iPad 2: Early Impressions

Mixing up titles right away: The Good, The Bad, The Bold and The Beautiful

But it’s not so simple.

If you followed my article about “The Wait and The Line,” you know I proceeded to a restaurant right away to start using, testing and playing with the iPad 2.

Connect to iTunes image

Connect to iTunes

My wife and I went upstairs and sat down at a nice large table. We quickly pulled out our iPads and turned them on. First issue: upon start up, the iPad asks to be connected to iTunes. Rats! I forgot about this requirement, which is one reason that saying that the iPad is “Post PC” is not entirely true. You have to have a PC to activate the device. Yes, I could have had it set up at the store, but that’s not the point. This ‘requirement’ at some point needs to be removed. I suspect it’s in Apple’s long-range roadmap where everything is somehow synchronized with MobileMe, therefore not requiring a hard cable to a Mac or Windows computer.

What to do? Fortunately I had my MacBook Air with me from my travels. I went to the car to retrieve it, headed back to the restaurant, and connected. Voilà! Activated and ready to use.

At this point, I stopped and admired the device itself. It really is thin, with the tapered edges being similar to the iPod Touch. It is also lighter, but not immediately noticeable (at this point). As with all Apple products, it really looked good: stylish and solid.

iPad 2 Unboxed

iPad 2 Unboxed

Upon booting up, the first screen is the typical iPad screen: Apple’s iOS applications. The new app that grabbed my attention was Photo Booth. This seemed like an ideal application to test the new iPad and cameras! Turning it on displayed nine screens across a “Brady Bunch” style panorama. Each screen has a different video effect, similar to Photo Booth on the Mac.

This was my first impression of the speed of the device: fast. All nine screens moved in real time with me, with each video effect constantly being applied. Nice!

Launching apps and swiping between screens was noticeably faster than before. Testing Safari (via WiFi), the browser seemed perkier than on the previous model iPad.

The First Apps Downloaded

My wife: Angry Birds Seasons HD.

Me: Reeder for iPad.

You can tell what kind of geeks we are! Both worked without a hitch.

After dinner, we headed home. We both did a fresh install of all our apps and quickly had the devices set up like iPad 1. Over the next few days, usage of the iPad 2 was frequent.

A Few Comments

Speed: Quite noticeably faster, especially with Safari and general movement around the iPad.

Size: Very obviously thinner and it looks really good. I’ve found the size (even with the SmartCover) is so small, I am bringing it everywhere, even just carrying it around at work, in case I need it.

Weight: Initially it didn’t seem that much different, but I realized by day three that I was reading for longer periods of time and it was more comfortable to hold. Certainly it is nowhere near as light as a Kindle, but I will suffer less forehead dents falling asleep reading e-magazines.

Cameras: Definitely a disappointment. Video is fairly good in bright light or outside, but stills taken indoors are far too grainy. FaceTime works well, which is good, but I  wouldn’t use it for much else inside. I suspect the thinness really works against the camera here; however, I would expect Apple to improve this with iPad 3.

iPad2 SmartCover (Red)

iPad2 SmartCover (Red)

SmartCover: A surprise. Well crafted, extremely handy and very functional. I was a bit skeptical based on the initial description, but actually using one is satisfying, unlike Apple’s first iPad case.

Two minor concerns: the back is exposed and will likely scratch. This could be a problem for those looking to resell down the line. There is definitely a great opportunity for third party manufacturers to take advantage of the magnets built into the iPad 2. The second concern is that the micro-fiber coating really doesn’t seem to clean the entire screen; in fact, there are three rather obvious “fingerprint” lines when looking at the screen when the iPad is off.

The other accessory I purchased was the HDMI cable. This allows the device to mirror the iPad image to a TV (and it turns out the VGA out cable from iPad 1 works as well). This turned out to be amazingly useful with some friends over who wanted to see some pictures. Instead of booting up the MacBook, I hooked up the iPad 2 instead. The display is impressive, reimaging the screen in real-time. This was a lot of fun, especially as I was using different apps to show off the iPad. While this should have been included in the original iPad, it is good to see Apple make it available to everyone finally.

iPad2 HDMI Cable

iPad2 HDMI Cable

Overall, I am very pleased with the device.

Would I recommend someone upgrade from iPad 1? If they are a power user, enjoys the latest tech and/or needs the camera, mirroring, or gyroscope capabilities? Easily a yes.

Are they mostly using for consumption, especially surfing/emailing? Then probably a no.

I would rate this four, um, iPads out of five.