I don't exactly remember when I stopped using the iPad, but it wasn't without me trying to use it. We reviewed the WiFi version on AnandTech last year but it was the AT&T 3G version that I ended up using most of the time. For short trips around NC I'd carry it with me. It was the perfect car companion. Smaller and lighter than a notebook but functional enough to get me through any short trip. I tried carrying it to lunch and meetings around town but for the most part it wasn't portable enough for that to make sense. A smartphone was a far better companion.

For several trips around the country I remember trying to take just the iPad, but I always needed to work on an article or publish something extensive while I was gone. For months I boarded every plane with the intention of bringing only the iPad but I always ended up bringing a notebook as well. Even when I went on vacation last year I had to finish a review and ended up bringing a notebook just for three days of use. Eventually I just gave up completely and left the iPad at home. As I mentioned in our review of the first iPad last year, this is a device that augments your existing setup - it replaces nothing. You'll still need a computer of some sort and you'll still need a phone, you just get to have another device that's more convenient than both of those occasionally.

These days my iPad sits docked at my desk doing nothing more than charging and receiving updates. Yet every time I'm at an airport I look around and see tons of passengers with their iPads. It's the new ThinkPad. I see it everywhere and people seem to be happy with it. In fact, last quarter 17% of Apple's total revenue came from iPad sales.

AAPL Revenue Sources - Q1 2011
  iPad iPhone iPod Mac iTunes Store Software/Services Peripherals
Percentage 17.2% 39.1% 12.8% 20.3% 5.4% 2.9% 2.2%

Clearly there are some users who love tablets and can use them on a regular basis, I'm just apparently not one of them. That's not to say that I don't like the iPad, in fact there are a number of things I still love about it. In our original iPad review I wrote about the more relaxed computing experience the iPad offers for those of us who work at a computer during the day. It's fun to just sit on a couch and surf the web on a tablet. It's easier to show your friends web pages and videos on the iPad than it is on a notebook. You can pass a tablet around like a pad of paper while a notebook is far more clunky. The overall experience is just so much more intimate. In using the iPad, Xoom and iPad 2 for this review I even found myself missing parts of the experience that I'd forgotten about. Overall my stance hadn't changed. While I enjoy using a tablet and find it to be a more relaxed way of computing, it's the lack of performance, still not quite perfect ergonomics, the clunky multitasking UI and the lack of a convenient physical input devices that keep the iPad from being a part of my daily life. Don't get me wrong, I do believe there's clearly a future for tablets - the present day sales alone are proof of that. It's just that I believe tablets are on an evolutionary course towards perfection.

I'm currently typing this paragraph on an iPad 2 connected via HDMI to a Dell 24" display. If I wanted to I could even push the iPad to the side and use a bluetooth keyboard. This thing could easily replace a mainstream PC, it's just missing a few features.

There's no support for Flash. Like it or not Flash support is still an important part of the overall PC experience. Eventually Apple will either cave, become irrelevant or HTML5 will replace Flash entirely on the web. One way or another, this problem gets solved.

Multitasking is a pain. When the iPad first debuted there was no hope for multitasking, but now with the feature it's still far from magical. I need to tap the home button twice to bring up a task switcher, then tap or swipe/type before getting to the application I'm trying to switch to. There's no alt+tab (or cmd+tab) and no immediately visible task/dock bar of my currently running apps. Copying data between apps is a pain as I can't physically look at two things at once, there's just constant switching required to get things done. When I get a new email on the iPad I have to stop what I'm doing, go read the email and then switch back to what I was doing. The same goes for if I need to respond to an IM quickly while writing in Pages. With apps only running full screen and no support for windows, using a tablet can often times seriously reduce productivity. These are solvable problems. Apple and Microsoft figured out how to do it on the desktop after all, but we're just not there yet with tablets.

Alongside multitasking is the performance problem. With the original iPad even deleting several emails at a time was a bit choppy, and web page rendering performance needed tons of work. As always Apple does its best to hide the limitations of the platform but I must point out that even the iPad 2 with a pair of ARM Cortex A9s has lower CPU performance than a netbook with a single core Atom. The fact that you can't really tell most of the time is a testament to Apple's software engineering, but it doesn't change reality.

