Berge Heston

If it ain't white it ain't right

Instead of waiting in line for hours like a sucker, I ordered online at just before 1:00am…and waited four days, like a sucker, but from the comfort of my own home. At least I didn’t have to go through the line wait (again) and/or fail and continue to look every day for one in vain.

Anyways it’s awesome, throw your old iPads in the garbage, because that’s what they are now.



Design

The new form factor is getting a lot of attention, and to an extent the ever so slightly lighter weight (as weighed by this food scale):

Weight (oz) iPad 1 (3G) iPad 2
iPad 25.16 21.12
Case/Cover 6.04 4.90
Total 31.14 26.04

I know the total iPad 1 weight is wrong, but that’s what the scale said (hard to balance large objects on that thing and still see the readout). Whatever the case it’s enough that you can tell the difference, but just barely. Another way to look at it from those numbers is that they basically shaved a case’s weight off the iPad.

The big difference in physical feel mainly comes down to the shape, both with the bare iPad and more so with the original case vs Smart Cover:

Fatter than pre-Subway Jared

Ok maybe that’s a bit exaggerated cause the little holder cutout raises it up, here they are face down:

well it's still fatter

It just feels nicer in the hands and easier to hold. The slanted edge (or lack of edge) has a nice design effect of hiding the buttons when viewing the iPad head on. This can make it difficult to spot the location of the buttons quickly until you get used to it, particularly when it’s bare (with a case you tend to get used to having a “standard” orientation). Another quirk is that it feels sort of weird to press the buttons, probably more so if you’re used to the original iPad. Instead of pressing straight in from the side, you kind of squeeze the buttons in since they feel like they’re almost on the back of the device. The Mossberg had some connectivity issues with the dock port due to the slanted edge, but I haven’t had a problem.



SPEED!

Another part of the new awesomeness is the performance, which was the main reason I got it. The big (BS) spec being thrown around is the 9X graphics, but the biggest thing I wanted was the raw CPU performance for web browsing. Yes, web browsing. The iPad wasn’t horrible, but out of everything it did it was weakest at browsing. If you’re debating between getting an old or new one, the deciding factor should be how much you browse. That is how much of a difference it is, even with the NITRO CONSPIRACY.1 Sure apps and games will be faster (for the most part…), but ultimately they’re going to be mostly written with the original iPad in mind so performance will be ok for a while. Web pages aren’t, unless you want some crappy mobile formatted pages.

As for that “for the most part” thing, I’ve found a few instances of games that appear to be framerate capped, i.e. they run no better. Super Monkey Ball 2, RAGE, and Reckless Racing are some examples, even NBA JAM, an iPhone game! It is quite obnoxious.

It’s more obnoxious with a regular app…curse you SketchBook Pro! The input sampling is limited or something, so drawing still feels a bit laggy, although performance is noticeably better when dealing with multiple layers and doing transforms and stuff.

And one other little but important thing it’s faster at: the keyboard. With the original iPad the keyboard occasionally lagged. It was never as bad as say, the iPhone 3G’s occasional massive lag, but it happened enough that it could be pretty annoying. It seems like a really minor thing to point out, but if you use it a lot, little details like that matter.



Cameras

I guess another big headline feature is cameras. Well like everyone else says, the quality sucks on both, but hey FaceTime and Photo Booth! One difference between Photo Booth on a MacBook and the iPad is that it’s easier to move the camera around, to do stupid stuff like this:

Dog Booth

I’ve heard some people mention “why have a rear camera at all?” cause well yeah, it sucks, but for video it’s ok enough (even if it’s on the crappy end). The main use of it is plain spectacle though, it’s a live video feed to a relatively big ass screen. For shooting video, indeed it’s stupid, but for something like Star Wars: Falcon Gunner (an augmented reality game) the big screen is stupidly awesome.2

If you were hoping to be able to scan in documents with the rear camera (in conjunction with something like Genius Scan)…well it’s a no go. There’s just not enough resolution there and/or the noise is too much to deal with. The live video feed actually looks ok, maybe some CSI: Miami-esque magic like this stuff is possible down the line.



Screen

About the only thing that wasn’t changed was the screen itself…mostly. I know everyone wanted a new super high res screen, while I would’ve been satisfied with a laminated to surface screen (like the iPhone 4). Well we didn’t get any of that. What we did get were some welcome minor changes: the auto brightness seems just a tad more reactive to environment changes, and it can get dimmer. Not as dim as the iPhone 4, but still noticeably dimmer than the original iPad at least:

Damn, one looks fat here too

Now you'll go less blind at night

Mine also has massive backlight bleeding out the ass3, but I haven’t noticed it in normal use yet. One other change I noticed is that the color temperature is warmer, not a huge deal but I prefer the cooler tone of my old iPad just a bit. They’d never add it, but a basic “cool/neutral/warm” color temperature option would be nice.

Loosely related to the screen, a new feature is full mirroring to an external display. I don’t have the fancy new HDMI adapter, but I do have the old VGA one, and the mirroring seems to work fine with it…for the most part. I have a few apps that actually supported the VGA output (no clue if they work with HDMI though), they seem to use their original external screen drawing methods but there doesn’t seem to be a way to switch to the new built in mirroring (I’m assuming this can be addressed with app updates). Not a huge deal, but in the case of RAGE it’s buggy (nothing output over VGA, and only HUD graphics showing on the iPad), and in others it’s just plain slow (likely originally written to compensate for the original slower hardware).



