Apple releases second generation iPad

By Scott Pachilis
Around the Town Editor

The farther we go into the year 2011, the more people are proclaiming that this is the year of the tablet. Apple is back to remind consumers that the iPad is where this trend started and that the iPad 2 is where it's going. 

During an Apple press event held on March 2, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, despite recent medical setbacks, was back on stage to announce the successor to the first generation iPad. 

If you're familiar with the release of Apple products, then you know that Apple likes to hold back certain features from their final products in order to create a larger profit due to customers and fans who impulse upgrade with each iteration. 

However, I'm happy to say that I can't find much missing from the iPad 2. Flash jokes aside, the second generation iPad offers the most user friendly experience of any tablet on the market and does so with prices that its competitors cannot compete with. 

Size
Apple's first iPad was indeed thin and sleek, but the iPad 2 is impressively thinner and lighter. If you weren't laying down the original iPad while using it, the weight of holding it would eventually make your arms feel strained. 

The iPad 2 is 33 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than its predecessor. You can instantly see and feel the difference the first time you pick it up. It's actually thinner than the iPhone 4, which is startling. 

Tech Specs
The iPad 2 feature that Apple is touting about most is the Apple A5 chip. The 1.08 GHz processor in addition to doubling the RAM from the original iPad makes surfing the web and opening apps a lot faster. 

The only other tablet that can compete at this speed is the Motorolla Xoom, but the entry price for the device is $799 opposed to Apple's $499. 

Apple also included a gyroscope to accommodate its accelerometer and both a front and back facing camera, a feature many analysts wanted on the original iPad. 

As many know, Apple cameras are adequate at best, producing dark and grainy pictures. The iPad 2 for the most part is no different. 

Accessories
One feature that I really enjoyed was the HDMI adapter. The $40 accessory allows the user to output video at a 1080p resolution. 

I was surprised by the announcement of this adapter because it's Apple's first full HD video transfer. The Apple TV only offers up to 720p and it's built specifically for HD content. 

This is great for people looking to use the iPad to video conference or display presentations or applications for large groups. 

The other accessory you'll hear the most about is the new cover. Apple made a point to call it a cover, not a case, as the case available for the original iPad was not well received. 

The new Apple Smart Covers are made of Polyurethane with magnets on the other side, which, when pulled away, will automatically wake up your iPad from sleep mode. 

The covers come in a wide variety of colors and will cost you around $40, or $70 for covers designed with Italian leather. 

The leather models are a bit too pricy, but no doubt look nice. 

Software
The FaceTime feature introduced by the iPhone 4 is now available and will please those who are looking to video chat or hold video conferences with the iPad. 

GarageBand is a fun experimental experience for professional and casual music artists alike. However, iMovie will only satisfy casual users as most will still prefer to edit in Final Cut Pro or any desktop editing bay. 

The Apps are available alongside the iOS 4.3 software update, which brings Airplay functionality to additional applications. 

For instance, home movies shot with the iPad 2 or projects edited in iMovie can now stream to other Apple devices. 

Final Thoughts
With many electronic expos showing us that manufacturers are supporting and producing these "post PC" products, it's clear to see that iPad was a success both in concept and execution. 

The iPad 2 is no exception. It's once again available in 16, 32 and 64 GB versions. All sizes can be purchased with Wi-Fi functionality only or come paired with 3G data plans from Verizon or AT&T, with pricing models ranging from $499 to $829. 

Apple gets a bad rap as bloggers criticize tech reviews for showing a favored biased to Apple products. But you cannot deny that there is no lag in performance like most low-end tablets, and exceptional ones like the Xoom are just too expensive at the moment. 

Fact is, tablets still aren't a necessity, but more of a luxury item. But an enjoyable one, nonetheless. Apple and third party developers continue to improve in terms of App design 

If you're looking to upgrade, it may not be worth the price tag and you should probably wait until the next incarnation. However, if you haven't picked up an iPad yet, now might be the right time.