First Look: Up Close and Personal with iPad 2

iPad 2

One week following the arrival of iPad 2 to consumers and retailers nationwide, I had to see what all the buzz was about. I’m an early adopter by nature – yes, I was one of those people in a half-mile line outside the mall’s Apple Retail Store in April 2010, waiting to pick up the original iPad I’d reserved shortly after the tablet was announced in January – but I should warn you now, this isn’t going to be the typical “Yay! iPad 2 is finally here and now I can get on with my life!” post you’ll find everywhere else on the Web.

Instead, I’m about to tell you why this Apple fan girl will be holding out for iPad 3.

The Thin Factor

Apple’s product release history is wrought with chunky-monkey prototypes and first revisions, followed every 18-24 months by a lighter, thinner, sexier versions with plenty of big on the inside.

One of the most brilliant examples of this is the iBook line: in 1999, the original “Blueberry” iBook, affectionately referred to by begrudging admirers as the “toilet seat” model due to its shape and bulk, made a colorful splash on the scene of mobile technology – at a whopping 6.7 lbs.

From 1999 to 2001, the clamshell iBook underwent a number of revisions, mostly in terms of processor speed, elite color offerings for high-end configurations, and optical drive improvements. (Speaking of clams, check out the ClamCase iPad keyboard)

But by 2001, the comparatively slim, sleek, and sexy snow white iBook was rolled out. Gone were the bright, fruity colors of the original iBook. Now, sexy meant white. And thin. And square. The 2001 iBook (which I snapped up in August of that year) weighed in at a mere 4.9 lbs and could rest rather inconspicuously amid a stack of my favorite Moleskines, textbooks, and journals.

By way of comparison, my current (late 2009) 15″ Unibody Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro weighs 5.5 lbs. The Macbook pro is much thinner, sleeker, and sexier than the first white iBook by leaps and bounds – and it’s all because of the form factor and design.

Thin is important, obviously, and iPad 2 is no exception to that rule. Last week I stopped in at the local Best Buy to get my hands on the new iPad, so that I could write authoritatively on the new device. Having read all of the specs in countless techie magazines well ahead of time, I wasn’t expecting much – therefore, I was not disappointed.

The original iPad weighs 1.5 lbs, with a profile of 9.56 x 7.47 x .528 inches – and its back has a pronounced curvature that makes gripping it in one hand (say, for reading this article or an eBook) slightly uncomfortable.

I’ve argued many times in favor of iPad versus Kindle as an e-reader, and have scored a lot of points for Cupertino in my punditry, but even I had to admit the weight was prohibitive. So, comparing the weights of iPad and iPad 2 strictly in theory, I was prepared to write the slight slim-down off as negligible. That is, until I picked iPad 2 up in my own hands and held it.

iPad 2 feels amazingly lighter than iPad for the small decrease in weight. It isn’t the weight only, but also something about the shape and overall design that makes iPad 2 much easier to hold. I didn’t stand in Best Buy to finish The Brothers Karamazov, but I did take the liberty of reading several of my favorite Mac blogs while standing there. iPad 2 is much easier to hold, naked, while reading. (Er…iPad 2 would be the naked party. Not me.)

iPad Cameras

Another thing is the addition of the front and rear-facing cameras. Cameras? On an iPad? Really? I just don’t get it.

Even with the thinner profile of iPad 2, the thought of holding this tablet in portrait or landscape mode and taking photos with it – much less, recording HD video – is ludicrous. In terms of photography, this is a step backwards in time – to that golden age when cameras were huge and clunky monstrosities.

The cameras are not a reason to go for iPad 2, especially if you already own an iPhone or a regular digital camera.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the interior revisions for me. What really changed that might make iPad 2 more appealing than its ancestor? Could it be the switch from Apple’s A4 to A5 systems on a chip? Or perhaps the increase from 256 MB of built in DDR RAM to 512 MB of DDR2? Or maybe just the addition of a Gyroscope to the already present Accelerometer? All of this is impressive, to be sure, if only on a minor scale.

So why, you ask, have I decided not to upgrade? Maybe it’s because I’m older than I was last year. Maybe I’ve mellowed out with age, and a little extra weight on my mobile devices doesn’t bother me as much anymore. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Guest post by Melonie H. Melonie is an avid technology blogger. She especially loves to cover Apple and Mac topics, and dabbles in programming. She currently writes for Allied Satellite TV.

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