Today, Steve Jobs took a sabbatical from his sabbatical to hop up on stage and tell us all about the iPad 2, the next revision of Apple’s wildly popular tablet PC.

The announcement concerned both hardware and software – the iPad 2 is coming to the US on March 11, and with it will come the iOS 4.3 update, iMovie for iPad, and GarageBand for iPad. It will launch at the same capacities and price points as its predecessor, will come in both black and white, and launches internationally on March 25.

The iPad 2 - More of the Same

The iPad has had, for all intents and purposes, the tablet market to itself for most of the past year. That’s all set to change in 2011, based on the plethora of Android and Windows tablets we saw at CES, so the iPad 2 must be not only a solid extension of the original product’s strengths, but also a worthy competitor to the first wave of products from Google, Microsoft and the rest.

For convenience’s sake, I’ll be comparing the new iPad’s specs to both the old iPad and to the Motorola Xoom, which we reviewed last week. While the Xoom certainly doesn’t represent all of the Android/Honeycomb tablets that will come to market in the next few months, it does represent Google’s reference design for Honeycomb, and as such I feel safe considering it the standard (or perhaps the ideal) hardware configuration for Google’s new tablet OS.

Tablet Specs
  iPad iPad 2 Motorola Xoom
Processor 1GHz Apple A4 1GHz Apple A5 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2
Memory 256MB Unknown 1GB
Storage 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB 32GB + microSD card
Display 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 10.1-inch 1280 x 800
Dimensions 242.8mm x 189.7mm x 13.4mm 241.2mm x 185.7 mm x 8.8 mm 249.1mm x 167.8mm x 12.9mm
Weight

1.6 lbs (3G model)

1.5 lbs (wi-fi model)

1.34 lbs (3G model)

1.33 lbs (wi-fi model) 

1.6 lbs

Apple took this opportunity to move from the Apple A4 processor it used in the iPhone 4 and original iPad, which combined a Cortex-A8 processor with a PowerVR SGX 535 GPU. The A4 is very closely related to the processors used in the iPhone 3GS, so that should give you a frame of reference for how long we've been waiting for a true architecture bump.

The new A5 processor is a dual-core affair running at the same speed as the A4 in the original iPad. Just as Apple was coy about mentioning the A4 being powered by an ARM Cortex A8, it's quite possible that the A5 is powered by two ARM Cortex A9 cores. Thankfully, the increased performance doesn't come at the cost of decreased battery life - the iPad 2 is rated at about 10 hours of battery life, same as the original iPad.

The new iPad's graphical capabilities should be impressive, though; Apple claims that it is up to nine times as fast as the original iPad. The improvement in GPU performance is likely due to the rumored PowerVR SGX 543 that's inside the A5. We'll need to wait until we have the device in hand to separate the actual speed from the on-paper speed, but if this claim holds up we should be seeing games and apps that look an order of magnitude better on the new iPad.

System memory is also a bit of a wildcard at this point, and my best guess varies based on the precedent I use. The original iPad has 256MB of system memory, which was the same amount as the then-current iPhone 3GS. If Apple follows this pattern, then the new iPad should have the 512MB of system memory that the iPhone 4 has. However, if Apple is more interested in staying abreast of Android, the new iPad will have the 1GB of system memory encapsulated in the Xoom. Either way, we'll probably need to wait until we have the device in hand to figure this out, since it isn't mentioned on Apple's otherwise exhaustive spec sheet.

The iPad 2 comes in both wi-fi only and 3G flavors - separate 3G iPads will be available on both the Verizon and AT&T networks from day one. It remains to be seen whether the iPhone 5 will be a universally compatible device, but based on the iPad 2 the next iPhone may continue to come in two slightly different flavors. Just as before, Assisted-GPS is only available on the 3G versions of the iPad 2.

