iPad 2 Review (Add another one to the WWW)

IPad in Case
As mentioned in my post about iPad 2 Multi-touch Gestures, I mentioned that my full review of the iPad 2 would follow soon.  Well, soon is relative of course.  Just shy of having the new iPad for a full month, I have finally found some time to get my feelings down.  I’m sure if you’re at all interested in the iPad 2, you have already read one of the seemingly billion reviews online or maybe you went to the Apple store to try it out.  So why should you care what I have to say?  Simply put, you don’t have to care.  But I’m going to tell you anyway and I’ll be completely honest about it.  Why shouldn’t I be?  It’s not like I’m getting paid for this… but I digress.

The Awful

I’d like to start with the really bad aspects of the iPad 2.  The first of which is the quality of the two built-in cameras.  These things are terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad cameras.  My first LG flipping camera phone from 2004 had the equivalent megapixel count as the front facing camera does.  That’s bad, no really its one of these things where its so bad that all you can say is that it’s bad.  Ever so slightly better is the back side camera; it shoots video in high definition 720P.  Honestly, I feel like the HD video shot on my iPhone 4 looks better than the video that I shot with the iPad 2, but there are many factors that go into that (ie. lighting, movement, etc.).  Truthfully, I have no qualms about the video capturing.  It’s the stills that are horrible.  For me, this is only magnified when trying to view these pictures on the beautiful iPad screen.  I don’t know if there was a space limitation considering how thing the iPad is, but I think Apple should have used the iPhone 4’s camera sensor if not a better one all together.  Why you ask?  Well it’s not really a matter of function but for mental satisfaction.  I don’t know if I, or 99% of the iPad population for that matter, will ever really use the camera to capture memories, but for a minimum of $500 I would like to have the option to do so.  The bottom line truth is, the super-awful camera quality is not that big of a deal.  Don’t let this be the deal breaker for you.  I will elaborate on this in a little bit.

The Bad

While I never owned the original iPad at any point in time, it is clear that the new iPad is not a giant leap forward.  Apart from the camera quality, this may be the only gripe about this device.  As a never-before-iPad-owner, I am not even going to complain.  I like the boost in both the raw processing power as well as the graphics processing, but I would definitely have waited on upgrading if I was an original owner.  I would imagine being a little disappointed if I shelled out money for what is essentially the same product, just a little sleeker and a bit faster.

The only other gripe to add to this section is not even known by most people.  For whatever reason, Apple decided to not give everyone the option to enable multi-touch gestures!  Why?  There was one day (the first day) where I did not have these features enabled and I would never have thought to complain about the experience.  Since day two, I have had the gestures enabled (via a developer option) and my iPad enjoyment increased ten fold.  The gestures really add to the experience.  You can swipe from app to app without that using the multitasking bar, you can bring up the multitasking bar without touching the home button, or you can do a four-finger pinch to the home screen!  This rocks!  Why do only developers have access to this!  Be proud, Apple!  Show your stuff.

Oh, one more thing… still no Flash support.  Sure it’s bad, but not awful.  A few months it will be “less bad” and perhaps in year it may not even matter, with regards to flash video.  If you’re a Facebook game lover, yeah it matters.  To that I say, expand your horizons.  Facebook games suck, and, moreover, there is probably and app for it anyway.  If you’re preferred website still hasn’t jumped over to the HTML 5 format, try iSwifter or SkyFire apps for iPad.  They are able to turn flash into a format that is viewable on the iPad.

The Good

Here come those cameras again.  The fact that this iPad has them is a very nice, though not necessary, feature.  One of the top uses for me is Skype.  I’m able to sit in a chair with my daughter and have my parents “visit” whenever they want.  Previously, I used my iPhone with its tiny screen or my desktop computer where I was confined to one particular, and uncomfortable spot.  Now, my comfy couch or recliner is the only place I need to be.  Again, not a necessity, but very nice.

The Great

Everything else.  Seriously.  The overall design is beautiful.  The aluminum body is thin and sleek.  The screen is bright and crisp.  True, there is no retina display, but the picture is still beautiful.  Be thankful there is no retina display as this may have made the price of this device skyrocket.  When you look at it through a geek/gadgeteer’s eyes, you will not be able to hold back proverbial drool. Yeah, it really is this good looking.  Not to mention the interface is still the most crisp, fluid experience you will see on a touch screen device.  Even the best android tablet, the Xoom, has a small delay, be it ever-so slight.  Give Apple credit for the experience.

App selection really sets this device apart.  The apps that are optimized for the iPad are beautiful.  Some apps are preferable to even their desktop counterpart.  For example, the free official Twitter app on the iPad is better than even the desktop experience far and away.  I love the different news apps too.  I’m constantly on the CNN and Associated Press apps.  The games experience is also very pleasing.  I will say, I’m still a fan of PC and console games more, but for the niche that is phone/tablet gaming the iPad 2 shines.  For the record, I highly recommend Tower Madness; a super addictive tower-defense game where you’re trying to keep your sheep safe from aliens.  Quickly, I’d like to mention that iMovie and Garageband for iPad are both awesome.  I am by no means an expert in them, nor am I an expert in video nor audio editing on a traditional computer.  What I can say though is that the experience is just downright fun and easy.  Those apps are pretty cheap considering the power behind them.  I recommend them as well.

Conclusion

I have not had this much fun with a device since I first got the iPhone 3G.  I cannot stop singing its (the iPad 2’s) praises, even with some admitted faults.   To be fair, I had a particular need that I wanted filled.  I wanted to be able to surf the web, play some games, watch some video, and Skype with my family all from the comfort of my couch with the additional characteristic of being able to take said device with me when I’m on the go.  The iPad 2 fits the bill perfectly.  So much in fact that my wife has said multiple times that we don’t watch as much television anymore because I’m always reading articles or playing a game.  This can be taken as good or bad, though I believe she may be a little on the annoyed side because we watch the same shows and she waits for me to watch them with her.  Maybe I’ll just have to get her and iPad of her own.

*Review is of Wifi only iPad 2 with 16 GB of storage

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