Sound

One nice change (which may be a 4.3 thing) is that when you hold the volume rocker down it now does two quick stops on the way to zero. This is a nice compromise between the old single drop to zero on the old iPad and the slow linear drop on iPhones. However it also seems inconsistent, I’ve noticed in some apps it does the old single drop without any stepping down.

One not so nice change: since it can “ring” (FaceTime), it now has the dual volume travesty from the iPhone, where you have one volume for “ringer and alerts” and a separate volume for everything else, I’ll refer to that as “app volume.”

If you’re not clear on how that works, when nothing is playing (music or app audio) the volume buttons control the ringer volume, and only4 control the app volume when something is playing. This isn’t so annoying except for the fact that the app volume can be maxed out while the ringer is low…and that you may not realize it until your nephew wants to play Pac-Man C.E. in church…and that apps can ignore the silent switch.

There’s an option to lock the ringer volume so the buttons always control the app volume…but then the only way to control the ringer volume is in the Settings app, and the only way to quickly mute it is the silent switch…which may be relegated to the app switcher if you happen to prefer the rotation lock as the physical switch.

It is all quite annoying compared to the previous single universal volume. Please feel free to bitch about it on Apple’s iPad feedback page.

And remember how the sides are slanted? Well it seems like the speakers are as well, or at least the sound comes out that way. Basically it shoots sound out of its ass rather than uh, its soles. On a hard surface I guess the sound reflects more off the surface, but on a softer surface (like a blanket), sound is more easily muffled. In your hands it seems easier to cover up the speaker, but I’m comparing to the previous iPad in the Apple case (which always had at least a little separation because of the case itself).



Fuckin Magnets

They work quite decently.

The main difference I’ve noticed between the old case and Smart Cover (other than bulk) is that the case cover was more or less secured when you stuck it in the little holder flap, while the Smart Cover triangle kind of flops around until you place it down (on the other hand its magnets hold it on the screen, while the old case cover was free to flop around). Obviously the solution is more magnets.

Unfortunately more magnets wouldn’t fix the color of my cover (blue, polyurethane). It’s not so bad in natural (or bright white) light, but my room’s warm fluorescent lighting makes it look really bad. I wake up and think “hey it looks pretty nice!” but end up thinking “man, that kinda looks like ass” by the time I go to bed. I’ll exchange for green or orange if it ends up bugging me too much.

On the plus side, in the raised “movie viewing” angle it’s much more stable than the old case was. Granted that doesn’t say much considering how bad the old one was in that position, but it’s pretty solid now. With the old one you also had an unofficial in between angle, where you could flip it over and prop it up on the flap in a floppy yet solid two legged position. Because of the extra segments in the new cover and lack of casing on the opposite edge for friction this isn’t really possible with the Smart Cover and iPad 2.

Ultimately I like the cover, even if it is only a cover. That is both its strength and weakness really, and if anything I don’t feel like a cover is necessary (glass is quite scratch resistant, and I’m not sure how much it’d protect against impacts), its main use is as a prop/stand. The cover form factor makes it into a compact easy to carry design. It won’t protect against drops (vs the original case with its tiny crumple zone) but it won’t burden with extra size and weight either. And a huge difference is that you can just yank it off if you don’t want to deal with it at all (like I did while drawing), vs struggling with the original case’s tightness.5

And if the back gets all scratched up I can hopefully get a replacement because of that light bleeding I have. Or just design some really tacky Gelaskin.



Evolutionary!

So to sum up, again, awesome. Yes the update is “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary”…but that tends to be the nature of hardware updates. If you want revolutionary, get the original iPad.6 You can find them in the trash these days.

Boxypad

This is how thick7 they would've been 20 years ago

iPad 2, $499-829:
HIPPOTROUBLE

Smart Cover (polyurethane), $39:
HIPPO

iPad (3G), worthless:
BERGE

Rating system guide

For a ridiculously more thorough review, check out Anandtech’s. They review everything, including software. I didn’t bother much with the software side because other than the camera apps (and iMovie and GarageBand in the store), it’s mostly identical to what has been out for months now. I consider the iPad 2 update to be purely a hardware update, while iOS 5 will be the big software brouhaha to talk about. I tend to agree with them on the software issues, basically that it feels too limited for the form factor sometimes. Hopefully iOS 5 brings about some significant changes.

  1. I use iCab which doesn’t benefit from all the new changes, but it’s still a much much better experience because of the new hardware. Something in iOS 4.3 changed the web for all apps for the better (The Big Picture loads fully, even on old devices!), just not the new JavaScript engine.
  2. Sure it looks even more like shit cause it’s an iPhone game and pixel doubled, but the fact that it doesn’t detract from the spectacle shows how awesome it is.
  3. Crotch might be a more accurate description since it’s not actually coming out of the back of the device.
  4. There is one other way, but it’s obnoxious vs using the volume buttons. The volume slider on the left screen of the app switcher controls this music/app volume. It also exists on the iPhone, two screens over.
  5. With the thinness of the iPad 2 you can actually use it in the original case without the tightness. However because of the slanted edges, pushing buttons and inserting cables becomes a pain. And the black case around the white iPad looked pretty bad to me.
  6. Even if it was just a big iPod. I can’t tell if that means it’s evolutionary, or if the new size and software made it revolutionary. Either way it sucked.
  7. See that box? They made the packaging smaller than the original box in every dimension too! Hell the iPad picture on the box face is from the side vs head on to accentuate how thin it is now.