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 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    If you like functionality..Then Android was made for you. Integration is it's strong suit. Apple's only work with Apple branded closed junk.

    iPad 2 cameras: 0.3MP, 0.7MP
    Xoom Cameras: 2MP, 5MP

    iPad 2 Video Editing: $4.99
    Honey Comb Video Editing: Included!5744175/screenshot-tour-of...

    Garage Band is unique to the iPad now, I will agree. It is a nice little toy app for another $4.99. For real media creation, we need an app with much more versitility. I want FL Studio to move to a mobile platform. If the iPad got a program of that caliber..I would buy it.
  • tipoo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    How do you know the iPad's camera resolution?
  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    "iPad 2 cameras: 0.3MP, 0.7MP
    Xoom Cameras: 2MP, 5MP"

    As tipoo already asked, where are getting those figures? I think the rear camera is 720p which would be 0.9MP (possibly more for stills - if it does that). Outside of video chat, what other possible applications could a 10" tablet have for photo/video cameras? It makes sense for a phone, with a camera-like form factor, but tablet cameras have a very narrow set of practical use-cases as far as I can see.

    "iPad 2 Video Editing: $4.99
    Honey Comb Video Editing: Included"

    Considering the price difference between the Xoom and a 32GB 3G iPad 2, it's hard to see how this $5 matters.

    The Xoom demands a $70 premium ($65 if you count the iMovie tax) - what you get is a slightly higher-res, but lower quality screen (see AnandTech review), a currently anemic app store, much less battery life, a thicker/heavier machine, and (probably) more RAM. Then of course there are cheaper iPad 2 models as well.
  • bplewis24 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Why do people resort to lying and or misleading people to spin things in favor or their preferred brand? You do realize that the Xoom is one Honeycomb tablet and that other Honeycomb tablets will be cheaper, right?

    Where do you get "much less battery life"? If you've already seen the Anandtech review, you'll see the battery life is pretty even.

    Stop with the pathetic spin.

  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Juzcallmeneo explicitly evoked the Xoom tablet when comparing the cameras - I suppose I could have handled his two comparisons separately.

    I stand corrected on battery life - I guess I skimmed that page. That said, considering the iPad 2 is ~120g lighter and a lot thinner with similar internals, you would expect that the Xoom battery should last at least as long.

    I understand these discussions can get heated with brand loyalty and whatnot, but while I'm an iPad fan of sorts, I'm pretty sure I'm not intentionally lying or misleading people to "spin" something. I'm generally platform agnostic - while I have an iPad, I use a WP7 phone and Windows 7 PC, and work on RHEL servers all day for work.

    I happen to think the iPad is a fantastic product, and if anything, most of the irrationality in discussing tablets comes from the other side - the side that refuses to acknowledge the successful designs Apple has with their mobile products. Yes, a year later we're seeing bulkier tablets that are catching up in performance/battery life to the iPad line, but Honeycomb is essentially app-less and just starting to roll out. Meanwhile the iPad 2 offers the cheapest full-blown tablet experience and at nearly every feature combination (except the 7" space, which it still beats in price in most cases), has an extremely healthy app market, and is best or tied with best in battery life, size/weight, performance, and screen quality - all four are clearly the most important aspects of a tablet. Yet, there's a tremendous volume of negativity and skepticism from a very large portion of this site and others - what gives? People almost sound like luddites on this thread - "why does it have to be so small?" "There have been plenty of Tablets in the past." - and then they point to some piece of junk that barely works.

    Granted, Honeycomb tablets are awesome and getting more awesome, but to think that they somehow outclass the iPad right now is foolish. Maybe they have feature A or option B, but at best these make up for the huge volume of apps and other advantages the iPad offers right now.
  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Ok, I shouldn't say piece of junk - but you have to admit that size/weight/battery-life put the iPad in a totally different class (that Honeycomb is targeting) than those other tablets.
  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Just to be clear, I'm talking about older, pre-iPad tablets here.
  • Juzcallmeneo - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    if you are only talking about the very first attempts at an android tablet, then yes they are worthless and the iPad does beat them. it's not the same case for the future of what will be available and the possibilities that Honeycomb will bring us.

    If you want visual proof of the cheap cameras, go to the iFixit video. 0.3 on the front, 0.7 on the back. I own a 7D, and am very much into photography. I know everything about pixels and sensor quality..lens quality..(or lack thereof). These are just plain junk cameras. Granted, 99% of people won't want to use this as their main camera..but these cameras are pathetic and I expected something slightly better at least.
  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    They announced it the exact same way they did the iPod Touch 4th Gen. They do 4:3 video resolutions so that you don't get black bars every time you play back a video like you do when you watch a movie on it. The resolution for actual 720p is .9MP..but thats 16:9. Apple makes them do 960x720, which is .7MP. And they clearly stated that the front camera was "VGA" which is 0.3MP.

    If we were talking about the Tablet I support, we can bring in the Eee Pads. I just brought up the Xoom because its the first of many honeycombs.

    With the Nvidia Tegra 2, you get more battery life & more processing power. And yes, most Honeycomb tablets have twice the RAM as the iPad 2. The Quad Cores we see in september will probably have at least 2GB of RAM. If they have more RAM and more battery, whats the downside?
  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    "With the Nvidia Tegra 2, you get more battery life & more processing power. And yes, most Honeycomb tablets have twice the RAM as the iPad 2. The Quad Cores we see in september will probably have at least 2GB of RAM. If they have more RAM and more battery, whats the downside?"

    I'm pretty sure the iPad 2's A5 will be comparable, or perhaps slightly exceed the Tegra 2. It's not confirmed, but odds are it will have a dual core Cortex A9 like the Tegra 2, and the GPU may outperform it (if it's the dual 543 GPU that was rumored). I also don't see any indication that the Tegra 2 has better battery life, since the Xoom is bigger and pretty much matches the iPad in this category.

    I agree that Honeycomb tablets seem to have 1GB standard and the iPad will probably have 512MB (still not confirmed), but until Quad core Android tablets come out, the iPad 2 is pretty much on even footing with Honeycomb tablets, but is thinner/lighter, has tons of apps, and tends to be cheaper.

    I'm really not trying to say the iPad is the greatest or anything - I just don't understand why people claim it's not a good product. It's an excellent, top-of-its-class product. The iPad 1 defined the category, and the iPad 2 puts the hardware at the same level as the Tegra 2 tablets while reducing size. Why are people bashing it so much?

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