Many stores reportedly sold out of the Apple iPad 2 during its first weekend of availability, but given the demand, more of Apple's new tablets are sure to be available soon. Based on Consumer Reports' preliminary tests with iPad 2 samples in our labs, we found the new version to be an improvement over the original iPad—without any increase in price.
One major difference in tech specs is that the iPad 2 has a new processor that's supposed to make it far speedier than the original. While performing routine tasks such as Web browsing and e-mail in our tests, we didn't notice any significant speed improvement, as CR Senior Program Leader Dean Gallea notes in our video (right). The biggest speed boost, a 9x improvement in graphics processing, should be apparent when you run demanding 3D games, but it's not clear whether any games that take advantage of that higher speed are yet available. Surely some are in the pipeline for the coming months.
The iPad 2's display appears to match the quality of the first iPad's fine display. Also, besides being thinner and lighter than the original, the iPad 2 has a webcam for videoconferencing and a rear-facing camera for shooting photos and videos. In our tests, videoconferencing worked well for face-to-face conversations; either party can surf the Web or run other iPad 2 apps without interrupting the call.
The iPad 2's rear camera, with just 0.7 megapixels of resolution and no flash or manual controls, is far more limited for shooting stills than the Motorola Xoom's 5-megapixel camera, which has a flash and controls for picture size (resolution), white balance, picture quality, color effects, scene modes, exposure level, and focus mode.
One more new feature is the iPad 2's Smart Cover, which attaches to the tablet magnetically; when you close the cover, your iPad 2 goes into sleep mode, and when you open the cover, the iPad wakes up. (You can see just how that works in our video.)
Bottom line: By keeping iPad 2 prices the same as those of the original iPad, Apple has kept its market-leading tablet more than competitive with the small-but-growing field of Android-based tablets. The Motorola Xoom seems to be the iPad 2's chief rival for now, but it's pricier than a comparably configured iPad 2, and it's thicker and heavier as well.
As Dean Gallea notes in our video, the iPad 2 is a very good choice in the tablet market. Still, many more tablets are expected to reach market this year. The tablet race is far from over.
We'll continue our lab tests, including battery-life testing, and expect to add the Apple iPad 2 to our Ratings (available to subscribers) within a week or so.
More on the iPad 2:
Apple iPad 2 testing countdown: What we'll be looking for
iPad 2 First Look: Early impressions
iPad 2 First Look: Video-conferencing with FaceTime
iPad 2 First Look: Using adapters and external devices
Apple iPad 2 raises the bar for tablets