iPad 2: To Buy or Not To Buy

Well, the reviews are coming in for iPad 2, and they are quite positive. Even an Android loving Xoom site felt obliged to give a reluctant, but deserved nod to the iPad 2, while other more device agnostic sites fairly note that while the Xoom may offer some better hardware specs than the iPad 2 (better cameras, SD Card slot, higher resolution screen), the overall package that Apple is offering is quite appealing.

Many of my friends have asked me if I have bought, or intend to buy an iPad 2, and whether I think they should get one. I’ve read about as much as a body can about Apple’s new baby, but to render any reasonable opinion, I had to get up close and personal with one.

So, on Friday, March 11, I stopped in a local Best Buy, after the small line of new Apple product waiters dissipated, to see and handle Apple’s new “magical” device.


Courtesy of Apple

The first thing I noticed, and what most people will likely notice, is that the new iPad is thin. I’m talking starving runway model thin, emaciated greyhound thin, lose it in a stack of magazines thin. This is NOT a thick device.

Those of you who own eBook readers like the Nook or Kindle will have a general idea how thin iPad 2 is. In fact, iPad 2 is thinner than the Color Nook by .1” and only marginally thicker than the ePaper version of either the Kindle or Nook. The new iPad is so much thinner than its predecessor that the original iPad should be renamed iSlab.

Picking up an iPad 2, however, is a different story. While the weight of the new iPad is noticeably lighter than the original, it is still substantially heavier than any eBook reader. But while the iPad 2 is heavier, the weight comes off making it feel more substantial than eBook devices or other tablets, and that’s a good thing.

Other tablets are plastic or feel plasticky. There’s only so much quality something made of plastic imparts. Metal has little give and implies a solidity no plastic can match.

The new iPad is curvy as well. Edges don’t bite into your hand because there are none. Holding iPad 2 is comfortable and should provide a more eBook reader-like experience than any other tablet currently available.

iPad 2 looks and feels like it was designed and made by aliens who are adept at cloning, hyper-space travel, and alchemy. By comparison, the original iPad — which, in my opinion, is far better made than any other tablets — feels like it was chiseled from a block of aluminum by cavemen who’ve only recently discovered how to make fire.

Yes, iPad 2 is faster, but in most real world uses (writing, reading, web surfing, flipping through photos, and checking email), I didn’t really notice a speed boost over my newly iOS-updated iSlab. I’m sure the speed is there, the new iPad sports a dual-core processor and more memory than my iSlab. If, however, I’m not doing anything graphically or CPU intensive, which is most of the time, then all that processing muscle in iPad 2 is like driving a Lamborghini through a school zone.

So, while the new iPad induces Pavlovian drool at the mere mention of its name, and the heat coming from my wallet sets off the sprinklers whenever I get within 200 feet of an Apple Store, I will not be buying an iPad 2.

My iSlab is still quite a machine, and churns out text, info, and entertainment whenever I want. And the damned thing is not even a year old, still young even in computer years. I have an iPhone 4 for on-demand photographs, movies, and FaceTime. I don’t need a lot of processor speed to play Angry Birds, Nanosaur 2, or Words with Friends, and the new iOS update has made AirPlay worth having. So, for now at least, I’m good.

Should you buy an iPad 2? If you don’t already own an iPad then the answer is easy.

Yes! What are you waiting for? Grab the checkbook, dust off the credit card, break the piggy bank and get one. Choose between black or white (I prefer the black one), but I’d opt for the 32GB WiFi model. I believe it is the sweet spot between price and features. It’s also the most flexible option as it doesn’t tie you to a mobile provider. You can find the best deal on mobile WiFi hotspot services and save a little money, or ignore mobile 3G altogether and just rely on known free WiFi hotspots where ever you hang out.

If you’re like me and you already own an iSlab, then the answer is murkier. If you are a mobile gamer, movie maker, or music maker then you can make use of that dual-core processor. Give your significant other your original iPad and buy a new one. You’ll be happy you did.

If your current iPad does everything you need it to do then I’d keep my wallet in deep freeze and stay as far away from any Apple Stores, Best Buys, Targets, or Walmarts as you possibly can until the next version arrives.

If you see it, and touch it, you will likely buy it.