The second generation iPad went on sale earlier today, to much fanfare and long, long lines. We're hard at work on our full review of Apple's second generation tablet but there were a few things we wanted to chime in on before too much time passed.

The iPad 2 is a very logical update to the original iPad. The hardware gets an upgrade, with revised industrial design, a slimmer chassis, and Apple's new A5 SoC inside. A5 brings along two Cortex A9 cores, a dual core version of PowerVR's SGX543 graphics chip, and 512MB of memory. Software stays mostly the same but gets some tweaks; the iPad 2 ships with iOS 4.3, which was released earlier this week as an update for the iPhone 4 and original iPad.

The industrial design has changed pretty significantly, from the convex curvature of the original iPad's back to the flat back of the new iPad. Starting with the iPhone 4, Apple has been moving away from the continuous curvature that dominated their handhelds two or three years ago (think iPhone 3G/3G-S, iPod touch 2G/3G, and the 4G/5G iPod nano) and more towards a flatter and more rectangular design language across the board. The iPhone 4 is the only one that's really angular, but the 4th generation iPod touch debuted the same flatness with more ergonomically friendly curves. The iPad 2 basically carries the iPod touch 4G design language on a larger scale.

The iPad 2 is slightly lighter but easier to hold than the previous generation. Laying in bed and reading is probably where the difference becomes most apparent. The gentle curvature running around the edge makes the in-hand feel surprisingly different, as does the considerably thinner profile. I'm actually shocked at how dramatic the difference is.

The downside to the very large radius curvature on the outside is that the dock connector is now awkwardly exposed. It's very similar to how the iPod Touch looks, with about 2 mm of exposed connector visible viewed from the back.

The previous generation dock connector was the subject of constant criticism for being way too tight. Apple has over-corrected with the iPad 2 and now the dock connector is too loose. Just browsing the Apple store, I noted several units whose dock connectors appeared plugged in, but had come just loose enough to not charge.

When connecting 30-pin dock cables, there's not too much resistance holding the cable in place, and the port itself is difficult to locate without flipping the thing over or viewing it from below.

Another welcome change - the return of the white iDevice. After the no-show that was the white iPhone 4, I was pleased to see Apple ship the white-bezeled iPad 2 on time with no production hitches. I was also wrong about how good white would look. Instead of being overwhelming or busy, the white bezel actually has one notable advantage over black - it doesn't show fingerprints or dust. That alone was what constantly drove me crazy about the previous generation - it always looked dirty. Shockingly, white seems to actually make sense.

 

Other hardware chances are the addition of front and rear facing cameras for FaceTime and taking pictures, but unfortunately, they seem to be pieces lifted from the iPod touch and nothing near the iPhone 4's 5 megapixel shooter. We'll talk about what this means for picture quality overall later on in the preview. The switch on the side can now be configured to either be a device silencer or a rotation lock switch, and there is now a large speaker on the bottom right corner of the device.

Overall, the new design really works - the iPad 2 feels good in hand, and instantly makes its predecessor feel a little clunky. But we didn't just pause our testing to talk about design, there's a lot under the hood of the iPad 2 that demands attention.

The CPU: A Dual-Core ARM Cortex A9
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  • Griswold - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKPL9CnQVG8&fea...

    There are reports of light bleeding through the edges of the ipad2. See video above.

    Would be cool if you look into this and get to the bottom of it. I dont want to buy one if its a serial flaw.
    Reply
  • sean.crees - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    I really don't understand the complaints with the camera's. You're never going to get "good" quality photo's from a form factor that flat. Physics just doesn't allow for it with current technology. If your getting a tablet for the camera then your an idiot.

    It's obvious the only reason the cameras exist at all is for facetime, which they seem perfectly fitted to work with. If you want to take pictures, then buy a DSLR.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Thats nonsense. The iphone4 (and many other smartphones) prove that its possible to produce good quality pictures. Good is not professional level, mind you.

    However, even if the pictures the iphone4 shoots are not "good" by your standards, there is no reason to sell junk cameras like this in the ipod touch and ipad2 only to come back later this year / next year with a new model that "magically" is capable of doing much better - there is not the slightest doubt it will pan out this way.

    They do this on purpose. Thats the beef people have with it.

