Will the new Apple iPad 2 be worth queuing for, or even buying weeks later when the madness has died down?
PC & Tech Authority joined the long line outside the Apple store in San Francisco at 3.30am late last week to get hands-on with the iPad 2. With the iPad totally selling out in San Francisco, we weren't able to get our own on our first attempt, but we did manage to get inside the store to get hands-on the device. We'll be bringing you a full review in time, but for now, our first look reveals what we found most notable about Apple’s second-gen tablet and who stands to win from those features.
Winners: gamers and app-addicts
The iPad 2’s dual-core A5 processor packs twice the computing horsepower of the single-engine A4 chip used in the original iPad and iPhone 4. Allied to 512MB of RAM (double that of its predecessor) this makes for snappier performance in day-to-day tasks such as web browsing.
But the secret sauce inside this SoC (system-on-a-chip) is what it does for graphics, and in iPad-land that means gaming.
New versions of games built for the the double-barrel A5, such as Firemint’s Real Racing 2 HD and Epic’s Infinity Blade, level-up the iPad gaming experience. Side by side against the original iPad we noticed substantial improvements in texturing detail, lighting, reflections and anti-aliasing.
If you enjoy playing with impressive apps like the new iPad editions of GarageBand and iMovie you’ll also want to join the iPad 2 queue.
2. Slimmer and lighter
Winners: gamers and readers
The iPad 2 and first-gen iPad: width has shrunk from 13mm to 8.6mm.
While it's not much of a size and weight change, the new iPad feels almost featherweight
The first-gen iPad’s 680g weight was never a dealbreaker so shaving off a mere 80 grams shouldn’t make a difference. Ditto for taking the waistline in a few notches from 13mm to 8.6mm.
But combine those with a sleeker design – smoother, rounded lines and a gentle fit-in-the-hand curvature – and the iPad 2 feels almost featherweight. You just can’t ‘get it’ until you hold the old and new iPad together. Then it’s clear that the more time you spend holding your iPad the more you’ll want to get the iPad 2.
It’s a huge comfort factor if you’re lying on the couch or in bed reading books magazines or web sites.
Expect to see many games taking advantage of the new three-axis gyroscope.
With Apple raking in big bucks on gaming apps –IHS Screen Digest reports that games accounted for 52% of app revenue in 2010 – you can understand why the iPad 2 is so heavily geared towards gamers.
The new three-axis gyroscope makes for far more precise motion control over the up/down and left/right movements detected by the accelerometer.
By detecting spinning or twisting actions the gyro quite literally adds a new dimension to games like Real Racing 2 HD, and you can expect to see an avalanche of gyro-aware games.
4. Dual cameras
Forget about using the iPad 2 as a camera. The rear-mounted 0.7 megapixel lens is laughable and the tablet’s size is not only unwieldy but makes it hard to hold steady.
On the other hand, the more time you clock up on the road and away from loved ones the higher you’ll rate the iPad 2 as a videochat tool due to the inclusion of FaceTime and a front-facing 0.3 megapixel camera.
FaceTime is still limited to wi-fi connections instead of 3G, with video quality in the realm of the iPhone 4, but now you can see person you’re calling shown life-size on the 9.7 inch screen.