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

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 - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Your FANtasy world seems fun, how many and what types of drugs do you use to get there?

    I cannot stress how much I dislike blackberrys. It's not the same as Apple..I dislike Apple's childish and methodical strategies. I dislike Apple's use of cheap parts and how they boast it's the right choice. The reason I don't like blackberrys has to do with simply how they work all-together. I have 6 uncles and 1 aunt all on my father's side..many many cousins..and 90% of us are huge in business. The reason I say that the playbook is being oogled by because they oogle it right in front of me, constantly. I didn't know what the playbook was until some businessmen and women explained it to me..I didn't search for it on my own until a few days ago when I wanted to see what THAT hype was about. I try to sell them on Android, and they try to sell me on blackberry.

    99.9% of people know what the iPad is and most want one? how many billions of sales are you trying to bet on? Your numbers are not just obviously made up, but completely silly.

    Apple is a Glutton, "what makes us the most money" type of company. They couldn't give a care what anybody wants on their products, not just me.

    I see you believe that the iPad is about as useful as a toaster, and hence doesn't need any extra any advanced technology has.

    Now that the iPad 2 has been released, everybody can see that I wasn't lying about the .3MP and .7MP cameras on front and back. How did I know it had the exact same cheap cameras on the iPod Touch? I kind of work for Apple and get to deal with fixing their pieces of junk when I'm available..I also get to deal with the many people who buy their junk and don't know things like what iTunes is. Fixing their cheap manufacturing several times a week does indeed make me long for something that "Just works".. And I'm SICK of fixing iPods/iPhones/iPads.
  • dcaxax - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Just one point re:your comment - Mac's aren't using nvidia graphics anymore due to their incompatibility with sandy bridge chipsets, not due to any rift between apple and nvidia.
  • Roland00Address - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Apple could still use nvidia if they wanted too, while they may not use nvidia or ati discrete graphics on their 13inch line of macbook pro due to space and profit margin concerns, that doesn't stop them com using nvidia on their 15 and 17 inch line. Apple choose to use and/ ati on this line of macbook pros as well as the current line of imacs that is saying something.
  • shiznit - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    wrong. Nvidia doesn't make chipsets for Intel cpu's newer than core 2 (inlcuding sandy bridge) but their discrete gpus work with Intel, it's just pci express.
  • Guspaz - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    There is no such incompatibility, and their decision has nothing to do with that. Apple regularly changes up the GPU in their machines based on what's the best fit available at the time. This time around, AMD had a better price/performance/power/heat combination at the levels that Apple was targeting, it's that simple. In fact, Intel's increasing IGPU performance (it's doubled in each of the past two generations) was high enough this time around for Apple to ship their 13" MBPs with nothing but the Intel IGPUs. If Intel continues to improve IGPU performance, you'll probably see this next time around too.
  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Oh I suppose It's just butterflies and rainbows between them..just like Apple and Adobe.

    Nevermind Nvidia jumping up on stage and loudly announcing that they plan on dominating the Tablet Market that Apple just started concentrating on..alongside Apple's tablet rival no less.
  • Nihility - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    The iPad 3 will have super ultra mega amazing magical new feature... a STYLUS!
  • Stas - Friday, March 4, 2011 - link

    woa... Jobs hasn't even invented it yet, and you already know about it? O.O
  • techbwoy - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    LOL so can you recount how many of those tablet sold in a year. Face it Apple can in and made the market relevant. You can't deny that. Apple used itunes to set up things that make it hard for others to compete with. Its funny how when it comes to Apple people find short comings to easy but give others a pass. XOOM release with virtually no major software but put a little dazzle and its the greatest thing PLEASE. Give me a integrated solution.
  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    "The one thing that Apple did actually bring to the table, is showing the rest of the companies that we are finally in the age where tablets can be popular for simple media consumption for many people. Now that they've done that they can leave."


    Anyways, I'm not sure if you're agreeing with me or arguing, but I did actually say the same thing. My point was the iPad was not the first one by a long shot.

    And I never said I liked the Xoom..I just don't find it as useless or boring as the iPads

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