Hands On With the iPad 2

Well, yesterday I stood outside and got myself an iPad.  Now, a day later, I’m ready to share some thoughts on actually using it.

The bad

It might seem odd to start with the bad things in a review, but with my iPad I feel compelled to share the one thing that I feel Apple got “wrong” with this device.  Simply put, it’s the buttons.  Or, rather, every toggle on the device except for the home button.

Ironically, my problem with the toggles is a side-effect of one of the iPad 2’s greatest features, it’s thinness.  On the iPad 1, the straight edge served as the perfect venue for the volume rocker, the lock switch, and the sleep button.  On the iPad 2, that straight edge is gone, and the buttons are almost under the screen.  This is a minor annoyance for the sleep button, which I don’t use anyway since I got a smart cover.  It’s an inconvenience with the volume rocker, as I’m not used to it’s location yet and I need to fish around for it.  The lock switch, however, is a bear.  Unless your finder is directly on top of the switch, it’s really difficult to toggle – I’m actually afraid of damaging it!  I guess I’ll get used to its odd angle (compared to the screen) and the particular way it needs to be toggled, but compared to the iPad 1 it seems like an odd design flaw.  The hardware buttons really do take some getting used to.

The Good

So what about the good?  My son has an iPad 1 so I can compare it with that device, it makes the good of the iPad 2 stand out even more.  There’s a lot to love.

First, when I showed my wife the two devices side-by-side this morning she said instantly, “The iPad 2 is a lot brighter.”  The LED lit screen on the iPad 2 is brilliant and is noticeably brighter than its first gen cousin.  I’m going to check it out in bright sunlight tomorrow to see how the screen fares there, but indoors, it’s stunning.

Second, this thing is fast.  Web-browsing is noticeably faster, and animations are smooth.  In fact, the animations showed no stuttering even while installing multiple updates and receiving desktop notifications.  I haven’t seen a breakdown that tells us how much ram it has yet, but it’s obviously got more than the iPad 1.

Third, I love the smart cover.  Yes, it only protects the front of the device – but it’s just dang cool.  When it’s folded back flat against the back of the iPad it actually makes the device easier to hold and it keeps it from sliding around when on your lap.  The “stand” function is also really cool – though I do wish that it could somehow work to stand up the iPad when in portrait mode.

Using it

The cameras are OK.  The two times I’ve use it, both under artificial light, the picture has been rather grainy.  I need to do a comparison, but my 3Gs seems like it does better video in lower light conditions (of course, that could just be because I can’t see the graininess on the smaller screen).  Facetime works as advertised, the audio quality is excellent and the picture quality is pretty good as well (I want to try it out with someone on an iPhone 4). I haven’t installed Skype yet, but I’ll do that soon.

Typing on this device is about the same as the iPad 1, which means “good” but not great.  I typed my “in line” blog entry on the iPad and wasn’t frustrated at all, which is saying a lot, but I did find myself accidentally hitting the space bar from time to time.  I did get used to it, but it was a minor annoyance.  I’ll get a bluetooth keyboard for this eventually if I’m going to do any serious writing on it.

Video streaming is wonderful.  HD videos in my dropbox play without a hiccup and the quality is perfect.  Youtube videos play equally well, and html 5 UI elements on web-pages show absolutely no lag whatsoever.  Apps in general are responsive and seem to launch faster than on the iPad 1.  This thing is fun to work on.

I actually haven’t played a single game on the iPad yet.  I have one installed (Harry Potter Lego), but I got this to be a work device, so I’m trying to keep the clutter of of it as long as I can.  I do foresee angry birds on this in the near future though!

Final Thoughts

I own a first generation iPod Touch and an iPhone 3Gs.  When I got back to install someone on the 1st gen Touch, it feels slow.  It’s not really any slower than when it was my primary iOS device, but the shift to the 3Gs was just that dramatic.  The shift to the iPad 2 from the iPad 1 isn’t quite as dramatic, but it certainly feels similar.  It is a very dramatic switch.

Give me a day or two, and I’ll post a bit on how I want to make use of the iPad in ministry.