When you’re as far ahead of the game as Apple is with its iPad, you can afford to take your foot off the gas and cruise a little. That’s what it’s doing with its first iPad update. There’s nothing in this refresh that’s going to blow your mind, but across the board it’s had a number little nips and tucks to stop it falling back into the chasing pack.
The 9.7in screen has the same gorgeous edge-to-edge glass, now with even punchier colours, but web pages can still look a little rough on its 1024x768 display before you zoom in. Contrast has been boosted, and while ebook-worms will love it, it’s nowhere near as daylight-friendly as a Kindle.
Spring in its step
WIth more processor power to call upon, browsing is more brisk, with busy websites such as this loading around two second faster, while satellite-view maps resolve themselves around four seconds faster. Hopping from app to app is where you’ll see the biggest improvement, with shorter and smoother transitions. 3D games such as Dead Space HD get a slight boost in the framerate department too.
We’ve now got a pair of cameras, although this feels like a token gesture. Using the iPad 2 as a camera just doesn’t feel right, and the terrible 0.7MP still photos would shame a budget cameraphone – there’s not even an LED flash nor any processing options. The HD video makes a better case for itself, though results aren’t as rich or natural as those from the iPhone 4. The front-facing camera does enable FaceTime video calling, but only to other Apple-connected peeps.
Of course, Apple had to make it thinner (them’s the rules), and in doing so has managed to eject 75g of mass from the original. It makes a bigger difference than you might expect. The slim new iPad sits much more comfortably into your hand and has less of a tendency to slip while gaming. The shinier metallic back can pick up scratches though, so you might find yourself fattening it up again with a protective skin.
Despite this mixed bag of updates, they are alterations and additions to what is already by far the most well rounded tablet experience there is. Yes, there’s still the absence of Adobe Flash support, but aside from that it handles multimedia effortlessly. As the leading tablet platform for mobile apps it gets all the best stuff first and in many cases exclusively. Others will (and already do) beat the iPad 2 in certain areas (such as removable storage, hi-def screen and tinkerability) but if we were pinned down and made to recommend a tablet, it would be the iPad 2 without a doubt.