The second generation iPad went on sale earlier today, to much fanfare and long, long lines. We're hard at work on our full review of Apple's second generation tablet but there were a few things we wanted to chime in on before too much time passed.

The iPad 2 is a very logical update to the original iPad. The hardware gets an upgrade, with revised industrial design, a slimmer chassis, and Apple's new A5 SoC inside. A5 brings along two Cortex A9 cores, a dual core version of PowerVR's SGX543 graphics chip, and 512MB of memory. Software stays mostly the same but gets some tweaks; the iPad 2 ships with iOS 4.3, which was released earlier this week as an update for the iPhone 4 and original iPad.

The industrial design has changed pretty significantly, from the convex curvature of the original iPad's back to the flat back of the new iPad. Starting with the iPhone 4, Apple has been moving away from the continuous curvature that dominated their handhelds two or three years ago (think iPhone 3G/3G-S, iPod touch 2G/3G, and the 4G/5G iPod nano) and more towards a flatter and more rectangular design language across the board. The iPhone 4 is the only one that's really angular, but the 4th generation iPod touch debuted the same flatness with more ergonomically friendly curves. The iPad 2 basically carries the iPod touch 4G design language on a larger scale.

The iPad 2 is slightly lighter but easier to hold than the previous generation. Laying in bed and reading is probably where the difference becomes most apparent. The gentle curvature running around the edge makes the in-hand feel surprisingly different, as does the considerably thinner profile. I'm actually shocked at how dramatic the difference is.

The downside to the very large radius curvature on the outside is that the dock connector is now awkwardly exposed. It's very similar to how the iPod Touch looks, with about 2 mm of exposed connector visible viewed from the back.

The previous generation dock connector was the subject of constant criticism for being way too tight. Apple has over-corrected with the iPad 2 and now the dock connector is too loose. Just browsing the Apple store, I noted several units whose dock connectors appeared plugged in, but had come just loose enough to not charge.

When connecting 30-pin dock cables, there's not too much resistance holding the cable in place, and the port itself is difficult to locate without flipping the thing over or viewing it from below.

Another welcome change - the return of the white iDevice. After the no-show that was the white iPhone 4, I was pleased to see Apple ship the white-bezeled iPad 2 on time with no production hitches. I was also wrong about how good white would look. Instead of being overwhelming or busy, the white bezel actually has one notable advantage over black - it doesn't show fingerprints or dust. That alone was what constantly drove me crazy about the previous generation - it always looked dirty. Shockingly, white seems to actually make sense.

 

Other hardware chances are the addition of front and rear facing cameras for FaceTime and taking pictures, but unfortunately, they seem to be pieces lifted from the iPod touch and nothing near the iPhone 4's 5 megapixel shooter. We'll talk about what this means for picture quality overall later on in the preview. The switch on the side can now be configured to either be a device silencer or a rotation lock switch, and there is now a large speaker on the bottom right corner of the device.

Overall, the new design really works - the iPad 2 feels good in hand, and instantly makes its predecessor feel a little clunky. But we didn't just pause our testing to talk about design, there's a lot under the hood of the iPad 2 that demands attention.

The CPU: A Dual-Core ARM Cortex A9
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  • Brian Klug - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    That's weird that the apple rep would say those things. The current MacBook is entirely hard plastic, and lacks the matte soft-touch material that used to stain. The current iPad is actually indeed covered in glass the same as the black model, so it will absolutely not stain.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • podpi - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    Hey Anand

    Let me preface this by saying I'm a huge Anandtech fan, and really trust and appreciate your word and the deep, thorough reviews you do. That's what sets you apart from the other tabloidy, first out, sort of content. They do anything to have content out first. I believe some write the reviews before they test the equipment.

    Now, whenever any big product comes out, I may glance at the Engadget/Wired reviews, but I keep checking Anandtech everyday, waiting eagerly in anticipation. The other sites try and up the number of views, so they launch bit by bit and try and draw it out, but also try and be out first with a brief headline-like review. Quality suffers. So I keep checking AT, and waiting for a thorough, unbiased, great reading review. And when it comes out, sometimes up to a week later than the rest. By then the hype had died, down, and it has a chance to come in clean, and see what someone who put the effort in actually thought of the product. The fact that your reviews tend to be a little later show to me how much effort you put in, and how much you care about quality. And this is what I appreciate.

    Now, with the iPad 2 review, it seems to be coming in drips and drabs, to try and what appears to be to keep up with the competition? I think it's natural to get into a race with those sites. But how can you win a race against tech-tabloids? If you blend in with the crowd, then there is little differentiation. I don't think you can have best of both. In my opinion, taking your time and giving a full long in-depth review, like a short story, provides a unique, quality characteristic to your reviews, site and brand.

    Thanks for the great work.
    Terence
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Terence,

    I actually agree with you that we really excel at the longer reviews, and it's good to hear that even though we're sometimes much later than everyone else, that it's still useful. I know I enjoy spending a lot of time being exacting about things and sometimes going behind schedule just to uncover absolutely everything.

    We were able to get a preview out on day one this time around just because we have about four people with iPads this time around, where with most things we'll only have one (or in extreme cases, two) units. Each of us working in parallel really sped things up and we thought we'd just share some quick impressions.

    The big review is still coming (today actually - 3/14) and will be the usual length/depth for certain ;)

    -Brian
    Reply
  • Belard - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    As an owner of a Galaxy S series, with poor support from Samsung/at&t and my experience of using an Android device phone for almost 6 months.

    Using the iPad2 was a breeze, its was fast and fun to use. Yeah, the missing USB & SD slots still sucks... but that won't effect sales much.

    We then went across the isle to the Samsung Galaxy Tab which costs the exact same $500. It was easily heavier, thicker... the GUI looks and functions mostly like my own phone so I had no problems "using it".

    So after that experience, we both agreed... why spend $500 on an Android, when we could get a much snappier, larger screen and much easier to use device. BestBuy was sold out.

    If the Galaxy Tab was $300~350 - it would be a more fair deal.
    Reply
  • podpi - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Thanks Brian - looking forward to it :) Reply
  • ssvb - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    VFPv2 unit in ARM11 is actually pipelined: http://infocenter.arm.com/help/topic/com.arm.doc.d...

    And yes, naturally it is much faster than Cortex-A8 on floating point code.
    Reply
  • NCM - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    AT: "Laying in bed and reading is probably where the difference becomes most apparent."

    You should never read in bed while laying—your partner will be offended.
    It's perfectly all right while lying in bed, however.
    Reply
  • eanazag - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    I really appreciated the mouse over images changing comparison. It really gave a clear picture of the difference in the images. Reply
  • retnuh - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    So.... being the 16th should we assume its getting the super mega awesome thorough testing treatment? Reply
  • UNLK A6 - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    I'd like some clarification about LINPACK and Geekbench. Are these benchmarks created by compiling some portable code for each platform as a measure of floating point performance? Or, is this supposed to be some measure of how fast one can do linear algebra or DSP on the platform? On Mac OS and iOS, one wouldn't compile say LINPACK for this but use the hand-tuned LAPACK/BLAS and DSP routines built into Apple's Accelerate Framework. The difference between the two can be huge. Which do these benchmarks purport to supply--generic floating point performance or available linear algebra and DSP performance? Reply

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