Hands-On With Apple's iPad 2 Alongside the Original iPad

We went hands-on with the iPad 2, and saw first-hand the difference a little weight, and a lot of tapering could make compared with the first-generation iPad. Let's take a look.

iPad 2: Does it Look Different?

It's hard to tell from a head-on view that the iPad 2 represents a marked difference from the first iPad. But as you’ll see in these next images, the difference is downright striking.

iPad vs. iPad 2: Side-by-Side

When sitting alongside its predecessor, iPad 2 looks quite svelte and streamlined. The overall perception of the first-generation iPad (at right) is that it’s bigger overall, not just in thickness. Indeed, if you stand the two side-by-side, too, you can see there’s a visible difference in dimensions, too. The iPad 2 shaves a bit off the height and width (9.5 inches to iPad’s 9.56 inches, and 7.31 inches, to the original iPad’s 7.47). It's also lighter, 1.33 pounds (1.35 pounds for the Wi-Fi+3G version), versus 1.5 pounds (and 1.6 pounds for the Wi-Fi + 3G version) for the original iPad.

Thinner Design

Apple likes to make its products thin, and thin the iPad 2 is: It measures .34-inch, or 8.8mm, in depth, fully one-third less than the half-inch depth (13.4mm) of the first iPad. The iPad 2 practically fit under the original iPad, with its tapered, sleek curves reminiscent of the Apple MacBook Air. The new size and curved design makes it much easier to hold in one hand. From my time with it, I'd say using an iPad 2 is akin to using an Amazon Kindle DX E-Ink e-reader, which also has a 9.7-inch display (but adds a physical keyboard below it). The iPad 2 and the Kindle DX are essentially the same depth ( 0.01-inch separates the two), and the Wi-Fi iPad 2 closes the weight gap with E-Ink, too: iPad 2 is just 0.15 of a pound heavier than the Kindle.

Side-By-Side, With Cases

Steve Jobs mentioned that the shame of the old case was that it added bulk, and covered the device’s design. In this view, you can see iPad 2 at left, with a polyurethane Smart Cover attached to its side, and the original Apple iPad with the Apple case. The tablet-case combo of iPad 2 is notably thinner here.

More on Smart Covers

The Smart Cover comes in 10 colors made from two case materials: five made of leather, and five made of polyurethane. The case’s clever design relies on magnets to attach the case to the underside curve of the iPad 2; the previous design just wouldn’t have allowed such an elegant approach.

Smart Cover Origami

Not only is the Smart Cover elegant, but it’s also flexible: It can be positioned into a triangle that serves as a gently angled prop-up to ease typing chores, or to let the tablet stand freely while you watch video.

Smart Covers--But What About the Back?

The Smart Covers have several advantages, in addition to the obvious one of protecting the screen. The tablet recognizes when the case covers the screen, and wakes the iPad 2 when the cover is removed (or, puts it to sleep when the screen is covered). But it only protects the front of the iPad, which means the aluminum back remains exposed and prone to scratches.

Repositioned Buttons

The iPad 2 remains famously sparse on buttons and inputs. Aside from the power button on the top right, and the dock connector at bottom, the iPad 2 (at bottom) has a switch that now can be used for either mute or rotation lock, and a volume rocker. Here you can see how the iPad 2 buttons are now inset along the tapered edge of the tablet; before (at top), the buttons were on the side.

New Speaker Location

The new iPad 2, shown at top, has moved its single speaker from the bottom of the tablet to the back of the tablet. Whereas the old location became an issue if you leaned the tablet upright on a surface (thereby blocking the speaker), the new location may also be problematic, particularly if you rest the tablet flat on a surface. It does, at least, curve along the edge; we look forward to testing how the audio fares in different positions. Apple’s specs don’t note any change specifics about the speaker’s oomph (then, or now); what is worth noting, though, is that the iPad continues to have just a single speaker, as compared with Motorola’s Xoom, which is has stereo speakers.

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