make the original model obsolete. The only current iPad owners who should be seriously considering an upgrade are ones who really want to do video conferencing.
Currently, the Motorola Xoom Honeycomb tablet is the iPad 2's chief market competition. See how they compare head to head in a Xoom and iPad 2 comparison. Also, check out a detailed look at the iPad 2, including the updates to iOS shipping with Apple's tablet.
Other iPad 2 News
(originally published 1/23)
The Apple iPad 2 is widely expected to be released in April, and there have been a number of unconfirmed reports supposedly revealing the new features in this model. While all of the changes I've read about will be welcome, I don't expect them to be dramatic improvements.
Reports supposedly coming from parts suppliers say that Apple's next tablet is going to have a display with twice the resolution: 2048 × 1536, up from the current 1024 × 768.
There's a great deal of skepticism about these reports, mostly because such a move would significantly increase the cost of this product. Personally, I can't really see any need. A screen with twice the resolution as the iPad would be "gilding the lily" -- that is, making something that's already great unnecessarily better.
SD Card Slot and Video-Out Port
People who claim to have already gotten their hands on an outer casing for the iPad 2 say that it has a number of new openings...openings that are for an SD card slot and a video-out port. I'm willing to believe that the iPad 2 is going to to have these, but I don't think they are going to be as significant as they might appear at first blush.
You can already get adapters that let the original iPad use SD cards and connect to external monitors. It seems likely to me that Apple is just building these directly into the next version.
I don't believe that Apple's next tablet is going to give users full access to an SD card for storing any types of files -- instead, the slot will simply make it easier for users to transfer their photos from their card onto their tablet.
As it stands now, the video-out adapter has generally been a disappointment because it is supported by so few apps. Here's hoping Apple will bring more functionality to this in future versions of the iOS, but I'm not holding my breath.
There have been a number of unconfirmed reports indicating that Apple is going to use a dual-core processor in its future mobile devices. This includes the iPad 2 as well as the iPhone 5.
This would significantly increase the speed of the iPad...if it really needed it. This tablet already does everything almost instantaneously. In the short term, this is going to be another example of gilding the lily.
In the long long term, however, owners of this model are sure to be pleased with this chip. Each new version of the iOS has required more horsepower to run than the last. This generally means that last years' model has been fine, but performance on the device from two years ago can be a bit marginal. So iPad 2 owners are going to be happy to have that dual-core processor when iOS 7 comes out in 2013.
Dual Cameras and FaceTime
The iPad 2 is going to debut running iOS 4.3, an operating system that's already available to developers in beta form. This beta has made it clear that there are going to be camera and FaceTime apps in the iPad version, which means that Apple's next tablet is going to have front- and rear-facing cameras.
We've finally reached a feature that I undoubtedly feel is going to be a real enhancement. Since Skype began supporting the iOS, video conferencing has become a useful tool on the iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4. The same will be true on the iPad 2.
Better Support for Verizon
In addition to getting the iPhone, there's also going to be a version of Apple's tablet that supports Verizon's cellular-wireless data network.
This is good news for current customers of this carrier. Heck, it's good news for everyone who is considering an iPad. Verizon has the most widespread network in the U.S. It gives great service to everywhere I've ever been, even in some fairly remote locations. It's certainly not the cheapest, but it's there when you need it.
Should You Upgrade? No
Based on what we know right now, the enhancements in the upcoming iPad 2 aren't going to be enough to make it worthwhile to put down another $500 or more for the latest model if you're happy with the current one.
I'm sure a bunch of "early adopter" types who simply must have the latest and greatest will eBay their iPad and get the new one, but the average user won't.
Of course, there are always exceptions. If you really want to start doing video conferencing with your family or co-workers, or absolutely need a version that supports Verizon's data network, then there's an upgrade in your near future.
But for most current iPad users, you should save your money until next year and buy the iPad 3, which will really be noticeably better.
Should You Wait? Yes
At this point, I wouldn't recommend anyone buy an iPad today. The new model is just a couple of months away -- we're expecting a launch in early April, and it's worth waiting that short amount of time for. The faster processor makes it worth the wait.
It's likely that the current iPad will start to become noticeably out-of-date by next year, while the iPad 2 probably won't reach that point until 2013.
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