Today, Steve Jobs took a sabbatical from his sabbatical to hop up on stage and tell us all about the iPad 2, the next revision of Apple’s wildly popular tablet PC.

The announcement concerned both hardware and software – the iPad 2 is coming to the US on March 11, and with it will come the iOS 4.3 update, iMovie for iPad, and GarageBand for iPad. It will launch at the same capacities and price points as its predecessor, will come in both black and white, and launches internationally on March 25.

The iPad 2 - More of the Same

The iPad has had, for all intents and purposes, the tablet market to itself for most of the past year. That’s all set to change in 2011, based on the plethora of Android and Windows tablets we saw at CES, so the iPad 2 must be not only a solid extension of the original product’s strengths, but also a worthy competitor to the first wave of products from Google, Microsoft and the rest.

For convenience’s sake, I’ll be comparing the new iPad’s specs to both the old iPad and to the Motorola Xoom, which we reviewed last week. While the Xoom certainly doesn’t represent all of the Android/Honeycomb tablets that will come to market in the next few months, it does represent Google’s reference design for Honeycomb, and as such I feel safe considering it the standard (or perhaps the ideal) hardware configuration for Google’s new tablet OS.

Tablet Specs
  iPad iPad 2 Motorola Xoom
Processor 1GHz Apple A4 1GHz Apple A5 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2
Memory 256MB Unknown 1GB
Storage 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB 32GB + microSD card
Display 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 10.1-inch 1280 x 800
Dimensions 242.8mm x 189.7mm x 13.4mm 241.2mm x 185.7 mm x 8.8 mm 249.1mm x 167.8mm x 12.9mm
Weight

1.6 lbs (3G model)

1.5 lbs (wi-fi model)

1.34 lbs (3G model)

1.33 lbs (wi-fi model) 

1.6 lbs

Apple took this opportunity to move from the Apple A4 processor it used in the iPhone 4 and original iPad, which combined a Cortex-A8 processor with a PowerVR SGX 535 GPU. The A4 is very closely related to the processors used in the iPhone 3GS, so that should give you a frame of reference for how long we've been waiting for a true architecture bump.

The new A5 processor is a dual-core affair running at the same speed as the A4 in the original iPad. Just as Apple was coy about mentioning the A4 being powered by an ARM Cortex A8, it's quite possible that the A5 is powered by two ARM Cortex A9 cores. Thankfully, the increased performance doesn't come at the cost of decreased battery life - the iPad 2 is rated at about 10 hours of battery life, same as the original iPad.

The new iPad's graphical capabilities should be impressive, though; Apple claims that it is up to nine times as fast as the original iPad. The improvement in GPU performance is likely due to the rumored PowerVR SGX 543 that's inside the A5. We'll need to wait until we have the device in hand to separate the actual speed from the on-paper speed, but if this claim holds up we should be seeing games and apps that look an order of magnitude better on the new iPad.

System memory is also a bit of a wildcard at this point, and my best guess varies based on the precedent I use. The original iPad has 256MB of system memory, which was the same amount as the then-current iPhone 3GS. If Apple follows this pattern, then the new iPad should have the 512MB of system memory that the iPhone 4 has. However, if Apple is more interested in staying abreast of Android, the new iPad will have the 1GB of system memory encapsulated in the Xoom. Either way, we'll probably need to wait until we have the device in hand to figure this out, since it isn't mentioned on Apple's otherwise exhaustive spec sheet.

The iPad 2 comes in both wi-fi only and 3G flavors - separate 3G iPads will be available on both the Verizon and AT&T networks from day one. It remains to be seen whether the iPhone 5 will be a universally compatible device, but based on the iPad 2 the next iPhone may continue to come in two slightly different flavors. Just as before, Assisted-GPS is only available on the 3G versions of the iPad 2.

Moving from the inside to the outside, the new iPad also receives the front (VGA) and rear-mounted (720p) FaceTime cameras that have become nearly ubiquitous in Apple’s products since FaceTime’s introduction in the iPhone 4 - the original iPad had a space inside the case where a camera would fit, but manufacturing troubles led the company to leave the camera out.

Apple delivers all of this new stuff in a package that is slighlty lighter and significantly thinner than the previous iPad at the same price points, which I don't think anyone can complain about, and it comes in both black and white varieties.

Moving into the Land of Accessories, Apple showcased two things today. The first was a new case design for the tablet - using magnets built into both the iPad's chassis and the case's hinge, it manages to protect the device's screen and serve as a stand without adding a lot of additonal bulk to the tablet.

