iPad 2: First Impressions

After much deliberation, I decided to replace my iPad with the new iPad 2. Val wanted my old one, and I decided to get a 3G model on Verizon. I’m writing this on the new one, a black, 64 GB model.

So far, the Smart Cover is by far the most impressive improvement over the original iPad. If you haven’t seen the videos of the covers on Apple’s site, you should check them out. As Steve Jobs pointed out in the iPad 2 announcement, Apple put out a cover for the first iPad, but it added thickness and weight to the iPad, but more importantly, it covered up the beautiful industrial design. To that, I’d add that the material hindered the jewel-like presence the iPad has in the hand, not to mention that I thought it was hideous and scuffed easily. I tried several other covers, with varied success. My favorite is the DODOcase, which I use to this day when I’m really going mobile with the original iPad. I typically eschew the cover, though, and was thrilled to see that they tackled this problem with the new smart covers.

So what about the new form factor? In the hour or two I’ve been using the new version, I’d say that it’s nicer, for sure, but not that much nicer. Being thinner does seem to have made it susceptible to getting a little warmer than the original.

The much-ballyhooed performance improvements are there, but in typical use, like surfing, writing email (and iPad reviews ;), the new iPad isn’t that much of an improvement, as the original was no slouch. While I do notice some improvement in web surfing, I imagine that the newly-released iMovie and GarageBand will show off that added performance.

One performance improvement that Apple hasn’t highlighted, but is noticeable almost immediately, is the increased memory (up to 512 MB from 256 MB). Safari keeps pages as many pages as it can cached in memory when you open many of them in tabs, and flushes their contents as needed, requiring them to be reloaded from the network when you switch back to them. This reload, of course, takes time and some modern pages aren’t particularly reload-friendly. (I’m looking at you Facebook, which loses your position in the News Feed when the page reloads.)

In any case, more memory equals more caching of pages, which means faster browsing and it’s a really welcome improvement. In fact, it’s too bad they didn’t go farther and put 1 GB in, especially in the higher-end models. I mean, we really ended up paying a lot for that extra storage; a little more RAM wouldn’t have killed them, would it?

I know some people are thrilled about the cameras, and some even didn’t buy the first iPad because it lacked one. Personally, I don’t care about them, although maybe someone will do something super-cool with them and I’ll be glad they’re there. For now, they’re not much of an addition.

Bottom Line

I didn’t know how the original iPad would fit into my life and work, so I hedged my bets and bought the middle-of-the-line 32 GB WiFi model. Now that I know that I use it all-day, every day, I didn’t mess around. That, combined with the awesome new smart cover, makes this a worthwhile purchase for me (not to mention that my wife wanted the old one). Barring those reasons, though, I don’t think it’s compelling enough for original iPad owners to upgrade, unless they really just want the latest-and-greatest.