The Apple iPad 2 (Est. $400 and up) may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but it still provides decently fast performance and full access to the 475,000-plus tablet-optimized apps in Apple's App Store.
Not a barnburner, but no slouch. The older Apple A5 processor found in the iPad 2 can't compare to the A7 processor in the iPad Air (Est. $500 and up) or the quad-core chips found in competing Android devices. As such, it might suffer slowdowns with some of the cutting-edge 3D games appearing in the App Store. Nevertheless, the iPad 2 provides good performance in everyday use, with only a very slight lag apparent when opening apps and browsing the web. Battery life is excellent, hitting 11 hours in some tests. The 1,024-by-768-pixel display isn't anything to brag about -- even some $200 Android tablets pack higher-resolution screens these days -- but it gets the job done.
There's an app for that. The iPad 2's biggest draw is the robust iPad ecosystem. Competing platforms offer only 5,000 to 10,000 apps, according to reviewer estimates, while the App Store boasts more than 475,000 programs tailored for the iPad. The dual onboard cameras work well for FaceTime chats, but their poor image quality makes them less than ideal for budding photographers. If you run into an issue with your tablet, you can take it to an Apple Store for free help at the Genius Bar, although an appointment is needed. Despite its aging hardware, the iPad 2 still performs well and offers full access to the App Store. If you don't need the iPad Air's eye-popping Retina Display and more powerful processor, experts say the app selection alone makes the $400 iPad 2 a worthy purchase consideration. Keep in mind, however, that if you don't mind the smaller form factor, the iPad mini with Retina Display (Est. $400 and up) provides almost all of the performance of the iPad Air as well as that excellent Retina touch screen, but costs the same as the iPad 2.
Apple's usual excellence. There may be a small lag when opening apps, but experts say the iPad 2 provides excellent responsiveness overall. The iOS operating system is laid out simply and superbly, producing what reviewers call the most user-friendly tablet experience around.
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CNET gives the Apple iPad 2 an Editors' Choice award. Bell says the device's refinements over the original iPad -- including twin cameras, a thinner profile and faster operation -- take an already excellent product and make it better.
Review: Apple iPad 2 Review (16 GB, Wi-Fi, Black), Donald Bell, March 11, 2011
The Apple iPad 2 also earns an Editors' Choice award from PCMag.com. "The clear standout in the ever-widening sea of tablets," Gideon says, although his review is written prior to the release of the current iPad and the Android tablets.
Review: Apple iPad 2 (Wi-Fi + 3G), Tim Gideon, March 9, 2011
Here the iPad 2 earns 4.5 stars out of 5 in a test of the Wi-Fi-only version. Like other reviewers, Snell says the iPad 2 isn't an essential upgrade for owners of the original iPad, but he reports faster performance. The device is a "bucket of water to the face" for its competitors, he says.
Review: Review: The iPad 2, Jason Snell, March 9, 2011
4. Laptop Magazine
The iPad 2 also earns an Editors' Choice award from Laptop Magazine. Spoonauer says the cameras could be improved, but the iPad 2 is sleeker, faster and has better battery life than its predecessor. "No one has been able to match the iPad's industrial design or intuitive interface," he writes.
Review: Apple iPad 2 (Verizon Wireless) Review, Mark Spoonauer, March 9, 2011
Engadget.com gives the iPad 2 an overall rating of 9 out of 10. Battery life exceeds expectations, and Topolsky says he loves the iPad 2's thin design. Some downsides are noted.
Review: iPad 2 Review, Joshua Topolsky, March 9, 2011
Like many reviewers, Walt Mossberg says the iPad 2 isn't a must-have upgrade for first-generation iPad owners. However, the iPad 2 is noticeably faster than its predecessor and battery life remains a high point. On the downside, the cameras aren't that great and the iPad 2 lacks support for Flash video.
Review: iPad 2: Thin, Not Picture Perfect, Walt Mossberg, March 9, 2011
7. The New York Times
David Pogue says the iPad 2 hasn't changed significantly compared to the first-generation model, but it feels very different, in a very good way. "My friends, I'm telling you: Just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience," he says.
Review: Appeal of iPad 2 Is a Matter of Emotions, David Pogue, March 9, 2011
8. USA Today Magazine
Edward Baig calls the iPad 2 "second to none." Apple's tablet still has drawbacks -- including low-quality cameras and no Flash support -- but he says the iPad 2 is better than the original.
Review: iPad 2 Is Even Better Than the Original, Edward C. Baig, March 10, 2011
The iPad 2 earns a positive review at SlashGear.com. Vincent Nguyen calls the device fast and easy to hold, and says it includes some nifty new accessories.
Review: iPad 2 Review, Vincent Nguyen, March 9, 2011