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Final Words

Apple's iPad 2 Review: Tom's Goes Down The Tablet Rabbit Hole

In my opinion, the iPad 2's price is just as ridiculous as the original iPad. But that’s the nature of an Apple tablet. Remember that $499 for the iPad 2 is only the beginning. You also end up paying for a case, cradle, keyboard, HDMI adapter, and don’t forget the plethora of applications that you’ll feel compelled to buy. If you want a better idea of cost over time, don't be surprised to spend more on an iPad 2 than you might have otherwise spent on a mainstream notebook. Clearly, many folks don't know this or don't care.

Apple iPad 2 Pricing
16 GB
32 GB
64 GB
Verizon 3G

In a beautiful, perfect world, we'd like to see Apple drop the price of its iPad 2. Right now, the entry fee to own one is too high. Consider what you get. The WiFi version lacks proper GPS support. This is a major disappointment if you want to avoid 3G, but need help with directions. If you're a traveler, you really need some sort of cellular plan to get the most use out of your iPad 2 (and that puts you in another pricing bracket entirely).

I won't lie; the poor camera quality doesn't help matters. For a company that's talking up FaceTime and Photo Booth, it's drawing a clear line in the sand that tablets should have cameras. And yet, Apples shows up to that gun fight with a Deringer. The camera sensors are by no means impressive, which is disappointing given the importance Apple places on them. The company is only getting away with this because it has relatively mature software (Ed.: I'd argue it's only getting away with it because the previous generation had no camera at all).

Apple gets credit for setting the bar when it comes to UI. Last quarter, almost 20% of Apple's total revenue ($13.5 billion) came from iPad sales. In spite of more tablet competition, Apple is still doing relatively well because it demonstrated that the software/user experience is just as important (if not more important) as the hardware on which it runs. I think we can all agree that tablets aren't fully evolved, though. They don't really replace anything, and until we get to that point, tablets users are faced with "needing" a device that they can live without.

Depending on how you enjoy using technology, there can be other inconveniences associated with using a tablet in general. Enjoying one almost requires the right physical position. Sitting down with one in your lap feels mighty awkward after a while. Instead, it's best to recline and hold the iPad 2 against your thighs. Call us strange for taking this into consideration, but it goes to show that tablets aren't these uber-portable devices easy to use in transit.

Despite those issues, my biggest gripe is synergy. I don't want to keep track of the files that I have on my desktop, iPad, and cellphone. If you're batting two out of three for Apple (as in, you own a Macbook and iPad), this is even more important. When I'm done working on my desktop, I want to be able walk over to my iPad and have all my applications and data come with me. I don't want to have to worry about docking and synching every time I make a change to a document or add audio tracks. Unfortunately, there is nothing (yet) that enables this. Even the Dropbox App is an incomplete solution. iCloud is supposed to be the answer to all my synergy woes, but Apple's cloud service won't be available until iOS 5 rolls out in the fall. Until then, I still feel like I'm missing an important part of the tablet experience.

If you absolutely have to have the latest and greatest toys, regardless of whether they'll become an important part of your life, Apple's iPad 2 is the way to go. The company continues to set the standard and it's hard to have a serious discussion about tablets without including Apple, which is why we felt it was important to kick off our tablet coverage with this device, even though it's not exactly brand new. Make no mistake; there is plenty of competition. A significant number of competitors will pop up this year. So, hopefully, Apple uses this as an impetus for innovation. Tablets have the potential to be amazing, but I think it will take another generation or two before we're actually there.

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