    But yea, I would never use my ipad to take pictures, I use my iphone for it, or my dedicated camera if I have it on me. But Facetime with something better than VGA or a backside shooter with more than a one megapixels isnt too much to ask... again, the issue here is not primarily the lense (though, that will suck too).
    Reply
  • solipsism - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    The iPhone 4 dimensions are thicker than the iPad 2 and the display on the iPhone 4 are fused in a way that make it thinner. That isn’t to say there is not enough height in the iPad 2 where the cameras are located, but your assumption, in and of itself, is flawed as you did not consider that actual internal room in your presumption. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Okay, so because Apple decided to make the iPad2 so thin they couldn't even put a halfway decent camera into it, we shouldn't complain? This is exactly why I personally do not want an Apple product (although the iPhone4 does have a great display I miss that on some android phones):
    with Apple, function follows form, they decided to make the iPad2 thinner (was there a call from the Apple community that the iPad is too thick?), but in return they couldn't (if what you say is true) fit a decent camera into the thing. And the (potential) customer is supposed to shut up about that and not complain.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    The complaint was that the original iPad wasn't comfortable to hold for longer periods of time. Making it thinner, lighter, and curvier was a move to address this.

    Quoting Anand:
    "The iPad 2 is slightly lighter but easier to hold than the previous generation. Laying in bed and reading is probably where the difference becomes most apparent. The gentle curvature running around the edge makes the in-hand feel surprisingly different, as does the considerably thinner profile. I'm actually shocked at how dramatic the difference is."

    Yes apparently a compromise had to be made. No doubt Apple actually considers that they optimized on the side of function. ie. the thinner iPad 2 actually functions as an ebook reader now that it's comfortable to hold. Given the typical use case for the iPad will be holding and reading something rather than taking high-quality still pictures, this is probably the best choice for the majority of users.
    Reply
  • Juzcallmeneo - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Retina is nice..better than an old LCD. Nothing close to as beautiful as Samsung's Super AMOLED (Plus).

    I see many people trying to make excuses for the cheap plastic Apple tries to call a camera..but there is no real excuse except that it's just another part of their money making strategies. I know that these devices will never come close to my 7D, but it could at least be slightly better than almost worthless. IMO with cameras this cheap they might as well have not put any on.

    I feel that if Nokia can have at least a decent quality camera in a phone several months ago then it should be easy to replicate. (Nokia N8)

    The thinness is definitely better for holding, it just scares me how flimsy it might be.
    Reply
  • Seurahepo - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    > Nothing close to as beautiful as Samsung's Super AMOLED (Plus)

    I'm a bit puzzled. The Samsung phones I have seen have mostly been disappointing when it comes to the screen quality. The image is fuzzy and it seems almost like there is a template in between the screen and the glass, generating a strange patterns. I assume this to be because of the pentile layout, but I cannot be sure.

    Maybe the effect goes away with higher PPI, but currently I can just say that PPI of a traditional RGB layout is not directly comparable to PPI of a Pentile RG BG, which Samsung seems to be using.

    > if Nokia can have at least a decent quality camera in a phone several months ago then it should be easy to replicate. (Nokia N8)

    Nokia N8 does have a decent camera. The thickness of the camera module of N8 is about double of iPad 2. In optics thickness really matters.

    So yeah, it would be easy to replicate by doubling the thickness of the iPad 2 at least where the camera module is. But I fail to see the reasoning. Does iPad 2 really need that to be a good product?

    The raison d'être of N8 is to be a phone with real pocket camera like quality, that is not what iPad2 is about, far from it. Therefore it would be quite foolish to try to optimize the camera.

    I agree the cameras could be better, but the fantasy about N8 (or even iPhone 4) quality camera for the iPad 2 is a bit crazy.
    Reply
  • NCM - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Death666Angel (!) writes:
    "Okay, so because Apple decided to make the iPad2 so thin they couldn't even put a halfway decent camera into it, we shouldn't complain? This is exactly why I personally do not want an Apple product..."

    Surely even a moment's reflection would make obvious that a 10" class tablet is wildly unsuited by its form factor for anything but desperation photography. The iPad 2's camera is there for FaceTime video, with still photography enabled only because they can.

    Contrast this with the iPhone 4, which is very usable for photography has a surprisingly capable camera.
    Reply
  • rish95 - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Well on paper the dual core SGX543MP2 graphics processor is about twice as fast as the Tegra 2's GeForce ULV. I'd like to see how that plays out in real life. I'm worried that iOS's 60 FPS cap may skew the results of some less intensive tests.

    And since the iPad's screen res is lower than the Xoom, you can expect an even bigger margin.
    Reply

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