Apple iPad 2 review: Love and hate 2.0

GSMArena team, 23 March 2011.
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Tags: Apple, iOS, Touch UI

Smart cover

You’ve seen the promo videos for the Smart Cover – the nifty little accessory that magnetically attaches to your iPad 2 and protects its screen/back. It can also easily be converted to a stand to use when you need to type or watch movies.


The Smart Cover

You should know though that despite losing more than 100 grams, the iPad 2 is still quite heavy and likely to tire your hand fast (in case you are holding it with just one hand).


The Smart Cover

Using the iPad 2 with two hands is pretty hard too in some scenarios. For example, it’s almost impossible to type properly unless you have very long thumbs (or huge hands). It’s also uncomfortable to interact with most of the apps this way.

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Holding the iPad

So, for long browse-a-thons you’ll want to rest the iPad in your lap or on a desk. Using the Smart covers or another type of case as a stand would make all the difference.

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The official iPad 2 dock

A slightly better display

The iPad 2’s screen has the same size and resolution as the first-gen iPad. In fact, it should be the same LED-backlit IPS-TFT display as before. Well, we guess it’s just too early for that 2048x1536-pixel screen that had the rumor mill rolling. And the reasons might go beyond the sheer manufacturing costs. The new resolution might have led to serious performance issues and larger storage requirements for apps.

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The screen is pretty good

There are some improvements in the new gen iPad though. The viewing angles are better, with far less contrast loss. That makes the difference between the two noticeable, despite the fact that color shift when viewed from extreme angles is about the same on the two iPads.

The colors are slightly warmer on the iPad 2, and we think this is more accurate.

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The iPad 2 screen has excellent viewing angles

Sunlight legibility is decent but we have certainly seen better. The screen is very reflective and being so big it’s pretty hard to find a proper angle for working with it. Plus, the iPad 2 screen picks lots of fingerprints and those really hurt the outdoor usability.

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iPad vs iPad 2 screens viewed from angle

Still, if you take your time wiping the screen and find a suitable angle text is readable enough. The screen is not as bright as the iPhone’s though, even at the brightest setting. So, while it is possible to read e-b ooks on the iPad in those conditions, it’s not as nice an experience as on E Ink readers regardless of what Apple says.

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iPad vs iPad 2 screens viewed from angle

In general, we find the iPad 2 screen to be pretty good, despite the low resolution. The excellent colors and viewing angles put your privacy at risk though so be careful with viewing sensitive information in public places.

Display brightness and contrast

And here comes the newest test that we have introduced to our reviews. With manufacturers refusing to share the contrast ratio and brightness levels of their devices and giving confusing figures when they decide to do so we though the it would be best if we just measure that ourselves.

Normally, the brightness measurement is repeated twice for each devices – once with it’s the display brightness set to 100% and once with the brightness reduced to 50%. Different units have different behavior when you reduce their brightness – some get an increase in contrast, while others do worse than they would at full brightness.

To demonstrate the viewing angle improvements that the iPad 2 screen brings this time we also added the measurements at 45° viewing angle and with the tablets rotated to 45°, which we found to be one of their weakest spots. You can see that despite the pretty similar performance in the first test, the iPad 2 has a huge edge here. While the new Apple tablet does lose plenty of contrast (also notice the huge drop in luminance) when you look at it that way it still remains way nicer than its predecessor.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Apple iPad 2 0.18 167 925 0.55 429 775
Apple iPad 0.21 178 834 0.53 410 776
Apple iPad 2 (viewed at 45°) 0.16 27 166 0.40 63 157
Apple iPad (viewed at 45°) 0.84 29 34 2.64 65 24
iPhone 4 0.14 189 1341 0.39 483 1242
iPhone 3GS 0.84 134 160 2.51 504 201

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