A Look at the iPad 2

By Lance Whitney April 26, 2011

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the iPad gaining momentum in the business world. As the consumerization of IT takes greater hold, more corporate workers are adopting tablets and other gadgets traditionally meant for the home. For you IT pros who need to evaluate the latest version of Apple’s iPad for your business or are thinking of buying one yourself, here’s a quick look at the iPad 2.

My quest for an iPad 2 has been a long one. After waiting in line outside my local Apple Store for several hours one Saturday morning last month, my wife and I ended up returning home empty handed. It was then that we decided to order the tablets online. With the supply of the iPad 2 coming nowhere near demand, it took about four weeks before we actually received the devices.

But once you have the new tablet in your hands, what does it offer? From a hardware perspective, the iPad 2 is nicely designed. It offers a thinner, sleeker build than did the original iPad and weighs slightly less thanks to some manufacturing tweaks.

The iPad 2 is faster than its predecessor, outfitted with a dual-core A5 chip. Apple has also been touting its new tablet as offering faster video. Though I didn’t run a direct comparison with an original iPad, I did find the graphics performance on the iPad 2 quicker than I had expected.

The new tablet has kicked in a couple of new features that might be useful in the business arena.

The iPad 2 includes a camera on both the front and back, opening up possibilities for video conferencing. Apple offers its own video chatting app called FaceTime, but you can only chat with people whose devices support this app, which currently includes the iPad 2, the iPhone 4, and the iPod touch 4G. Of course, you can use other video and audio conferencing services, such as Skype. Unfortunately, the front-facing camera is decidedly low-def, offering only VGA resolution. As a result, the images can sometimes be grainy and muddy, particularly in low-light conditions.

Another handy new feature is Apple’s Digital AV Adapter. This new device can connect your iPad to a large-screen TV or projector directly through the HDMI interface, offering a 1080p display and 720p video output. I connected my iPad to my HDTV through the device, and the output was crisp and clear. Even better, the Digital AV Adapter will work with the original iPad, the iPhone 4, and the iPod touch 4G.

Okay, what about the software? You’ll find a huge array of apps available for the iPad, just like for its smaller iPhone and iPod touch cousins. And since the launch of the original iPad a year ago, a lot more apps have been designed to take advantage of the tablet’s larger screen real estate. But I was disappointed by certain major apps that still don’t offer dedicated iPad versions, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Skype. Your only option in these cases is to run the app in its smaller iPhone-sized window or zoom in to see a larger but more pixilated display.

So has the iPad proven itself to me as a valuable tool?

I will confess that since I purchased my iPad, I don’t use my mini-notebook nearly as much. Tapping into the iPad is just quicker and easier than firing up the PC. Of course, there’s still a fundamental difference between tablets and PCs. Tablets are geared for consuming data; PCs are geared for creating data. Though tablets are fine for tossing off a quick email or IM or jotting down notes, I’d find it difficult to write an entire article on my iPad as quickly and efficiently as I do on my PC. So each device has its place and purpose, and the iPad has proven useful to me as a tool supplemental to my PC.

Probably the toughest part about the iPad 2 is just trying to get one. Those of you who haven’t been able to grab stock at your Apple Store, Best Buy, or other retail outlet should consider ordering one online. Wait times for the new tablet through Apple’s online store have increasingly dropped over the past month from 4-5 weeks when I ordered my unit to one to two weeks currently.

The iPad 2 comes in a variety of flavors and prices, with storage capacities of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. Apple offers both Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi+3G versions.

Lance Whitney is a journalist, IT consultant, and Web Developer with almost 20 years of experience in the IT world. To read more of Lance's articles, please visit his columnist page

Edited by Jennifer Russell

Journalist, IT Consultant, Web Developer

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