 

The previous iPad case was a foamy, bulky thing that made the tablet more unwieldy while also restricting access to its data port and obscuring its pretty exterior. The new case looks to protect the tablet's most vulnerable asset while also maintaining the device's aesthetics. The new cases will run $39 for a polyurethane cover, and $69 for a leather cover.

Also demoed was an HDMI adapter, which promises to output any app at 1080p resolutions with a minimum of setup and fuss. You'll pay $39 for the privilege - it's up to you to decide whether this is useful to you.

The Software - iOS 4.3, iMovie, and GarageBand
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  • akula2 - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    It doesn't matter whether iPad was the first tablet or not. And, Apple doesn't claim it. Thing is, iPad has *shattered* the market by launching iPad product. The actual tablets starting to flood into the markets in huge volumes, it never happened earlier. Naturally, most of big players quickly woke up and started pumping out their tablet versions. Ultimately, the credit goes to Apple for bringing such a revolution in the market as well as for the evolution of a tablet which not only scaling great heights but also cannibalizing the Laptop and PC markets! Do you agree or not? Reply
  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    I do not agree on the point about laptop and pc markets, as I don't really know anybody who actually believes a giant iPod Touch is a PC replacement. The only recent Tablets that could be considered a that would be the Panasonic Rugged Tablets or the Asus Eee Slate. But yes I do agree that it was Apple's doing that caused the other companies to realize that the common people will gladly have a MID for casual Media Consumption as well as everything else a tablet was already used for. Now they are breaking out their long-awaited plans for their own devices and putting them on the market a little earlier than they expected. Reply
  • Stas - Friday, March 04, 2011 - link

    I think it's all PR, really. Before the pad, there were good devices out like Archos portable media players. They had different apps, browser, wifi, etc. But did you ever see an ad for one? Forget TV or street billboards, how about newspapers, magazines, even Internet? I've been following them since version 4, yet I've never seen an ad for the device. If they had better sales, they could've invested more into R&D and made something like the current tablets. Anything Apple makes gets a lot of hype. That's why they could sell a turd for ridiculous money and make people feel like they just made the best investment in their lives. Reply
  • owen_x_10 - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    I agree with you.
    there maybe other tablets around but they weren't able to properly sell it or at least never had a good idea how to tell people all its uses. Apple is good with it in all their products.

    There maybe tables even before, but people ignore them. Look at it now, everyone wants to own one.

    People are so used to tablets now because its everywhere, so with the announcement of iPad 2, it's like normal to them. And I think the reason why there's no WOW factor anymore is because Apple kinda lowered the energy in their announcement since they are aware that iPad isnt a new device anymore and nothing to give audience a WOW. Probably if they release a new product, like a game console or something else, they will make the keynote a big event again like that when iPhone was first introduced.
    Reply
  • mason.s - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    "Forcing your own expectations onto a device is just wishful thinking."

    What a silly thing to say. The market is driven by customer expectations.
    Reply
  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    +1 Reply
  • tim851 - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    // In case you haven't figured it out, it finally has features we expected from a tablet since day one. //

    Who is we?
    Given the outrageous (and to me still incomprehensible) success of the iPad, a large number of people didn't expect a whole lot more than it offered.
    Reply
  • adam75 - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    Good grief. It's a handheld computer, and apple made it easier to hold. You can argue that making an iMac thinner is pointless, but to miss the "logic" of making the iPad thinner and lighter... wow. Just, wow. Reply
  • RHurst - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    I agree. I mean, have you seen the iPad internals? The thing is tight and clean. Make it 33% thinner, lighter. Easy? Perhaps, but I think it's impressive.

    Watch the netbooks, even expensive notebooks. When was the last time they became significantly thinner and lighter with the same battery capacity? I see the Acer One, same thing for years, even when it's changing inside.

    That means redesign, in my book. A complete redesign. I like that kind of care, I value that. More power, same batttery, thinner.
    Reply
  • djgandy - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    This is the sad thing about the PC market. I know the manufacturing is outsourced to China, but it seems that even the design is now too. Hundreds of dull cheaply produced case designs, nothing that costs that $20 more.

    A 11-12" laptop should be easy to produce thinly. It doesn't even need to have a dvd drive these days.

    A board, a 1.8" hard drive, a CPU, some ram. Why do I need a 15" chassis to hold all of that?

    Notebook manufacturers lost sight years ago. They keep packing bigger hard drives, stupid amounts of ram and expensive blu ray drives that push up the price and have little functionality.

    Then came net books, the underpowered undersized solution. Now we have tablets at the right size. When are the notebook makers going to realise that people want 10-12" laptops, and they are not fussed about quad core processors?
    Reply

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