My spur of the moment iPad 2 review
I can't think of any other product that I've reviewed to this extent. Not even the first iPad. But being a day-1 adopter, I felt like I had to do this.
I was going to stuff my "story" of the day along with my review, but I don't want to bore everyone with those details, so this is strictly my rambling review
I hope that it helps shed some light into how I feel about the iPad 2 and how I feel about it coming from an original iPad.
If you feel like asking any questions about whatever I completely missed out on, I'm sure there is something, don't hesitate to ask!
Onto the review, I know you're all waiting with baited breath!
RIGHT from the get go, it's smaller, thinner and damn, does it feel nice. I have tendonitis in my right arm from my crutches and even lifting my 1st gen iPad was sometimes tough. But this one, wow. Just wow. Many people feel this way, but I just need to reiterate: Although it's only .2lbs lighter, in a device that was only a pound and a half, it really feels like a lot.
So now that the weight is out of the way, how does it feel? Similarly different. Familiar, yet new and more sleek.
Design wise, as you've seen. It's like the iPod Touch but much, much larger. All of the inputs, the headphone jack, placement of the power and volume buttons... they're all the same. In some ways I don't mind it, but because of their placement, it limits some things (like the smart case that only goes on one side) and it causes a bit of a bother if you have it leaning against the volume buttons. Changing them is also a bit iffy, but that's no different than the first gen.
The one thing I don't know how I feel about is the gap for the headphones and for the charging/sync cable ports. I know it's the same with the touch, but I really liked the squared slots from the original. BUT, the more I play with it, I do feel like the gap on the back does make it a bit easier to remove the charging plug.
I have had an invisible shield on the back of my original iPad, so I can't remember exactly how "slippery" it was, but this I think is about the same. It does feel a little less "sturdy" I think, because there isn't the squared off bulk of the original iPad.
One of the things I LOVE that I didn't think I would is the reduction of the thickness in the bezel. It feels much thinner than the first and it just feels nice touching it near the edges.
The speaker port... well, it's what had to be done. There's no getting around that. Having the rounded edges means they had to put it on the back. luckily the speaker system doesn't SUCK. It's still a mono speaker, which I'll talk about more later, but it at least stays open and available. It does seem to carry sound a bit better due to its placement, because it reverberates against the surface. Who knows, I don't - but it's not an issue even though it does feel a little... "Cheap"? It's just holes in the back cover. But you can barely feel it if you're holding it, so from that perspective, it works like a charm.
One thing that, and it may just be the luck of the draw, that I LOVE is the home button. I never had this with my original iPad, but pressing in the home button now is softer, more responsive and smooth. It worked fine on the other iPad, but here it seems refined.
The buttons. Similar but, again, slightly different. I haven't played much with the current iPod touch, but from what I have seen in comparisons, they are almost copied directly over. And it works. It's a bit nicer in the iPad 2. The volume rocker feels more like a rocker now and is tapered further in the middle to make it easier to define the up/down functions. It doesn't feel as blobulous (if that's not a word, it should be) as the old ones.
So from a physical standpoint, that's that. Simple summary is that there are enough changes to make it feel fresh and new. They make it feel more refined, more streamlined but not cheap. It still feels like a premium device.
Memory, Speed, Performance - Oh my! (and other stuff...)
I need to put this into perspective. I use my iPad a lot. A LOT. I browse the web primarily and play games. A lot. I dont' use my computer, at all any more, other than to do things I can only do there, and a lot of times I do that on my iPad through an unfortunately still laggy remote desktop.
I do not have iOS 4.3 on my original iPad, so I can't compare Safari on both. I'm versus 4.2.1.
So anyway, on with it.
The iPad 2 is FREAKING FAST.
Everything is fast. Everything. Opening the multitasking bar is fast. Rendering webpages is fast. Switching apps is fast. It's fast. I can't say it's exactly 3.42% faster opening app A and 5.83% faster opening app b, but it's faster.
My kids were playing Mirror's Edge and on the original iPad, it takes forever to load the level. on the iPad 2 it was incredibly, incredibly fast. I didn't clock it, but wow. Plants Vs. Zombies, loading screens were amazingly fast. Angry Birds, same thing.
It just feels snappier, it feels more responsive, it feels about as close to a laptop experience as you can get outside of a laptop.
GONE, GONE, GONE is the terrible Safari checkerboard. I can actually load up a few pages, change to a different app and come back to not have my page automatically refresh. That's huge for me.
I'm able to actually load in quite a few apps at the same time and switch between them with ease, speed and it feels confident. If that makes sense.
On the iPhone, even with the same memory, it feels... sluggish sometimes switching between apps and a lot of times, they don't make it. That's not the case with the iPad 2. Apps might close down, but for the most part they don't. This might be also thanks to 4.3 but it seems the background processing is improved. Or maybe it's something with the new processor or ram. Whatever it is, it is better.
There is no keyboard lag at all, something that was most certainly an issue before.
At the end of the day, the performance alone is so incredibly impressive.
