Review: iPad 2

It appears that by all measures the iPad 2 launch was a success! iPad 2 officially went on sale in stores at 5PM local time on Friday, March 11, 2011. Online ordering opened up at 4AM ET the same day. When I woke up around 7AM and placed an order, my delivery time was set at 5-7 days. Apparently I missed the window of 3-5 days earlier in the morning. About an hour later the wait time went to 1-2 weeks for new orders and currently sits at 3-4 weeks for any new orders. This translates to Apple is selling iPad 2s as fast as they can build them and new orders will see a 3-4 week wait time. Placing an online order first thing in the morning for many served as a backup plan in case they didn't get one that evening locally.

Luckily, I was able to snag two at my local Apple Store. I got the 64GB black Wi-Fi+3G and the 32GB white Wi-Fi+3G (both on AT&T). I think the thing that surprised me the most was that even though there was a long line at most Apple stores throughout the US, Apple employees were still taking the time to offer a "personal" setup and walkthrough of the device. For many waiting in line, this meant that it was going to be a long night.


First Impressions

When I picked up the original iPad out of the box, my first reaction was "it's heavy". It was heavier than I expected it to be and I knew from that moment that it would not be comfortable for one handed reading for long periods of time. When I picked up the iPad 2 out of the box my initial reaction was "wow, it is lighter." On paper the iPad 2 is not that much lighter at all (1.34 lbs vs. 1.6 lbs). However, it is noticably lighter in reality. I still think it's probably too heavy for long periods of one-handed reading and the Kindle wins in that scenario big time, but for those of you who wished the iPad were lighter to hold and use, I'm happy to report that it is. Also with the new flatter back and rounded edges it's just more comfortable to hold in general. 

While I know that it now has a dual processor A5 chip and significantly faster graphics, I haven't actually felt the effects yet. This is largely due to the fact that I never felt that the original iPad was slow. The iPad 2 is fast and Apps open quickly and graphics display beautifully and fast. Again, I haven't been wowed by the speed increase though. I also have always said that we quickly assimilate speed. You don't really realize how much faster something is until you go back to something that was slow. So perhaps if I spent a day back on my "old" iPad I would notice it more.


Smart Covers

I opted for the red and black leather Smart Covers as well as an Orange polyurethane Smart Cover. I know that it's the little things in life that really matter sometimes and this is one of those times. During the keynote and introduction of the iPad 2, the thing that I was most excited about was actually the NEW cover. Don't get me wrong, I've wanted the cameras since day one, but we all knew that the cameras were coming. What we didn't see coming was the new Smart Cover design. Although I have a few different cases for the iPad 1, I was never really in love with any of them. I liked the Apple case the least, which is what lead me to buy the other two in the first place. I liked the Macally Bookstand Case (the one I used the most) and Incase Convertible Book Jacket, but while the Macally case was nice and thin, it never felt stiff enough and while the Incase offered the most support for standing it was too thick. So I alternated between them constantly.

The Smart Case is perfect for me! It keeps the iPad 2 nice and thin for travel. It attaches and detaches in a second. Also it's integrated in that opening the cover turns the iPad 2 on and closing it turns the iPad 2 off. By not covering the back it also makes it very easy to use with accessories such as docks and keyboards. 

Custom Gelaskin on the back of my original iPad WiFi+3G

Gelaskin has your back – the obvious downside to the Smart Cover is that it leaves the back completely exposed. I'm not too worried about it because like with the original iPad, I'll be putting a Custom Gelaskin on the back of the iPad 2 (as soon as the iPad 2 template is available for custom ordering). The skin protects from scratches while keeping the iPad 2 nice and thin.


Cameras and FaceTime

I was stunned that the original iPad didn't include cameras. Like I said back then, I'm not looking for an iPad to replace my camera from a photography standpoint, I'm looking for the iPad to have cameras more from a App standpoint. There are several Apps that would have been even better on the iPad if the iPad had built-in cameras. FileMaker Go for iPad comes to mind as well as Bento for iPad. These database Apps will now be able to benefit from the rear camera on the iPad in an inventory taking/cataloging scenario.  Also Apps that scan barcodes or just scan in general will now be able to run from the iPad 2's built-in camera. Many of these Apps will need updates to drive the cameras directly. However, almost all of them currently allow you to grab images from the camera roll. This means that you can use the built-in camera app today and get going.

