I managed to get my hands on the new iPad 2 on opening night. I feel the need to open this entry with a bit of a rant about how the whole thing was handled. It was announced on the morning of Friday 25th that the iPad 2 would go on sale at 17:00 that day. I mean, come on. Five in the afternoon on Friday evening is not the time I want to be lining up with a bunch of sweaty nerds. I want to be on my way out to the pub to get shit faced.
Anyway, I ended up having some time to kill on that Friday afternoon, so I decided to go line up after all, and despite being really far back in line, I managed to pick up the model I was interested in. Forth five minutes of lining up for the pickup and I grabbed the new iPad plus a smart cover.
The new iPad certainly looks nice and feels much nicer in hand, partially due to the new cover. However, I feel like I need to be really careful to not get scratches on the back. The old case was certainly made the device much more sturdy, although with the downside of also making it quite ugly looking. One other thing to note about the smart cover - I often carry the iPad under my arm and the front cover tends to slide a bit. If the magnets are not in alignment, the screen wakes up (I can hear the click) while the cover is still closed.
The cameras are terrible. That's pretty much the first thing I noticed. However, I wasn't really planning on using them, so no biggie. I have used Facetime on it and the picture quality doesn't bother me.
The screen on the iPad 2 is visibly nicer than the iPad 1 - something that many of us at work have noticed. I have to wonder why nobody really mentioned that in their reviews, as I see that as quite a nice selling point.
I feel that the speaker is actually better than the one on the original iPad. It feels louder. I appreciate this, since I most often use the speaker when playing games or using the iPad as a mini boombox.
The buttons on the sides are more difficult to use than on the old iPad, but I don't feel like this is that big of a deal, since the only buttons I really need to access are the volume controls, and not that often. I no longer need to use the top button, since the smart cover turns the screen off.
Onto the most important thing - the performance of the device. I have to say that the most noticeable moment for me was when starting Dungeon Defenders. It started without crashing (and no need to reboot the iPad!). I then proceeded to turn the graphics settings to full and it runs perfectly smoothly. In fact, during the last week I've been spending a majority of my time playing DunDef in the evenings. It's a great game and I never got back to re-levelling my characters after the patch that wiped all saved characters.
The device feels overall a little snappier than the original and it's nice to know that there's that extra RAM available. Also, I've noticed a lot less having to wait for YouTube to buffer, although that really shouldn't be in any way related to the speed of the processors. Maybe they improved the server that was providing the streams for iPad.
I haven't bought iMovie or GarageBand yet. GarageBand would be nice, although you need a $100 addon to be able to plug a guitar into it, which is a huge turn-off, since I can do the same thing on my MBP for free and with more power and control, so I may not bother. I've never really taken a movie let alone edited one, so I'm not inclined to buy iMovie unless a need arises for it.
Overall, I'm quite happy to have the new iPad 2. The gaming performance alone was worth it for me, and to have a smoother experience when using it for productivity apps is a big plus. If and when iOS is improved to make more use of this hardware, I can imagine the experience being even better. I'm also looking forward to seeing more games that take advantage of the new hardware.