Quick thoughts on the iPad 2

March 02, 2011

Thought I'd do what I do and pound out my (near-)immediate reactions to today's news:

  • It looks absolutely gorgeous, well, you know, as gorgeous as a slab of glass can look. (And yeah, I even like the white model.) It's a bit hard to tell without holding one, but I bet the new unibody build on these things feels much better than the glass-in-metal feel of the original iPad, and that's saying a lot.
  • I kind of can't wrap my head around how thin it is--just 8.8mm (that's thinner than an iPhone 4!). Whether this helps or hurts its ability to be comfortably held over a protracted session remains to be seen; my guess is that, even with the lighter weight (1.33 pounds vs. 1.5 pounds), it will make it more difficult to hold, especially since it still has the same slippery aluminum back. I really wish they'd rubberize these things.
  • As if the iPad 1 wasn't already (mostly) in front of the pack (still!), it seems to me that the beefed-up specs in this new model will make it untouchable, at least for the rest of the year. Apple's claiming a doubling of overall performance with the new dual-core A5 chip, and nine times the graphics processing power of its predecessor. Can you say blazing?
  • It has the same 1024x768, 132ppi screen as the iPad 1. For videos or games it's fine, but for (long-form) reading I just don't like it.
  • I couldn't care less about the front-/rear-facing cameras.
  • The new Smart Covers (which protect just the front of the device) look very interesting. (Video of it in action.) I love that they attach to the iPad magnetically(!), and that they wake/sleep the device when opened/closed. As you'd expect, they fold into various positions to promote easy movie-watching, typing, etc. These things are slick. (For what it's worth, I think the original iPad case is one of the worst products Apple has ever created. To be completely honest, it kind of offended me.)
  • It still has just a single speaker. For something touted as being (mostly) a media-consumption device, this kind of grates. The iPad is used in landscape mode most of the time, so why not just add another speaker to the top (which would be on the side when rotated)? Obviously they could just disable the top speaker when in portrait mode (if they had some concern about the soundstage created by stacked speakers).

Overall, I think it's a great, iterative release. However, as with the first-gen model (which I sold after a few months of non-use), I just can't come up with a need for this thing (though I really want to play around with one for a bit). I don't think that will change until it gets a retina display with the pixels pushed closer to the glass (and maybe not even then).

I wouldn't be surprised if, later this year, a retina display is popped onto this current hardware (which may allow them to get around the slide in the presentation that read "2011: Year of iPad 2"); it seems to me it would have no trouble powering such a display. (At this point the system memory of the iPad 2 is unknown, but one thing you can bet on is that it isn't the measly 256MB found in the original. My guess is that it's 512MB, and that a model with a retina display would get bumped to 1GB.)

Finally, to answer the "Should I upgrade?" question that has saturated my email and texts: probably not. I can't think of one compelling reason to go through the hassle. It's not like Angry Birds will look or play any better. (Ha!) Maybe FaceTime, if you don't already have an iPhone 4? Those damn sexy Smart Covers? I don't know.

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