iPad 2 vs the best of the rest
If you're shopping around for a tablet then chances are you've given the iPad a long, hard stare as you try and work out what piece of hardware is right for you, but making a choice has just go all the more difficult thanks to the release of the iPad 2, Apple's latest and greatest device which has is aiming squarely for the top of the tablet market, with a mandate to wrest control away from the large number of upstarts which have recently hit stores. But is the iPad 2 enough to fight off the hoards of powerful Android tablets and other contenders? Well, there's only one way to find out!
Display - Today's tablet market has some reliable standards when it comes to screen technology and Apple's iPad 2 doesn't stray far from them. The tablet boasts a 9.7-inch LED-backlit IPS TFT screen, which affords rich colour reproduction, solid viewing angles and generally top-end performance. When you compare the iPad 2 to the likes of LG's Optimus Pad, which is a solid Android tablet which features a 3D LCD capacitive display the Apple still holds its own! It may not be able to match the Optimus Pad at the cutting edge, but it's still one of the best displays we've ever used.
Winner - Draw
Muscle - The one thing people should be quite used to by now is how Apple utilises power. You won't always get the maximum installed in hardware but the company knows how to manage it so it counts. This is very much the case with the iPad 2; the device runs on a dual-core 900MHz chip with 512MB RAM which may not sound a lot but practically it's quite nippy. When you take those stats and hold them up against, say, the Motorola Xoom, which offers users a dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 chip with 1GB RAM you're left scratching your head as to why Apple chose to under-power the iPad 2. Sure, it's nippy now but even at launch it can't keep up with the superior hardware in some of the other tablets on the market.
Winner - Motorola Xoom
Optics - A notable inclusion in the iPad 2 is camera functionality, which we were all crying out for after the original iPad hit the shelves. The second generation device comes packed with a 0.7-megapixel primary camera, capable of 720P capture and a VGA secondary camera for video calling. When held up against the best of the rest, Samsung's Galaxy Tab P7100 10.1V, which offers an 8-megapixel primary snapper with autofocus and LED flash, and a 2-megapixel secondary for video conferencing, the iPad 2 comes in second place. It does take nice video, but the overall impression is that the camera tech was an afterthought, because it just isn't up to muster.
Winner - Samsung Galaxy Tab P7100 10.1V
Software - The inclusion of iOS 4.3 in the iPad 2 is a signal of intent from Apple. The software is the very latest iteration of its hugely popular mobile OS and it's easy to see why it's widely regarded as a yardstick for competitors. It's powerful looks fantastic and is so easy to use that even if you're been in suspended animation for a century you'll be able to pick up the iPad 2 and get productive! When held-up against, say, the HP TouchPad, which boasts the newest version of HP/Palm's delightful WebOS (version 3.0) the Apple excels in its simplicity, though it's a tough contest as WebOS offers true multitasking and a great looking UI. To separate the two devices on software is a tough ask, but it's worth remembering that iOS is still going strong, even though it's two years older than WebOS!
Winner - Draw
Build - As you'd expect from an Apple device, the iPad 2 looks and feels great in the hand(s). Its sleek design will make you the envy of your office and when it's stood-to in one of the new 'smart covers' it resembles more a piece of modern art than gadgetry. Similarly RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook weighs in with some quirky good looks and a premium feel and, of course, is a lot more friendly to hold at only 425 g. In terms of pure build-quality the PlayBook edges the iPad 2, but in terms of wow factor there isn't a device on the market that can shade the iPad 2.
Winner - Draw
The iPad 2 is undoubtedly a phenomenon that people won't want to miss out on. In our comparisons it held its own, not through exceptional hardware or bleeding edge technology, but purely by implementation. Apple has set the iPad 2 up to succeed, and succeed it will, but if you're looking for top-tier componentry and features you'd perhaps be best served investing your money in something else because the iPad 2 isn't a gadget, it's an ethos.