The successor to the world’s most successful tablet device
Apple's iPad device has caused something of a stir since its release this time last year.
The device has been popular with users from all walks of life, its simplicity appealing to people unused to computers and its portability attracting people who don't want to lug a laptop around. That's not to mention how good it looks.
The new model is surprisingly similar. The screen is exactly the same as before, a 9.7in model in the 4:3 aspect ratio, using the same scratch-resistant glossy glass as the iPhone 4. It has a resolution of 1024x768 pixels, making it good for documents and games, but viewing widescreen video will cause black bars to form at the top and bottom of the screen. The glass does pick up a lot of fingerprints, so regular cleaning will be a fact of life for users.
Shape-wise, it's similar from the front but much thinner, going from 13.4mm thick on the previous model to 8.8mm now. Two parts that have been upgraded are the processor and memory. The processor, an Apple A5 model, is actually 10 per cent slower by the basic measure of raw speed than its predecessor the A4, but it's a dual-core model now. That and the doubled memory mean the new iPad is significantly faster than the first model in use.
It's lighter, too – exact weights vary depending on the configuration but it's noticeably easier to pick up. Although the battery has changed a little, battery life remains the same: it can manage an entire day of work without a recharge.
Sound quality was similar to the first model – performance from the built-in speaker was better than we had expected from a computer this size.
As before, it's available in two main configurations: one connects only to wireless networks for internet access, while a more expensive model connects to both wireless networks and mobile phone networks, if you insert a suitable Sim card.
We used the latter model (with 64GB of storage for music, videos and apps) on the Vodafone network, which worked well. From Vodafone, it costs £379 up-front plus £27 a month for two years, which gives 2GB of data access each month. Other networks' pricing is similar, and the same model is available without a contract for £659. Models with less storage (down to 16GB) are cheaper.
There are two cameras: the one on the back shoots video in high definition at the 720p resolution, while the one on the front is lower quality.
That's used for Apple's video-calling service Facetime, available on the iPad for the first time. As with our previous Facetime experiences, it was unsatisfactory on the iPad 2 – you and your recipient must be connected to wireless networks, calls took too long to set up and picture and sound quality were substandard.
As with the iPhone 4, the new iPad model also has a gyroscope which means it can more accurately sense motion and its own orientation, which in turn makes it faster to detect how it's being held.
There are two colours: the model we looked at had a rather unpleasant white finish on the front, which made it look cheap and clashed with the black plastic section on the back. We prefer the original black.
Not much about the new-model iPad will tempt existing owners into an upgrade – aside from people already locked in by a mobile-phone network contract, not enough has changed to make it worthwhile.
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A great tablet computer, but not enough to tempt an upgrade from the earlier model
Easy to use; superb selection of apps available; HD video camera
Still expensive; not enough new to tempt existing owners
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£659 or on contract (cheaper models available)
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