iPad 2: What we wanted and what we got

The iPad 2 is upon us and it does have changes but are they what we wanted? Is it enough?

Steve Jobs defeated illness to deliver the iPad 2 launch event last night. In typical Apple style it left everyone feeling positive, fooling us into thinking we can actually play a guitar just by buying the new touch pressure-sensitive iPad 2. But did it give us what we wanted?

Wanted: Surely a retina display and varying sizes of iPad would be a given

Got: No change at all. The same 9.7-inch 1024x768 display. Gutted.

Wanted: A faster processor, hopefully a dual-core to keep up with the PlayBook and the next generation of smartphones.

Got: The 1GHz A5 dual-core arrived and it makes the CPU “up to twice as fast” and the graphical processing “up to nine times as fast” as the original iPad, says Apple.

Wanted: Cameras, HD video in the back and a sufficient VGA in front

Got: Cameras came, as expected, with VGA in the front and 720p in the back. But it just made the inability to display HD quality video a little more disappointing.

Wanted: Less bulk on the beast

Got: Behind that perfectly acceptable screen was a slimmed down body as predicted, 33 percent skinnier making it just 8.8mm compared to the old 13.8mm, that’s thinner than an iPhone 4. That leaves it at 1.3 lbs compared to the original 1.5 lbs and leaves your wrist in less agony after a Family Guy viewing session.

Wanted: A more rugged body packing stereo speakers with louder output

Got: No sign of the carbon fiber body or any real material changes to speak of. As for those stereo speakers we wanted – not a glimmer, with barely audiable sound in a fairly busy room. Surely a small set of stereo speakers wouldn't have set tham back that much? Tut, tut.

Wanted: More controls and greater interavtity with the device

Got: A gyroscope adage should help with gaming but was expected. Then, while talking about GarageBand a bomb was dropped. The instruments reacted to how sensitively you depress the screen – big surprise. At the moment that just means fun with these apps, but for the extra interactivity of this screen it allows developers to make gaming even more detailed with another level of control. Exciting surprise.

Wanted: Better battery life

Got: All these improvements and the battery still manages a 10 hour stint before needing a charge.

Wanted: More memory, an expansion slot and Thunderbolt

Got: No sign of an SD expansion slot or anything similar. iPad 2 is available with the usual 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models on offer. Sadly no sign of the highly anticipated Thunderbolt port either.

Wanted: A nice suprise "one more thing" at the end

Got: So we didn't get any encore style extra but there was a suprise. Coming completely out of the blue was the, ahem, blue Smart Cover, also available in any of the usual Apple array of colours. Made of ribbed, flexible materials and attached to the front of the iPad using magnets, it wakes the device when opened and sends it to sleep when closed. It even folded up to act as a stand – what a pleasant surprise, that would probably have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t pushed by Jobs at the launch. If you want to jump on the cover excitement bandwagon you’ll have to fork out an extra $39 for the plastic version and $69 for leather, neither of which offer any protection for the camera lens equipped rear of the iPad.

Wanted: A price drop from the original

Got: It’s been announced that pricing will start at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model. That’s £305 in the UK, but they are unlikely to give it to us at exchange-rate value, so the usual £429 starter price is likely.

Wanted: A brand new iOS 5 with something completely original and ground-breaking

Got: Software improvements were a given, so the iOS 4.3 (available for free from 11 March) wasn’t a big surprise. But no iOS 5 that we were hoping for. Still, we get Safari that runs twice as fast (as it should with a dual-core), wireless steaming through iTunes as expected, AirPlay improvements that allow you to find your Apple TV easily weren't a big shock either. Inevitably PhotoBooth was thrown in to make the cameras more useful than just for FaceTime, which is also installed and let’s you connect to most iOS devices including iPhone and Mac.

Wanted: New apps to help utilise the cameras

Got: After the mildly underwhelming specs were out of the way, iMovie was showcased with impressive speed and effective multi-gesture interactivity. It even let’s you simply export to Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. Then GarageBand was shown, with drums and guitars that react to how sensitively you depress the screen and the ability to hook up real instruments and use the device as an amp or mixing studio. It really felt like this would make you good regardless of talent.

Our hands-on video:




Live from the iPad 2 launch

iPad 2 video

Hands-on iPad 2

Detailed iPad 2 low-down

Original iPad price-drop