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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 10, 2011 at 10:04 AM

iPad 2 review roundup: Nice but not perfect

The first batch of iPad 2 reviews are out, ahead of its debut in retail stores at 5 p.m. Friday.

Apple’s latest gadget swept away a few of the usual suspects, but not all.

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They noted a modest performance improvement from the new processor and praised the new design, but said the new cameras on the front and back of the iPad 2 aren’t that great. I’ll write about it soon; it apparently takes longer for review units to reach Seattle.

A quick roundup:

Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD said the new design feels “much airier” and the weight reduction was “noticeable when carrying around the device.” Yet the new design “makes it harder to plug in cables and accessories.”

“I didn’t find the speed difference on iPad 2 to be dramatic, but it was noticeable. Apps launched and ran a bit quicker and the whole device felt very snappy,” he wrote.

Mossberg’s testing found the iPad 2 had an hour less battery life than the first iPad and the new iPad cameras “take mediocre still photos” and “are disappointing.” (The headline on his review: “iPad 2: Thin, Not Picture Perfect”)

It’s still “the best tablet for average consumers,” Mossberg said, but he chided Apple for crippling its browser so it won’t play Adobe Flash video and for not enabling the device to use the new and faster 4G wireless networks.

Mossberg doesn’t advise iPad owners to race out for the new version “unless you are desperate for the cameras or feel you are laboring under the greater bulk of the original model.” He also noted that the first iPad is now on sale for $399 while supplies last.

David Pogue of the New York Times gushed more overt the redesign, calling it transformative:

“There are no new features except two cameras and a gyroscope. I mean, yawn, right?

And then you start playing with it.

My friends, I’m telling you: just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience.”

Motorola’s new Xoom Android tablet, by comparison, “looks obese,” he said.

Pogue said using the camera on the tablet’s big screen is “a treat” despite Apple’s “baffling” choice to use a camera that only takes 0.7 megapixel stills.

Sorting through the AT&T and Verizon data plans for the iPad “require a graduate degree in forensic accounting” but the new HDMI adapter “works automatically and effortlessly.”

USA Today’s Ed Baig said the iPad 2 “makes what was already a splendid slab even better, even if the overall upgrade is relatively modest.”

Baig noted that Apple didn’t improve the screen resolution, enable 4G wireless or include a USB port or SD memory card slot.

“But these are nitpicks,” he said, lauding Apple for keeping the price the same – $499 to $829, depending on storage and wireless options.

The cameras are fine for FaceTime videochats but pictures Baig took indoors in low light were grainy. Baig’s testing found the battery life “fell a little short” of Apple’s 10 hour claim – he got 8.5 hours while continuously streaming movies at full brightness.

Streaming movies from an iPad to an AppleTV adapter using AirPlay wasn’t good for Baig. Streamed movies “were slow to start and occasionally froze” but it could be a network hiccup, he wrote.

“The iPad 2 doesn’t deliver everything on your tablet wish list. But when it comes to the ever-evolving state of the art, iPad 2 is second to none,” Baig concluded.

Here’s Mossberg’s video:

Here’s Baig’s video:

Comments | Topics: Apple, iPad

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