Moving from the inside to the outside, the new iPad also receives the front (VGA) and rear-mounted (720p) FaceTime cameras that have become nearly ubiquitous in Apple’s products since FaceTime’s introduction in the iPhone 4 - the original iPad had a space inside the case where a camera would fit, but manufacturing troubles led the company to leave the camera out.

Apple delivers all of this new stuff in a package that is slighlty lighter and significantly thinner than the previous iPad at the same price points, which I don't think anyone can complain about, and it comes in both black and white varieties.

Moving into the Land of Accessories, Apple showcased two things today. The first was a new case design for the tablet - using magnets built into both the iPad's chassis and the case's hinge, it manages to protect the device's screen and serve as a stand without adding a lot of additonal bulk to the tablet.

 

The previous iPad case was a foamy, bulky thing that made the tablet more unwieldy while also restricting access to its data port and obscuring its pretty exterior. The new case looks to protect the tablet's most vulnerable asset while also maintaining the device's aesthetics. The new cases will run $39 for a polyurethane cover, and $69 for a leather cover.

Also demoed was an HDMI adapter, which promises to output any app at 1080p resolutions with a minimum of setup and fuss. You'll pay $39 for the privilege - it's up to you to decide whether this is useful to you.

The Software - iOS 4.3, iMovie, and GarageBand
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  • akedia - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    They're calling it more of the same because it's . . . more of the same. Other than the cameras, it's fundamentally the same device with improved components that aren't strikingly different from the old, just faster versions of the same. It's not a complaint, it's a description: more, because it's the same package but faster, and the same, because they didn't add a bunch of new things, change anything to anything dramatically different, or take anything significant away. Seems pretty simple to me. Reply
  • tno - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Just wanted to comment that his was one of the most tightly put together articles I've read in some time. Great job, Andrew! Reply
  • tdtran1025 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    I currently use VoIP service to route all calls to my iPhone over 3G. It's beginning to make me rethink my strategy. I may ditch the iPhone all together and use the new iPad for every daily routine (phone, light computing and web apps) to save money. With all the calls routed over 3G, my data usage hardly exceeds 100 Mb per month since I only use the web whenever I have Wifi–or most of the time. Also now that the iPad becomes very capable of handling light-duty computing, I will certainly don;t mind carrying it around–a complete integration indeed! Reply
  • Nathelion - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    "Today, Steve Jobs took a sabbatical from his sabbatical to hop up on stage and tell us all about the iPad 2, the next revision of Apple’s wildly popular tablet PC."

    In what way is the iPad a PC? The PC is a hardware platform. PCs were originally called "IBM Compatibles", but as IBM departed the scene it has evolved and come to be identified with x86, and a number of other signature buses and instruction sets and vendors that have shifted over the years. ARM chips, however, have never been part of the PC platform. The iPad may (or may not) be awesome, but in no way is it a PC.
    Reply
  • vision33r - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Amazing how much FUD is spread here. The Xoom is no longer the most powerful tablet, it was for a week.

    The Tegra 2 is not the fastest CPU/GPU combo, it is easily beaten by the new A5 Cortex 9 and the PowerVR GPU found in the iPad 2.

    Go search up the specs and stats and you will see the Xoom was dead in the water with those specs and a horrible LCD screen.

    It's ok, we will see another iPad challenger in the coming months.
    Reply
  • geok1ng - Monday, March 7, 2011 - link

    http://blogs.computerworld.com/17907/motorola_xoom...

    http://www.muktware.com/b/03/2011/797/ipad-2-bette...

    So it seens a pretty bold statement that :

    "The Tegra 2 is not the fastest CPU/GPU combo, it is easily beaten by the new A5 Cortex 9 and the PowerVR GPU found in the iPad 2."

    I would wait for an Annadtech review before stating that claim. And pray that the iPad2 has a little more than the expected 512MB. 512MB??? WTF is that? Bleeding edge specs????