Video conferencing/FaceTime is a natural on the iPad 2. The nice big display on the iPad looks great while doing FaceTime calls. I'm looking forward to an iPad 2 version of Skype now. While FaceTime is great, the "WiFi Only" limitation is really getting old. One other point to consider is that large size of the iPad 2 compared to say an iPhone 4 makes placement for FaceTime calls even more challenging. It's too heavy to hold straight out for long periods of time and sitting with it in your lap or on a table gives you that lovely up the nose look. Also I found that doing FaceTime in landscape mode was kinda distracting from an eye contact perspective as the camera is on one far end of the device at that point and you have a tendency to look at the person in the middle of the display. Ideally even in portrait mode you'd want the iPad camera at about forehead level for a more straight on look. I wonder how long it will take before we see elevated FaceTime stands for iPad 2. A Gorillapod mount would probably do the trick. FaceTime works between iPad 2, iPhone 4, iPod touch 4th generation and Mac OS. When using FaceTime on anything other than an iPhone 4 your FaceTime number is your FaceTime "registered" email address.

iPad 2 will record video at 720p HD 30 frames per second. I'm sure will see tripod mounts coming soon šŸ™‚

If you're thinking that you'll use the iPad 2 as your only camera then you're likely to be disappointed. The camera on the back of the iPad 2 is really not designed for "photography". It's slightly worse than the one on the iPod touch. Also it's a big device to hold while composing your shot. In a pinch if it were all you were holding and it meant missing the moment, by all means fire up the iPad 2 and take the shot. Otherwise, use the camera for your Apps, and low res shots that won't be printed and displayed.


What about Photographers and the Camera Connection Kit

The iPad Camera Connection Kit still functions as it did on the original iPad. However, Apple reduced the power output of the original iPad via an iOS 4 update and the reduction in power still evident in the iPad 2. That means that you won't be connecting USB devices like card readers for reading Compact Flash cards. This will disappoint the pro photographer community that had hopes of importing images from Compact Flash cards into their iPads. This doesn't mean that someone couldn't create a specific device for this purpose. Someone could make a battery operated Compact Flash reader and even put a dock connector on it to plug right into the iPad or at least a USB connector to plug into the Camera Connection Kit. Until then, the MacBook Air makes a better lightweight tool for photographers. Sometimes I wish I were an inventor.


HDMI Out – Yes!

The iPad 2 not only has native support for HDMI out (with the optional HDMI adapter), but it does something that I've been wanting since iPhone 1 in 2007. It allows you to "mirror" the iPad 2's display. This was designed for teachers using iPads in the classroom so that they could connect the iPad 2 to an HD monitor and show the class the Apps that they were teaching from. For me, it will be a great addition for doing live presentations of Apps that I show for work.

Also in theory I'd be able to record iPad 2 demos using a card like this one.

I got the adapter and connected to an Epson HD projector and the display was crisp and responsive. Anything I did on the iPad 2 was shown on the big screen in real-time. No lags, no delays. 

As far as video out to your HDTV, the iPad 2 will connect and send video over via your Apps that support video out. Keep in mind that while the iPad 2 will connect to your 1080p HDTV, it will only display video out at 720p.

The New Speaker – The new speaker grill on the back looks promising. However, in my limited testing it's not sounding any louder or better than the original iPad. I'll have to play more stuff, but so far I'm not impressed with the audio from this speaker.


What about Apps?

I'm not going to spend a lot of times on Apps here because I have a site dedicated to them. However, I will say that I haven't had any problems running my existing Apps.

