Our first impression of the iPad 2 is that its improvements are enough to convince consumers who were on the fence with the first one to pick up the new model. We also look forward to investing hours and days in games like Real Racing 2 and Infinity Blade that will be reinvented on the iPad 2 and apps that take advantage of front and rear-facing cameras like Word Lens and Hipstamatic.
As new contenders move into the field, Apple (AAPL) isn’t likely to keep its 90% share of the booming tablet market. But the iPad 2 moves the goal posts, by being slimmer and lighter, boosting speed and power, and holding its price advantages, available apps and battery life. As of now, I can comfortably recommend it as the best tablet for average consumers.
If you’re happy with your current iPad, there’s no reason to dump it just because there’s a shinier, newer one. (This is not to say that millions of people won’t do just that. I mean: shiny!) If you’ve invested in iPad accessories such as a dock or case, keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to use them with the new iPad.
Of course, if there’s someone in your family who has been clamoring for an iPad, now might be the time to buy an iPad 2 and hand down the old model to them—or, if you’re really nice, give them the new iPad while you soldier on with the classic model.
The thinness of the design makes it difficult to add a slew of ports and connectors, so there's no HDMI port, as on the Xoom. (Of course, there's Apple's proprietary 30-pin dock connector.) Apple sells a $39 accessory that lets you plug the iPad into an HDTV with an HDMI cable. You can then "mirror" whatever is on the iPad display on the larger TV screen. Though I wish I had a longer HDMI cable — you supply your own — I used the iPad 2 to browse, read e-mail, play EA's Need for Speed Hot Pursuit and watch the movie 127 Hours on an HDTV. Everything rendered properly on the TV screen.
My friends, I’m telling you: just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience. We’re not talking about a laptop or a TV, where you don’t notice its thickness while in use. This is a tablet. You are almost always holding it. Thin and light are unbelievably important for comfort and the overall delight. So are rounded edges, which the first iPad didn’t have.
Pit it against the competition, and the iPad 2 holds its own. The Android-based Motorola (MMI) XOOM is the obvious comparison, available from $599.99 on Verizon but only if you agree to a two-year data plan. In off-contract form, it’s $799.99 for the 32GB XOOM (and the same data packages as Verizon (VZ) offer for the iPad 2) which makes it $70 more than the equivalent Apple model. For that extra money you get higher-resolution cameras, a higher resolution screen and the promise of 4G further down the road, but at the cost of a less developed OS, fewer tablet-specific apps, shorter battery life under general use and a generally less polished experience overall.
There’s a lot of promise in Honeycomb, yes, but today – and likely for the first six months or so – it falls well short of the consistency, ease of use and stability iOS and the iPad 2 offer. Value is always subjective, but right now the general tablet audience will likely find the iPad 2 more approachable, more straightforward and easier to get the best out of from day one.