    Nvidia created much turmoil over the Tegra2, that after all was only 20% faster gaming wise, but much better video quality wise. And Nvidia reputation forinflating hardware specs is no where NEAR AS TARNISHED AS Apple.

    The iPad2 is a good tablet, hopefully is would yield a better use experience than the iPad1. Anyone that has a Galaxy Tab would even conseider using that slow humongous piece of bloatware.

    Give me a x86 tablet OS, even at half the battery life!
    Reply
  • Griswold - Saturday, March 5, 2011 - link

    The hotspot function does not provide 3G to 5 Wifi devices. Its only 3 Wifi devices and one each via bluetooth and USB for a *total* of 5 devices.

    http://www.apple.com/ios/
    Reply
  • pubjoe - Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - link

    I find it pretty had to take a lot of comments here seriously. Twelve Months from the ipad launch, it's pretty blind of anyone to criticize the original ipad as being "ancient", "overpriced" and "cheap" when it quite simply was the first device of it's kind. I understand it's not for everyone, but come on, who are you trying to convince?

    Form is everything.

    Now I use the term form literally. In many cases, it is not the enemy of function, but the first layer between the user and a device - the parts that you interact with. The physical appearence, the size and weight; the build quality, the screen quality, the battery life, the UI and it's simplicty, responsiveness and clarity.

    The tablets coming out now are devices (and many people have said this) that I wanted ten years ago. It is a device that replaces the magazine (plus adds a fair bit more). I can't understand criticism for an ipad being "media-centric" and I can't understand the denial of the importance of it being the first to actually produce the device that "many people" have wanted for a long time.

    Apple got it right this time - deal with it. Other companies are blatently immitating, and they will very likely exceed it at some point (65,000 apps might seem like a lot now, but it's the first drop in the ocean).

    Hardware arguments can get pretty stupid. It's all about balance. At any given moment in time, you can only fit so much technology in and without sacrificing weight and physical form; you can only make it so thin without sacrificing power; you can only set the price so low without sacrificing everything. Etc etc.

    Apple has always been very good at finding this balance. In fact, I think that's one of their most important aspects along with marketing, style, friendly UIs and "first to market" "gimmicks". Apple products have never been for everyone due to the fact that they will ruthlessly stick to they're interpretation of a perfect balance. Now that's absolutely fine. Personally, I don't have an ipad at all, mainly becasue I'm still waiting for a decent enough, thin portable sketch-book device with a touch sensitive screen and a lot of battery life to come along, but also because I don't think I "need" a magazine formed tablet to fill the gap between a smart-phone and a computer at all ...yet.

    Another important part of the balancing act is remembering what the product actually is in the first place. Just as Nintendo remembered that the gameboy, first and foremost, should be portable, have long battery life and simple fun games (sacrificing the power of their competitors). Just as Amazon remembered that a dedicated book reader should be cheap and have a visible screen. Apple remembers that the ipad is primarily a coffee table device, NOT a laptop, and it won't be purchased using the same ghz oriented selection process. The hardware is in there to serve a purpose, it just so happens to be very capable hardware, but the form, quality of screen (widescreen xoom? really?), ease of use (and so on) are important things that can't be forgotten in the coffee table battle that currently being fought. This is why people are currently buying ipads.

    Now there are interesting things happening from google with honeycomb. But it's definitely NOT due to public stupidity that the ipad has been so successful. As someone pointed out, the "sheep" comments are really making the anti-apple brigade look like luddites.
    Reply
  • pubjoe - Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - link

    ...Damn I wish there was an edit button here. Apologies for the spelling mistakes.

    Anyway. I'm also sorry to get involved in the "grate apple debate". ...That wasn't a spelling mistake this time! ;-)

    For 30 years it's been going on and it always makes both sides look stupid. I usually try and avoid it, but I genuinely feel that in this case the anti apple guys' "Steve Jobs resistance pants (tm)" are going into override.
    Reply
  • lili53 - Thursday, March 10, 2011 - link

    welcome Reply

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