If you're new to the iPad, check out my App picks:

10 Must Have iPad Apps for the Office

8 Must Have iPad Apps for Photographers

10 Universal iPhone & iPad Apps

10 Must Have iPad Games

10 Must Have iPad Apps – back when the iPad 1 first shipped


Moving over your Unlimited AT&T Plan from your iPad WiFi+3G to your iPad 2 WiFi+3G

AT&T announced that they would allow those of you who were grandfathered in with an unlimited data plan on your original iPad to move that plan over to your New iPad 2. Here's how.


The Bottom Line

While there is nothing in the iPad 2 that is revolutionary (besides the Smart Covers), it's a welcomed update to the original iPad. It has improvements in all the right areas. I do wish that Apple would bend a little when it comes to using the dock adapter/Camera Connection Kit usb adapter for connecting other devices. Clearly it can be done because people were connecting everything from keyboards to card readers to the original iPad before Apple took that option away in the latest iOS updates. Nonetheless, iPad 2 improves on a already revolutionary device and while no single iPad 2 feature would have made me upgrade the sum of all the enhancements made it a no brainer for me.

By keeping the entry price at $499 they have made it that much harder for the competition. The bar has been raised.

32 Replies to “Review: iPad 2”

  1. As a leader of the iPad/iPhone special interest group for the NWoU Mac User group in Chicago, I find the mirroring feature is HUGE and now I can demo any iOS app on a HDMI or VGA display or projector. Yes the VGA cable does allow you to use older projectors if HDMI is not available. Great review Terry!

  2. Great review! Some photography related feedback though.
    I simply connect the USB cable to camera and the iPad USB connector that comes with the camera connection kit and I can transfer photo’s from my Cannon 7D to the iPad. Although being able to read CF cards via a direct CF connector (like the SD connector), will be much appreciated, I’m still happy with using the USB connector. Much more than a card-reader that isn’t powered by USB.
    What disappoints me is the camera quality. It appears as if the photo from the iPad 2 is worse than the iPhone 4. The photo’s you show are framed slightly different so I could be the composition that triggers the colour shift or is that what you’ve seen more generically than just this example?

  3. Great first hand review Terry, I never owned the first iPad, wanted to wait for the expected iPad2 for around the same time I can look to upgrade my iPhone 3GS and skip the first iPhone 4 model (probably/hopefully get both in June after the mass rush).
    Part of the reason is to also use the iPad2 as an addition to my photography gear so maybe someone will invent a battery CF > iPad adapter.
    Hits UK end of March so until then we’ll have to look on enviously whilst they all sell out in US and UK date gets put back! ;o)
    Cheers, Dave

  4. Thanks for your through review, Terry. As a photographer, I am concerned about the statements you are making in the “Camera Connection Kit” section. What do you mean by “reduced power input via iOS4 update?”. Does this mean that we will no longer be able to stick a CF card reader into the Camera Connection kit USB port and effectively download RAW images straight to iPad 2?

    1. That’s exactly what it means. You’ll have to connect the camera directly. Using a CF Card Reader was never officially supported by Apple. The only other alternative is using a CF reader that has it’s own power supply. The iPad’s dock connector no longer provides enough power to run any of the ones I’ve tried and that have worked in the past.

        1. Thanks for the review.
          I bought the IPAD2 thinking I would use it specifically for my images. As with many professional photographers, I take a LOT of pictures. I wanted to use the IPAD as both a backup and a display for the images I just captured. Unfortunately, I find I’m unable to find a CF card reader that is able to work with the IPAD2. It sucks that the recent IOS upgrade turned this ability off.
          I still like the IPAD2, but it doesn’t seem I will be able to do what I expected with it.

          At this point it is an expensive angry birds console.


          1. Connect your cam Straight to the USB Adapter … Works gerat with 5dII!!! šŸ™‚

  5. Madden NFL 11 plays so much better on the iPad 2. No more jerky movements. Other games with lots of graphics play much better.

  6. Sergio,

    When I got my iPad last year, I tested a number of USB CF card readers. Some worked just fine, others didn’t work at all.

    I haven’t found any way to tell in advance whether or not a given model reader will work; I’ve just tested, and for the most part, passed out the ones that didn’t work on the iPad to beginning photographers who could use them, at least to those who don’t also have iPads.

