Should you buy an iPad 2? The pros and cons

The wait is over.

Two weeks after American tech-heads got their hands on Apple’s latest device, it’s now Australia’s turn. The iPad 2 will launch at 5pm this afternoon, at Apple stores and various resellers across the country.

By all accounts this launch has gone much more smoothly than last year’s, which saw tech fans wait several weeks to get their hands on an iPad after demand in the US outstripped supply.

But while the Australian launch has run on schedule, supply is definitely set to be tight. There are already reports that dozens of people are lining up outside Apple stores across the country, and some already lining up at various resellers including JB Hi-Fi and NextByte.

The Apple Store has already been taking online orders since early this morning, and the estimated three-week shipping date should be a hint that Apple is expecting a lot of sales today.

With demand running high, it’s a good idea to judge whether the gadget itself is worth the hype. The new version is definitely an improvement on the old, but does it mean you should be lining up for hours in the cold?

Pros

Design

There was a lot to like about the original iPad, but the new version makes the old one look like a brick. It’s one-third thinner, and will feel significantly less bulky when travelling and attending meetings.

The actual design of the device itself has changed as well. The back is completely flat with rounded edges where it meets the screen. Reports from various reviews show the gadget itself feels much sturdier than the previous version, even with a lighter weight.

Video conferencing

The two new cameras in the iPad won’t deliver you high-class photography, but for using FaceTime and other video conferencing apps they’ll be useful enough. This was one of the most requested features for the iPad 2 and Apple has delivered the goods.

Apps

While the first iPad was criticised as being more of a content consumption device rather than a content creation device, Apple is starting to challenge that assumption. It has gotten rid of the iPad keyboard dock, and has introduced a couple of new apps that definitely make the iPad a powerhouse content creator.

The iMovie editing suite and Garage Band apps really show off what the iPad is capable of. Since last year, the iPad may not have completely replaced a laptop, but using remote login apps like LogMeIn and the SalesForce platform means you can actually run many parts of a business straight from the device itself.

Spend some time in the App store before you buy an iPad, as the software you use will really define what type of gadget you have. But you’ll probably find that since last year, more apps are now allowing you to create content just as a laptop would.

Power/battery life

While the battery life hasn’t improved since the last model, it’s impressive that Apple has been able to reduce a third of the size and still maintain its length. Reports indicate you’ll get 10 hours of video and up to a month on standby time.

The processing power has also vastly improved, thanks to the A5 chip, apps open faster and are much more responsive.

Price

While the Australian dollar may be causing trouble for exporters, it also means consumer electronics have dropped in price significantly. The iPad 2 is priced up to $100 lower than the original, depending on the version:

  • 16GB Wi-Fi – $579
  • 32GB Wi-Fi – $689
  • 64GB Wi-Fi – $799
  • 16GB 3G – $729
  • 32GB 3G – $839
  • 64GB 3G – $949

If price was a concern last year, these new prices should help relieve those fears.

Cons

Screen

This may be a case of unwarranted expectation, but many were disappointed this year when Apple didn’t put a retina display in the iPad 2. While these expectations were only based on rumours, it nevertheless presents a dilemma – what is Apple using the retina screen in the iPhone and not in the iPad?

The iPad screen resolution isn’t necessarily bad, but you won’t be able to watch content as high quality as you could on another tablet.

No extra features

No USB, no SD card reader and no removable battery – while it may be unfair to expect these features from Apple, it’s clear rivals such as Samsung and Motorola are delivering in the features department.

Yes, the iPad comes with a HD connection kit, but it costs $US39. Until Apple starts putting in extra functionality the iPad could be a second-choice for some tablet owners.

4G

While the 4G network may not have taken off in Australia yet, other tablets are getting on that bandwagon quickly. The Motorola Xoom is just one of the tablets that has the ability to access faster wireless networks, and Apple may be left behind in that department if it doesn’t add 4G in the next iPad iteration.

What’s the verdict?

The iPad was a ground-breaking piece of technology that has transformed the consumer electronics market in just over a year. The iPad 2 is definitely an improvement on that – but it’s not the same ground-breaking device the first one was.

If you don’t own an iPad and have been considering buying one, then now is the time. The extra processing power, software features, hardware and slimmer design make for one very attractive package. A discount from last year’s recommended retail prices should be a big incentive as well.

But if you already own an iPad, don’t feel rushed. The original version is barely a year old – hardly out of date technology. The only things you’ll be missing out on are video conferencing and some extra processing power.

If you’re happy with your current iPad, wait for the iPad 3. But if you really feel the need to upgrade, you won’t be disappointed.

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