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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  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    They claim to have "as good" battery life from the ancient iPad..and Tegra 2 has proven to have better battery life than the first one..so unless they are wrong about their claims then the Tegra will outlast the A5. Both are built off of the Cortex A9 Dual Core, yes, but Apple hasn't made hardware in ages if you think the A5 is their doing. I bet it is another SoC from Samsung, and if it is the one that Samsung just made then it scores almost as good on some things, and significantly less on others. The reason the Tegra 2 is great is because of the ULP geforce 8-core GPU. Superior graphics at a lower cost. And the tablet I plan on getting starts at $399, and is powered by Tegra 2. Not to mention up to 16hr battery.

    I see the iPad as middle-of-its-class..using cheaper parts and a smaller, less interactive OS. I wouldn't get a tablet that doesn't have scratchproof glass anymore. And I would rather have a slightly larger tablet that doesn't overheat and is easier to hold onto. its a quirky little neat thing that it's so thin, but not practical imho. But maybe they fixed the overheating issue in this model, who knows.

    All the apps I want and use are on Android or have plans to be, that part is easily fixed..cheaper hardware isn't fixed.
    Reply
  • dborod - Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - link

    Juzcallmeneo, you've made a couple of statements in this thread about ipads overheating. My ipad has barely ever felt warm when using it, so I'm not sure what you're talking about. Mind you, I don't live in a tropical country, and don't leave it lying out in the sun, but even when charging and doing intensive tasks it barely feels warm. Reply
  • Juzcallmeneo - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Not every single one is going to overheat, but it is a quite well known issue, and from several people whom I know personally..the most annoying thing about it is how long it takes to start working again. Apparently it takes somewhere around 6 hours to come back on? This is what I've been told by iPad owners. If this doesn't happen to you, count yourself lucky. Reply
  • bplewis24 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    There are so many false statements and idiotic assumptions in your post that it's pretty clear you have no idea what you're talking about and have no experience with Android whatsoever.

    It's ironic that you end your sheep-like post with "Think Different."

    Brandon
    Reply
  • robco - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    The update is nice, as are the new software additions. I would like to see iOS 5 break more between the iPhone and iPad. The home screen layout makes sense on a smartphone, which doesn't really have the screen real estate for widgets, but doesn't really work on the iPad's larger display. Thinner and lighter is good, the new HDMI output is nice. For me it just comes down to use. I just can't think of what I would use a tablet for to justify the price.

    That being said, I wish they'd done what they did with the iPhone and continue to offer the original iPad in a base configuration at a reduced price. I know you can get remaining stock at a discount now, but once those are gone, that's it.

    The thing is the iPad is successful for the reasons Jobs mentioned. Notably, 65K apps and counting. If RIM, HP and the Android tablet makers want to compete, they're going to need to convince developers of the more successful apps to develop for their respective platforms. They're also going to need a content delivery system that can compete with iTunes. The Xoom may have a larger display, more memory and such, but if I can't get the apps or comparable apps to what the iPad has, or get the content I want, it's useless. Not only that, but as Jobs also pointed out, there's not much of a price advantage for going with another tablet.
    Reply
  • sean.crees - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    One thing I've noticed is that people who bash Apple products tend to only look at the spec sheets. They take the long list of things on one device and compare it to the other, and then base their decision on which one is better based solely on that.

    What they fail to include however is how well the software works with the hardware. What can you do with that hardware. How well does it work, and are their any glitches or issues with it.

    This is one of Apples strongest features that most people who hate Apple always seem to glaze over. All they see is missing I/O ports, and slower hardware, but don't see things like how polished the OS is and how well it works without issues. Or how you get timely updates to your software. You know how many times I've seen Android customers complaining about not getting OS updates in a timely fashion?

    You have to get out of the PC mindset, and start thinking about the TOTAL PACKAGE. The device is not just a sum of all its hardware specs.
    Reply
  • bplewis24 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    One thing I've noticed is that people who praise Apple products tend to pretend as if the software has no glitches or any issues with it, and likes to tell people that it is a perfect blend of software and hardware when it isn't. All one has to do is read real reviews for Honeycomb and iOS on the iPad to realize that the Xoom not only has a better spec sheet, but also an excellent blend of software and hardware that is the TOTAL PACKAGE.

    Brandon
    Reply
  • Chloiber - Friday, March 4, 2011 - link

    In general, sean has a point. Many really forget, how well iOS works.
    But what he forgets is, that "people who love Apple products" don't even CARE about the other options. As you said: Honeycomb offers many things and does many things really good.

    "Don't look on the spec sheet" has been used since the early iPhones. Maybe it was right then, but it certainly isn't today. It's only half of the "truth" - because other companies do the same things really well too by now and offer often more. I'm not saying the iPad 2 is outdated, I'm saying that you can get similar things (also software wise) from Android for example. And updates will be there for honeycomb immediately, because there is only one UI - so this argument is also flawed.

    In addition I'd like to add some other things:

    -The iPad can't play back 1080p video, allthough it can output 1080p. That's a fact, that is often ignored (to be honest: I don't care, but just wanted to point it out)
    - Regarding the price: you forget, that you have to pay about 80$ or more EXTRA to get the same connectivity options like other tablets. You don't get HDMI, you don't get SD Card. Whether you need it or not is irrelevant here: fact is, if you do, you need to pay 80$ extra, whereas you don't with other tablets.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Apple has also had only one carrier and slightly different variations on the same hardware to deal with. As this article states, the CDMA iPhone isn't mentioned in connection with iOS 4.3. Also older/slower hardware is being left behind. Were the situation to approach the level of diversity in Android (all carriers, multiple hardware configurations at different levels of performance) there is no guarantee that Apple would be getting upgrades out much faster. Reply
  • malone46844 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Just a note that iphone's and ipad's are sold in more countries than the USA, i.e. Apple has dealt with more carriers than one. Reply

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