Ergonomics aren't perfect either. Brian Klug actually helped me realize this next point but the iPad and other tablets aren't great on-the-go devices. Tablets work very well when you're stationary but if you're up and about, moving around, a smartphone is a much better fit. Even when you're stationary there are issues. You have to be in the right physical position to comfortably use a tablet. Simply plopping it down on your lap like you would a notebook won't always work.

There's also the idea of synergy among devices. Even if you play within the Apple universe and own a Mac, an iPhone and an iPad, there's no magical way of sharing data and applications between them. I should be able to work on my Mac, step away and have my apps/data come with me. Your best bet is something like Dropbox but that's no where near the type of cohesive solution I'm talking about. Think HP's webOS touch-to-share but on steroids and you're on the right track.

The list goes on and on. If you've ever spent sufficient time with a tablet you'll quickly be able to add to this list. The tablet is still in its infancy as a computing device and as successful as the iPad may be, it still has a long road ahead before it's anywhere near perfect. Just the items I've mentioned above are too much to address with a single product update, but remember that revolution comes about via constant evolution.


Apple iPad 2 (left), Apple iPad (right)

Meet the iPad 2.

The iPad 2
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  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    If that is true then why not focus on that? I still have yet to read anything on anandtech about remote desktop on a tablet. How powerful does a tablet need to be to stream 1-2 mbps compressed images of my desktop over wifi? I can skin my desktop to make it look more like a mobile OS. Touch commands can be fairly easily emulated and transposed into mouse commands. Audio doesnt require much bandwidth. Only video would present a problem, but even then it really doesnt take all that much hardware to play a video. Yet all I see are horrible implementations of remote desktop. Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    i remember reading here at AT that the Nokia N8 could be used to drive an HDMI display and hooked to an keyboard/mouse, to "simulate" a pc-like experience . and now the Ipad2 does the same thing, but 1 year later.

    IMHO all that apple does is beautifull, but they charge the price for the "beautifullness" of their products.

    well, I just want a tablet/smartphone that works, so I will wait until these prices drop... until then I will live with my Htc HD (1st gen.. ugly!)
    Reply
  • Watwatwat - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    almost feels like i learned something:D Reply
  • Jayman30 - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    Maybe the iPad doesnt fit into a busy techbloggers "workflow" but as a consumer device it's an incredible gadget. My ipad 1 is used daily and has never sat on a shelf unused for more than a few hours. I reach for it first instead of my iPhone or clunky Gateway laptop for 90% of my daily computing needs. It has incredible performance, portability, battery life, and overall utility.

    I can buy & read books, download and play great games, movies and music quickly and easily. Great Email and web surfing are just icing on the cake! Works great for me!

    FYI. iPad 1 costs $399 now.
    Reply
  • cotak - Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - link

    I am with the staff at anand. I use an iPhone 4. It's nice fo getting a little reading of news etc done. And I have looked at the iPad and I have consider getting one. And likely I will have one but not for myself. It'll be too limiting for me to use. For my fiancee though it's perfect since on a regular week she can go 5 6 days without powering up her computer.

    So is there s market for tablets? Maybe but I don't think it's big as various peope like to think it could be. And the fall out from that might be pretty big. Nvidia's betting on it, moto has only recently make it back into the black, and rim seems to have concentrated on the playbook over improving their last series of phone release. So maybe some of these players might not be be best stocks to hold for the medium term...

    Anyhow tablets are useful for light use. But for people who use their devices/technology enought to justify spending regularly on technology, it might be too small and too slow. And really isn't the repeat buyer the important one I the market? My fiancee could get a iPad 1 and happly use it for the next 6 years without considering buying a new one. If people like that are the market, it's not going to be as big as some people in wall street seems to think.
    Reply
  • vshin - Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - link

    The one thing I'm surprised that isn't getting as much coverage is that small text is actually harder to read on the Ipad 2 than on the Ipad 1. Some folks chalk this up to being "spoiled" by the Iphone 4's retina display but it's actually because Ipad 2 implements heavy use of anti-aliasing, which can't be configured or turned off. I find my eyes tiring very easily as I browse the web or read on iBook in portrait mode. Reply
  • speedkills - Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - link

    I noticed over and over in the review people came back to the point that the current app switching functionality is a very poor user experience. It's too bad Apple isn't enabling the multi-touch gestures for multi-tasking by default as they work very well and while they are not for general release it would be nice to see Anandtech weigh on them to see if they feel they should be included in iOS 5 or if they feel a better implementation is needed.

