While the new Apple iPad (*Est. $500 and up) has drawn lots of attention, the Apple iPad 2 tablet remains available and, thanks to a $100 price cut, a little more affordable. For those interested in using an iPad as an e-book reader, the most significant difference is the new iPad's high-resolution Retina display that does wonders for illustrations and for text, though the display used by the iPad 2 has plenty of pluses -- and a few minuses -- in its own right. Other significant changes include 4G mobile wireless (in Wi-Fi plus 4G versions), a somewhat more powerful processor and a better rear camera. Still, it's that screen that has tongues wagging -- and beyond that, most experts say that the new iPad is remarkably similar to the older iPad 2, and that either one works very well as an e-book reader.
Like the Amazon Kindle (Est. $70 and up) , the iPad 2 allows you to buy e-books (or download free ones), but the iPad 2 has a large, backlit 9.7-inch color touch screen that's well-liked, though not drawback-free. For one thing, unlike the Kindle's smaller black-and-white screen, it can be read in a darkened room. Though some worry that the backlit screen can cause eyestrain, reports say that it's really not an issue. But what could be an issue is that the iPad 2's screen doesn't withstand glare very well -- a problem on sunny beaches and in rooms that are well lit by overhead lighting -- and that's made a touch worse if you opt for the white version of the iPad 2.
The iPad 2 is notably slimmed down compared to its predecessor, and is a very tiny bit thinner and lighter than the new Apple iPad, but it's still bigger and heavier than most dedicated e-book readers, meaning you'll want to prop it up for longer reading sessions. Other negatives include shorter battery life (around 10 hours in most tests, while the Kindle can go for weeks between charges).
The iPad 2 was previously available with storage capacities ranging from 16 GB to 64 GB, but only the 16 GB version is still sold. You can opt for a Wi-Fi-only version or one with Wi-Fi and 3G mobile wireless access . However, where the Kindle offers free 3G downloads, with the Wi-Fi +3G version of the iPad 2 you'll need to spend $15 and up for a data plan with either AT&T or Verizon if you want to use mobile wireless, though no contract is required.
So, why would you opt for an iPad 2 over the Kindle? For one thing, the iPad 2 tablet computer is much more versatile than a dedicated e-reader, capable of running a wide variety of apps, playing games and videos, and much more. Although Apple's iBookstore is smaller than Amazon's, the iPad 2 can read the widely used ePub file type (something the Kindle can't do), and you can run free apps to buy books from Amazon and other booksellers if you wish.
If you want a color screen but don't need all of the power of an iPad 2, the Barnes & Noble Nook Color (*Est. $170) could be a consideration. The Nook Color has a 7-inch backlit color touch screen and a basic web browser. There's also a reasonable selection of apps, though nothing even close to approaching what's available via iTunes for the Apple iPad.
Plenty of sources have weighed in on the iPad 2, but since the e-book features are not substantially changed from its predecessor, few spend much time on that aspect of the tablet computer. One exception is CNET, which includes some discussion of using the iPad 2 as an e-reader in its primary report on the iPad 2, plus substantially more in a separate article. Helpful reviews on the iPad 2 itself can also be found at PCMag.com, Laptop Magazine, Macworld and elsewhere. Some older reviews that deal directly with using the original iPad as an e-reader remain helpful as well.
CNET's Donald Bell is one of the few reviewers to devote much space to the iPad 2 as an e-reader. He points out some negatives -- such as challenges in outdoor readability and its "beefy" size compared to dedicated e-book readers. Still, Bell says that the iPad is a successful e-reader, with a lineup of features that the competition can't touch. CNET gives the iPad 2 its Editors' Choice award.
Review: Apple iPad 2 (16GB, Wi-Fi, Black), Donald Bell, March 11, 2011
CNET's David Carnoy does the best job in the early going of describing the iPad 2's prowess as an e-book reader. Glare remains a problem, he says, noting that the white version is even more problematical as the borders give off glare of their own. The reduced weight is certainly an advantage, but while it makes a difference, it's not a huge one when it comes to long reading sessions. Still, Carnoy says, "if you're buying the iPad 2 as an e-reader, you'll be mostly happy."
Review: IPad 2 as E-reader: Glare Still an Issue, David Carnoy, March 13, 2011
PCMag.com awards its Editors' Choice recognition to the iPad 2. Tim Gideon doesn't spend much time addressing e-reader features, though he does comment that after 10 minutes or so, your hands won't really notice the new Apple tablet's reduced weight. Still, the slimmer design helps make the iPad 2 a "clear standout in the ever-widening sea of tablets."
Review: Apple iPad 2 ( Wi -Fi and 3G), Tim Gideon, March 9, 2011
4. Laptop Magazine
Laptop Magazine gives the Apple iPad 2 an Editors' Choice award. Mark Spoonauer says that you need to hold the iPad 2 to appreciate the improvements over its predecessor and that it is much easier to hold for long reading sessions.
Review: Apple iPad 2 (Verizon Wireless), Mark Spoonauer, March 9, 2011
Jason Snell finds lots to like in the iPad 2, granting it a 4.5-star rating (out of 5). Although he spends more time addressing other aspects of the tablet, he notes that while the slimmed-down iPad 2 is easier to hold: "If you're planning on using the iPad 2 to read a lot, you'll still find yourself propping it against your chest or setting it on a table -- the tablet is still not light enough to hold in one hand for extended periods of time." He adds that the iPad 2 still weighs more than twice as much as the Amazon Kindle.
Review: Review: The iPad 2, Jason Snell, March 9, 2011
Engadget.com gives the iPad 2 an overall thumbs-up. The thin design comes in for kudos, as does the longer-than-expected battery life, which edges out the original iPad by nearly an hour in the site's tests.
Review: IPad 2 Review, Joshua Topolsky, March 9, 2011
In this video review, the iPad's e-book reader function (largely unchanged in the since-updated iPad 2) compares favorably with the Barnes & Noble Nook. The iPad is called a better value for everyone except those who are sure that they want nothing more than an e-reader.
Review: Is Apple's iPad the Ultimate E-reader?, Editors of DigitalTrends.com, April 16, 2010
This review does a good job of explaining what it's like to buy and read books on the iPad, which remains the same on the iPad 2. Shane McGlaun finds some minor annoyances, but overall likes the experience.
Review: Using the iPad as an eBook Reader, Shane McGlaun, April 7, 2010
9. The Wall Street Journal
According to ophthalmologists quoted in this article, backlit screens are not more likely to cause eyestrain than other types. According to one expert, the difference in users' perceptions is more likely a case of personal preferences.
Review: Screens and Eyestrain, Geoffrey A. Fowler, April 1, 2010