iPad 2's HD Video
One of the iPad 2's cooler features is that you can switch from front-facing camera to rear-facing camera in mid-conference with a couple of taps, making it easy to switch between showing your own talking head to something of interest in your environment -- a piece of broken machinery, for example, or a new product on display at a trade show.
This is not a unique capability of the iPad 2, though -- most dual-camera mobile devices can do the same.
One welcome change to the output capabilities of the iPad 2 is that it is now possible to send HD-quality video from the tablet to an HDTV over a wired connection.
You do need the $39 Apple Digital AV Adapter, which plugs into the iPad 2's single connection port and has an HDMI outlet at the other end. And you won't be able to use any old HDMI cable, because the adapter has a mini-HDMI outlet. For consumers, it means they can now more easily download HD video programming from iTunes to their iPads and view it on a big-screen TV. For business users, it means they can carry HD-quality business videos and plug their iPad into an HDTV in any boardroom and show the video in its native quality.
iPad Boasts Dual-Core Power?
We haven't said much yet about the vaunted dual-core processor. Applications do pop onto the screen a little quicker than on the iPad 1, especially noticeable when switching from one open app to another. Web pages display a little faster. These are both welcome improvements. We did not, however, see huge improvements in key compute-intense apps such as streaming high-quality video -- not that there was an awful lot of improvement needed.
The iPad 2 is not a truly multitasking device, and you don't very often use it for compute-intensive applications, so the performance improvements are bound to be mainly incremental - until developers start creating apps that take advantage of the increased power.
Finally, a word about one of the most talked about, and generally praised, new accessories from Apple, the iPad Smart Cover. We're not big fans. It's a thin cover for the screen (it doesn't wrap around) that attaches cleverly using magnets and turns the screen on or off when you open or close it.
Steve Jobs said too many after-market iPad covers and holders spoiled the device's modernist lines and didn't add much value. We're inclined to agree, but don't see this Apple product doing much better.
Plus, the Smart Cover sent with our iPad 2 review unit is plastic (some are leather) and a mid-brown color that may have turned us against the concept.
Bottom Line on the iPad 2
Companies that have made a commitment to the iPad as their tablet platform of choice are now in an interesting position. If they see the value in the undoubted improvements in iPad 2, they can continue spending about the same amount of money and get a better product.
But if they see little value in the improvements, or see little value for certain users, they could opt to buy a refurbished first-generation iPad, direct from Apple or elsewhere, and save money.
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