    Personally both my girlfriend and I have been using them and absolutely loving them. A four finger swipe up shows the multi-tasking bar instead of having to use the double-tap but 95% of the time a simple four finger swipe left or right is sufficient swapping between your most recently used apps. It makes it very easy to do something like copy a bit of text out of a web page, swipe over to Evernote and make a note, then swipe back to Safari and continue surfing.

    It's really too bad Apple chose to hide them by default (my guess is they want to save them for the iPhone release to make iOS 5 look like a bigger jump in functionality) because they are a great and much needed addition to the iPad 2.
    Reply
  • Mac Ike - Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - link

    First of all this was great and extensive review,thank you very much! I have used Windows computers everyday at Work since Windows 3.1,I enjoy all Computers,but Macs are more stable more elegant,easier-to-use,and hold their value longer! I'm not trying to make Windows-users/lovers change to my preferences. I have not purchased an ipad yet,even though I can see many uses for it,and enjoy using iPads. I want ALL OF THE POWER I could possibly need with me,at all times,so I carry my 17-inch MacBook Pro for those times; when not practical I carry my iphone 4. Serious workloads might send me to my imac,it deprnds on ehere I am and what i need to do or what I can do in the environment that I'm in.
    Since I enjoyed the ipad 1,it only stands to reason that I would enjoy ipad 2,because the speed increase,cameras,weight-reduction,...can only enhance the experience! I am always amazed by the rude,idiotic,self-centered opinions and insults expressed on these Forums! If YOU don't want or need an ipad (or iPhone/Mac),then buy what YOU like! Why insult someone else,for THEIR DECISIONS or PURCHASES?? it's almost always a cheaper or alternative choices you can make. I give less than a Damn if you like another brand more,or feel that Apple's prices are too high!! If you want a cheaper computer,don't need a tablet,can't see the value of design/workmanship/elegance of OS &Hardware,hardware-software integration,good,buy your low-priced,cheap shit,and leave the rest of us alone,so that we can enjoy what WE LIKE! I don't ask any Apple-Haters or Fence-Sitters to purchase my products for me,so it's just amazing how people feel that you're an Apple-Fan Boy or Girl if you prefer Apple products! If I want a $60,000 Car,and you feel it's worth it(V-8 or not),and you can get a car for $20,000,why should your choice determine mine?? If you Windows-trolls don't like Apple-gear,why come to Apple-topics to complain about SOMEONE ELSE's choices?? Rude,immature,and Stupid!
    Reply
  • rice2999 - Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - link

    Dear anand

    There is nothing about screen brightness setting to go with the battery life testing. Did you use 50% default brightness? Xoom screen is dimmer than ipad/ipad2. Though it can be argued, it is not exactly fair to compare battery life while the screen is on different brightness, since screen is probably the one uses the most battery.

    I forget where I saw it, someone else actually used a meter to measure the brightness and adjusted the brightness to the same before testing the battery life.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - link

    Every editor said what I've been saying all along about tablets - they are coolz toyz, but when people start trying to use them, they will find they aren't as handy as either a laptop or a smartphone and they'll be returned or be gathering dust somewhere. Except for niche uses, such as book readers and possibly media device controllers in the home, something like that, tablets are a fad - in my opinion, of course.

    That being said, they do have innovative technologies I think notebook manufacturers should pay strong attention to and add to their products (netbooks and notebooks). There are things the netbook/notebook can do a tablet's form factor prohibits (add a keyboard to a tablet and it really isn't a tablet any more now, is it?), but there is no reason the notebook should lack any feature a tablet has (except to save money on very low-priced budget models).

    As to this thing having enough power to replace a "mainstream" computer if attached to a monitor and keyboard - right. I'll run out right now and buy one to play World of Warcraft on - or isn't that "mainstream" enough for you?

    Won't be long now and a device this size will be able to replace what we consider to be a power-house PC these days - but then what will the power-house PC build be like then?

    ;)
    Reply

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