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

HDMI Output And Camera Quality

HDMI output

Apple neglected to include a digital video output on the original iPad, which is something that I constantly bemoan. Yes, you could output via component video, but multiple cables leads are a pain to deal with. In order for this to be painless, you really need a single-plug solution like HDMI, which Apple finally made possible on the iPad 2.

Of course, it isn't free. You have to buy this capability, and it's not cheap. Apple's Digital AV Adapter runs $39.

The adapter is simple, but I really think the ultimate in video output is wireless display technology like Intel's WiDi. In the meantime, Apple is covering the basics. The adapter has a single HDMI port for video output, along with a docking pass-through connector so you can charge the iPad 2 at the same time. Outputting video seems to drain the battery pretty fast. So, ideally, presentations made with your iPad 2 should be limited to two hours or so if you don't want to hook up the charger at the same time.

HDMI Output: 1920x1080 monitor

HDMI to DVI Output: 1920x1080 monitor

Video output isn't without its quirks. If you output via HDMI, native 1080p TVs and monitors display the image as an upscaled box in the center of the screen. If you use an HDMI-to-DVI cable, you'll see an upscaled image that takes up the total height of the screen. If you have a 1920x1200 screen, the image is correctly upscaled to fill the total height regardless of cable, but the 4:3 aspect ratio is preserved no matter what.

After a few days of mirroring the iPad 2's display, I decided that this isn't a perfect solution. I don't mind the upscaling, but I would prefer to have some sort of resolution control if I'm going to output to a larger screen. Apple also needs to fine-tune cloning because I don't need the iOS keyboard displayed on both screens. Ideally, it should only be visible on the iPad.

Playing video over HDMI is more refined. Regardless of the cable setup, you always get an image that preserves the aspect ratio of the original movie. According to Apple, media apps all have modes that are optimized for an external monitor. Netflix isn't listed, but this also applies to videos that you watch in that app.

AppNotes
iPodiPhone 4
VideosiPad and iPod touch (4th generation)
SafariVideo content on Web pages
PhotosSlideshow and video playback
YouTube
KeynoteAvailable for iPad through the App Store

Camera Quality

iPad 2: Taking A Picture

The front-facing and rear-facing cameras on the iPad 2 are really meant for FaceTime, which I unfortunately can’t test since no one else in the SoCal lab has the time to video conference (Ed.: So sue us for working!). No matter; the cameras are simply atrocious. The quality is good enough for Skype, but it pales in contrast to older smartphones that have 3+ megapixel sensors.

Back Camera: 0.7 MP 960x720

Apple narrows the competitive advantage of other tablets by adding cameras, but it does the bare minimum. Granted, nobody wants to even take a family photo with a big, awkward tablet, but at least exceed the capabilities of an old Blackberry Pearl. Yeesh.

Front Camera: 0.3 MP 640x480
  • 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