I love opening applications, switching applications, navigating the operating system. It's just... better. Everything is better. Just typing this reminds me how much better it is and how much I grin like a fool every time I touch it...
Okay, so last thing before I take a break for the night to continue later. Something I know a lot of people saw, ooo'd and ahhh'd about...
The Smart Cover
Everyone saw the video. You slide it across your iPad and it magically attaches itself to the side in the perfect spot. It covers the case. It's supposed to be able to clean your screen and it adjusts to 2 angles. One for typing and one for viewing.
On paper, $39 gets you something as magical as the iPad, right?
I bought one, I got suckered in. Because there was nothing else there. It makes sense, why would the Apple store stock competition to their magical amazing ooh and ahh cover? The whole point is to keep the iPad visible because of the cameras, etc. according to Apple.
One thing I like with my iPad case: Choice. I like choices. I don't mind if there are only a few choices, but those choices have to not be so limiting.
So what do I mean about choices? The viewing angles from the cover. The reason I put the kibosh on my Apple branded case from my original iPad is because I hated the 2 angles it forced me into. And it was upside down. The typing angle was too low and the vertical angle was too high.
The same goes with the smart cover. They changed nothing. It's still upside down when in case. It still has terrible, limiting angles.
That in and of itself is a deal breaker for me, but for other people it might not be. If you didn't mind the angles for the original case, then you'll probably be happy with those the smart cover provides.
So, angles aside, how is the smart cover in operation?
Remember in the keynote how they said that the cover has a microfiber lining that not only protects the screen from scratches but also, gasp, CLEANS IT!
Well, it does a decent enough job of protecting the screen but it does NOT come close to being able to clean it. I had a serious inkling that it wouldn't, but I hoped. Well, yeah. Don't think you can leave your cloth at home, you can't. I don't know what they were doing to clean the screen of fingerprints, but unless the designers wore specialized gloves to prevent any oil transfer, or are John Doe from Seven, it simply doesn't work.
So, we know that it doesn't clean the screen and that the viewing/typing angles leave much to be desired, how does it work in general?
Well, yeah. It covers the screen. And when it's covered on the screen, it generally stays covered. The magnets are there and they work but, honestly, they're not very strong when it comes to closing the cover back onto the front of the screen.
If you want to fold the cover back across the back of the iPad, you sure can. What it will not do is actually attach itself to the back of the screen. It just flops there. The angle on the back is likely why it won't attach and I can't fault the design for that, but... man, it would have been nice if it did.
You can fold it in half onto itself, hold your fingers into that fold and it actually feels nicer than holding onto it naked. Actually, it feels a ton nicer and for that, I commend it.
So we know that the smart cover covers. It doesn't clean your windows and it doesn't do anything magical at this point.
But wait, you say, what about how it attaches on like in the commercials? It's so... amazing!
Yeah, well.. it works. But tell me, how often are you going to take it on/off? And when you've taken it off and go to put it back on, are you really going to want to drag it across like they do in the commercial? I know I did a few times, but if you don't do it low enough, chances are it might likely tap onto the top of the screen.
And I don't know about you but no matter how much I trust the scratch-resistance of the glass, I don't want metal smacking against it at all.
I've also seen reports that it has scratched the back of the iPad. And that may be the case. I haven't seen it, but I think it might be like the Reebok pump. Remember that? It "physically" worked, but pumping it up and letting the air out too many times ended up just, well, damaging it. The same goes for this. The novelty of going on and off wears off quickly, just as with the pump.
Okay, so you've attached the smart cover on, you know that it attaches on in a fancy way, it won't attach to the back of the iPad but hey, how about the way it turns the screen on and off?
That, I must say, works perfectly. And while, although it works perfectly, I'm not sure how I feel about its functionality. It does lessen the strain on the home button, but it seems a bit more of a gimmick than something with a real "Yes, we totally needed that!" functionality.
To summarize about the cover.. It works. It folds. It's a bit finicky with its folding and it'll take some time to really get exactly how you need to fold it in and you might just do what I did and almost knock it off a table trying to find the right "viewing angle"... Yeah, it doesn't sit completely under the edge, the triangle is a bit offset and instead of the pressure going onto the cover itself, it goes onto the hinge. It looks strange at the onset, but the hinge magnets ARE strong enough to hold it. In both positions.
But don't think you can grab onto it and hang it in the air with the hinge alone.
Should you buy the smart cover? I honestly wouldn't. If I had the choice, I would have gone and gotten another case, specifically the Targus 360. The smart cover probably is as close to naked as you can get, even thinking about the silicone covers. On top of that, you do also get a stand out of it.
So - if you want to leave your iPad naked but want to have a stand and want to have the screen covered, I haven't seen anything that can stand up against the smart cover.
But if you want protection against the damaging to the back and have a cover that really feels like a case, look elsewhere. The smart cover is fancy, and it works for the basics but that's about it.
Okay, this has taken too long and I need to pause for now.
I've got a few other things I'd like to talk about, but I'll leave another post for that!
Stuff to talk about...