Now that we’ve had chance to handle the other tablet devices on the market, in the full range of sizes, operating system and designs, the elegance of the iPad 2 becomes even more apparent.
For starters, it’s noticeably slimmer, and sleeker, than many of its counterparts. The 10.1-inch form factor gives you maximum screen real estate, and the iPad 2 manages it with minimal weight (it’s 603g) or bulk. In terms of its design, it’s a clear winner.
The iPad 2′s screen has always been one of its selling points, and only the Acer Iconia, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v and BlackBerry PlayBook come close to its brightness and crisp sharpness. The 9.7-inch IPS (in-plane switching) panel is viewable even in bright sunlight, and it delivers a feeling of being close to the screen that adds to immersion for games and apps designed for the tablet form factor.
The same group of tablet devices have the most up-to-date operating systems, with the fastest and most responsive processors. It’s one of those times where paying more really does get you more, in terms of raw hardware and software capability.
The iPad has the fastest processor in our roundup, a 1.2GHz dual-core, and this makes it feel the most nimble of the tablets tested. iOS 4.3 is easy to learn your way around, and is markedly different to the alternative operating systems (though not necessarily better).
For features, the iPad 2 is sparse. A proprietary USB connector that can be used to add accessories and a 3.5mm headphone jack is all you get. But battery life is good, with a solid ten hours when going full-bore, and days on standby.
When browsing or using an e-reader, the iPad 2 has crisp and clear text, with impressive sharpness and contrast. This carries through into photos and videos displayed on the excellent screen.
As long as you’re comfortable in a walled garden of Apple’s devising, the App Store contains apps for almost every tablet use you can think of.
Apple’s tight control over the platform does provide an advantage: compared to the wild west of eminently customizable Android, iOS offers a predictable platform for developers. Apps can be written to tie in with the iPhone or iPad’s core functionality, because that functionality remains the same across all current models of the device.
Even with all this, the iPad 2s pricing seems reasonable, when you see what other manufacturers have to offer at similar cost.
The downsides of the iPad 2 are few. One limit that other tablets don’t suffer is the restriction to iPad data plans, thanks to the micro SIM slot. There are ways around it, but it’s not as flexible as just throwing in a cheap SIM with voice and data.
For some, the 10.1-inch size may be a downside – it won’t fit neatly into a jacket pocket, unlike the 7-inch alternatives.
But if you’re after the very best, and you’re fine with using Apple’s products, the iPad is still the leader in the tablet stakes.
APPLE IPAD 2 AT A GLANCE
App Store is large and comprehensive
Excellent screen quality and performance
Good range of accessories
APPLE IPAD 2 Price: $799-$l,289 (depending on model) Contact: apple.com
APPLE IPAD 2 Verdict:
Sleek, well designed and powerful, the iPad 2 is still the best tablet device out there.