Immediately after Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2 Wednesday at the Yerba Buena Theater in San Francisco, California, he invited members of the media to visit a special hands-on area right behind the theaterthe same set-up Apple used a year ago to introduce the original iPad. While the iPad 2 wont be available until March 11, we were able to spend some quality time with the iPad 2 today. Heres what we found.
The iPad 2 is thinner and lighter than its predecessor. People who have been following Apples product designs will not be surprised by this. Whats interesting is the effect this has on the grippability of the product. The original iPad was one of the most solid pieces of hardware weve seen from Apple, but the combination of its weight, thickness, and the curve of its backplate made it a bit hard to holdand made a case pretty much necessary.
Its much more comfortable to hold the iPad 2 in one hand. The slight decrease in weight helps, no doubt, but its also the thinnessand most notably the fact that the back side of the device tapers to a flat surface in a much shorter distance than its predecessor.
In terms of materials, the iPad 2 and the iPad are cut from the same cloth (figuratively speaking): Theres a glass front and an aluminum back. The device still seems solid, though palpably thinner. The big difference when looking at it from the front is that you cant see the edge of the aluminum frame, which is quite noticeable around the edge of the original iPad when viewed from the front.
The reduced thickness of the iPad 2 means that we cant say the iPads buttons and ports are on its sidethere really is no side, unlike on the original iPad. Theres a front and a back, really, with a very small amount of curved space on the back where it meets the front piece. Thats where the buttons and ports are. Its a very different feel from the original iPad. However, the buttons and ports are in more or less the same places as they were on the original iPad.
Beyond the devices physical redesign, the major outward difference in the iPad 2 is the addition of a pair of cameras: one on the front and one on the back. As on the latest iPhone and iPod touch, these cameras can shoot pictures, record video, and be used for FaceTime video conferencing. However, theyre definitely of lower quality than the iPhone 4s 5 megapixel camera, and more in line with the cameras on the current-model iPod touch. The test images we shot in the hands-on room were grainier and with more evident jagged edges than those shot with an iPhone 4. Even a FaceTime conference with an Apple rep across the room looked a bit soft, though some of that could have been the result of heavy Wi-Fi traffic.
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