Friday 11 May 2012

Apple iPad 2

Why not a 'New iPad'? Simple, the small matter of £120!

With news of a 'New iPad' I delayed my purchase of a bigger tablet to supplant/supplement my 7" one reviewed earlier. However, when the new iPad was launched and I found Argos selling iPad 2s with a year's warranty for just £279, it was no contest for me, no matter how good the New iPad's screen is.

Being very familiar with Android devices, I'll admit I haven't fully embraced the 'miracle' that is Apple.

Personally, it bugs the hell out of me that I can't access the iPad 2's file system or simply drag and drop files onto it. It's also overly complicated to copy files other than Apple's preferred formats on to it even if you use the awful iTunes interface.

Apple popularised (not invented) the GUI Drag 'n' Drop interface, so why they insist on a UI from the early 90s to get media to and from their tablets is totally baffling to me. The fact the software is essentially awful and controlling in most respects just adds insult to injury and for a while I seriously felt I'd made the wrong decision not to buy a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (and I still feel that might have been a better choice for me, if I'm honest).

That said, the iPad 2 is a nice piece of hardware.

Mine's a basic Wi-Fi only, 16GB model in black.

The two main reasons to get a bigger tablet were for a bigger screen (the Apple's is a non-widescreen 9.7") and better battery life than my Android tablet.

The iPad's much heavier than the M009S and feels an altogether better quality product (as its more than 4 times greater price would demand), although all that weight means the iPad isn't the one handed read in bed (make your own jokes if you wish) that the mostly plastic M009S is. If you want something compact and easy to carry, the iPad's not really any better than some laptops or most netbooks.

Even the iPad 2's screen is bright and clear, the difference with the new iPad's not easy to detect unless you see them side by side and then, not that easy unless you zoom a very high res photo. For most people the iPad 2 will be good enough, although technology moves on and in a few years time, I'm sure even the new iPad's resolution will seem paltry.

There's no way to expand the memory on an iPad (unlike the cheapy M009S!), but 16GB is probably ok unless you go mental with apps or want to store lots of movies or music on it in which case you might want to spring for a bigger capacity one.

So, what's better? Well side by side, the performance of the iPad blew away the M009S. Starting up any app is quick (even games) on the iPad and many are instantaneous, whilst there was a definite delay whilst they loaded on the M009S, but then the spec of the processor explains that.

It's great for reading e-magazines (I have a Zinio account), displaying and zooming in a much better way than the smaller screen did and I've got quite a few PDF based publications too, which never seemed to work well on the memory constrained M009S, but which are enjoyable to consume on the iPad.

Games are good - I have Real Racing 2HD (a car racing game, not dissimilar to Gran Turismo) and the steering input is extremely realistic feeling. The graphics will probably disappoint if you're used to a PC or XBOX 360/PS3 console, but they'll no doubt be better on the new version and are quite acceptable for the casual gamer (at least).

The much vaunted "There's an app for that" boast for the iPad (claiming competitors didn't have the selection) is probably less true than it was. I've got a great dive planner app on Android (just on my phone now) that I can't find a match for on the iPad and I've yet to find any awesome apps that don't have a good equivalent on Android. That said, there are plenty on the iPad so its honours even here.

I have a cheap (under a tenner) aftermarket "Camera Connection kit" for it which is great in that it allows the RAW format images from my Pentax DSLR to be uploaded automatically onto the iPad and edited using any of the free or low-cost image editing apps available. This seems a great boon over the cheap Android tablet I had and I look forward to making the most of this capability on holidays.

The sound quality is ok for the spoken word, but a bit thin for music (for my taste), although as it comes with a standard (remarkably for Apple!) 3.5mm audio jack, it's easy enough to add external speakers (or you could shell out for an iDock if you buy into the all things Apple credo).

One interesting insight was that my wife picked it up one evening. She's not comfortable with computer technology, finding it hard to attach pictures to emails, but she instantly seemed at ease with the iPad, navigating intuitively around the screens and apps. I guess the iPad is a naturual interface for the computer illiterate, but many of us are now literate enough to find it counter intuitive and have to unlearn some of our expectations. I might even buy her one as she seemed to really enjoy the experience.

So, overall the iPad's a nice bit of kit (I've sold my old, never used, PSP and the M009S since I got it) and may well be the 'standard' by which other tablets are measured (moreso with the hi-res screen), but it's not significantly ahead of Android in any way I can tell and lags in a few areas.

I'm happy with my purchase, but there's still a nagging feeling that I, personally, would have been even happier with the Samsung...

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