  7. Thanks for the review. I waited in line for 3 hours and got a nice 16GB Black WiFi model with Red Leather Smart Cover. Thanks for the GelaSkins tip as I was looking for something to work in conjunction with the Smart Cover.

    The new iPad is quite impressive, despite not so great cameras, but I don’t think that is all that important to many of us. But what totally blows me away is the GarageBand app. It is so much fun for someone like me without any music talent.

  8. Good review. I was wondering, I’ve been hearing reports that the white iPad has a blueish tinge to the screen. Can you confirm? I like the white iPad but this talk about the tinge in the screen is making me think twice.

    1. staring at one right now and can’t see any defects. While I don’t doubt that some are having this issue, I haven’t seen it on mine.

  9. Terry – what can that HDMI out cable do if connected to an original iPad? Can you put that to the test and see what works/does not work?


    1. Bryan, here’s what Apple says:
      “Connect the Apple Digital AV Adapter to your iPad, iPhone 4, or iPod touch (4th generation) via the 30-pin dock connector and to your HDMI-compatible display using an HDMI cable (sold separately).”

      Therefore on the iPad 1 it should do everything that the iPad 1 does when connected to the VGA adapter. Meaning that it should support Apps that do video out. However, the iPad 1 can’t mirror the desktop.

      I’ll try it when I get a chance to confirm.

  10. I am struggling with the reception of wifi – very weak signal. I have the apple wireless Extreme base – my apple macbook pro has a great reception, as does my iPhone4 and iMac, my iPad2 64gb wifi only, struggles when I reach my bedroom area… any suggestions to help my iPads reception strength??

  11. i am looking at getting my wife one, she teaches at a couple of the local Universities and she complains about the laptop being a pain. now that you have had the iPad 2 for a while now, do you think it is still a good deal and which case do you think it the best, still the smart cover?
    thank you,


    1. Yes I like it still and for teaching it’s probably even better because the video out/mirroring support. As far as cases go I’m still liking the Smart “Cover”. It’s not really a case as it doesn’t protect the back at all! So if that’s a concern then you’ll want to invest in a better case.

  12. Nice review. I’m quite disappointed to hear CF card readers won’t work anymore. Importing my photos was one of the primary things I was looking forward to being able to do when I get an iPad 2. There goes that..

  13. I don’t know how else to contact you so I thought I’d leave this comment here..

    After reading a number of reviews and watching your camera connection kit video it occurred to me that there’s no way to edit albums or import photos to specific albums on the iPad. I think this is ridiculous! I would like to appeal to you to some how bring more attention to this so that Apple might hear it and do something about it. The iPad feels really crippled without being able to specify albums to import photos to or to be able to place photos in specific albums after the fact. It would be so much better if we could organize our files *on* the iPad rather than having to take them to the computer first.

  14. Thanks for the info on Gelaskins. I just ordered my own custom creation. Having bought a red leather cover for the front I was wondering what to do with the back and this solves the problem.

  15. Hi there, thanks for the review.

    I was very interested to see that you have the Gelaskin product. I was concerned that on their website the template only seems to cover the wifi model. I have a 3G iPad 2. I received an email from the company upon making an enquiry, that the gelaskin that ships covers both models.

    It worries me a bit, and I’d be interested to know if you’ve had any issue on your 3G model with the back all covered.

  16. Concerned that it took about 9 techs to explain that Keynote downloaded to IPAD will not support background music. Must be transferred to movie format which takes about six steps – I only hope I can remember all of them the next time I need to have a slide show with background music. Even my Missing Manual doesn’t address the fact that some of us do presentations with background music. Is there an easier way or do I jump through the hoops to get it on Ibook. I finally purchased an Ibook on ebay (granddaughter has my first one)so I can do the presentations the way I used to do them – download from IMAc to Ibook and it works perfectly. Even took mine to a state meeting and the other two presenters had the PC/Gates world computers which both had glitches while the Ibook presentation was flawless. Thanks for listening – I just feel this is a gap which has not been addressed. slnick

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