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

Final Words

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 Pricing16 GB32 GB64 GB
WiFi$499$599$699
AT&T 3G$629$729$829
Verizon 3G$629$729$829

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.

  • Yuka
    What about adding other tablets in the mix?

    The XOOM could be a good choice, or the Asus Transformer.

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • acku
    We'll get to the others soon enough, but it's difficult to talk about other tablets without talking about Apple products.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    Reply
  • Nintendork
    Samsung Galaxy 10.1 anyday.
    Reply
  • gidgiddonihah
    Here is the article where all the Apple fanboys start to tear this article up :).
    Reply
  • gidgiddonihah
    Oops, sorry for the poor grammer :). Posted without rereading...

    Here is an article that Apple fanboys would be glad to rip up.
    Reply
  • Tijok
    gidgiddonihahHere is the article where all the Apple fanboys start to tear up .
    Fixed it for you. ;)
    Reply
  • Benihana
    Still no HDD expandability? No thanks. I'm not rich.
    Reply
  • Disagree.
    Like most computer guys like myself, adding an ipad won't make us to pack our PC/Mac to our closet. But again, mistakes like Microsoft or Linux, the "most computer guys on earth" are actually just a small group in total.
    For example:
    i've been teaching my 80 years old grandma to use pc to download, install and play simple games for years, no success. then she learned how to find/download/install/play many games after few days playing with my ipad.
    my 5 years nephew reads/plays/watch cartoons all on ipad now, she didn't turn on her pc for weeks.
    For myself, i uninstalled all my online video, movie client applications from my laptop, as I found watching these on ipad is much comfortable.

    Yes I still do my works on my pc, mostly in my office. At home, now the only thing force me to turn on my pc is to play world of warcraft
    I mean, who says ipad can't replace anything?
    Reply
  • acku
    joeyluDisagree.Like most computer guys like myself, adding an ipad won't make us to pack our PC/Mac to our closet. But again, mistakes like Microsoft or Linux, the "most computer guys on earth" are actually just a small group in total.For example:i've been teaching my 80 years old grandma to use pc to download, install and play simple games for years, no success. then she learned how to find/download/install/play many games after few days playing with my ipad.my 5 years nephew reads/plays/watch cartoons all on ipad now, she didn't turn on her pc for weeks.For myself, i uninstalled all my online video, movie client applications from my laptop, as I found watching these on ipad is much comfortable. Yes I still do my works on my pc, mostly in my office. At home, now the only thing force me to turn on my pc is to play world of warcraftI mean, who says ipad can't replace anything?
    I'd actually argue that in your case you're not replacing a PC, you're augmenting it. Granted, there will be others like your nephew and grandmother who can use an iPad as their primary device.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones
    May I simply say, "thank you" to Toms for writing a well thought out objective, honest and practical review of thr iPad2. Instead of getting carried away you've hit the nail on the head.

    P.s. I use an Acer W500 and I still struggle to justify why i have it.
    Reply