Is iPad 2 Worth the Upgrade?

Is iPad 2 Worth the Upgrade?
Justin Sullivan/Getty

Given the $100 price difference between the Apple iPad 2 and original iPad units, many can’t help but wonder if it’s worth making the upgrade. To find out if a second-generation iPad deserves your hard-earned cash, just read on.

The Case For

Dual Video Cameras – Two new built-in video cameras, one front-mounted, the other rear-facing, allow for casual videoconferencing between the iPad 2, iPhone 4, iPod touch and Mac computers via FaceTime, with the back unit capable of capturing 720p video. Just be certain you’re prepared before hitting play though, only to discover that hottie you’ve been flirting with on Twitter is actually a chain-smoking 65 year-old teamster.

Faster Processor – Twice as fast as the CPU found in the iPad, the iPad 2’s 1Ghz dual-core A5 processor lets you load favorite apps much more briskly, so you can get your Angry Birds fix in seconds flat. Better yet, despite this additional power, battery life remains a respectable 10 hours.

Slimmer, Lighter Dimensions – Only 8.8mm thick, the second-generation iPad is one third thinner than the original, and weighs just 1.3lbs, or 0.2lbs lighter than its predecessor, making the tablet PC even easier to cart between work and home.

Enhanced Graphics – Screen size and resolution remains the same (9.7 inches and 1024 x 768, respectively) as on the original iPad, but the iPad 2’s graphics chip pumps out visuals nine times faster. As a result, you can expect more impressive 3D apps and games, letting you explore virtual worlds or scroll through simulated landscapes much faster as you flick your finger.

New Features and Accessories – Additional features include HDMI video output to TV, a motion-sensing gyroscope, and support for the iOS 4.3 operating system, which allows better multimedia streaming, speedier web surfing and the iPhone to function as a WiFi hotspot. Apple will also launch new accessories for the device. Highlights include the folding Smart Cover ($39-69), a combination protective case and video/typing stand available in polyurethane and leather editions, and Apple Digital AV adapter ($39) for outputting apps, photos and videos to an HDTV at 1080p resolution.

The Case Against

No Flash Support – Apple’s war against Adobe rages on, with Flash compatibility absent from the iPad 2, prohibiting owners from enjoying some top-quality online animation and rich Internet surfing. Many rival tablet PCs, such as the BlackBerry PlayBook, will, though, putting the second-gen iPad at a distinct disadvantage. Ironically, the case for an iPad 2 vs. iPad may be irrelevant, as you may not want to buy an iPad at all.

Upgrades Are Optional – Although more powerful, easier to carry and capable of making video calls, the iPad 2’s price remains relatively high, starting at $499 and up for a 16GB WiFi model. But as with the iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS, enhancements are mostly geared towards advanced users, and evolutionary vs. revolutionary, with few complaining about the initial iPad’s speed or weight to begin with. Unless you plan on utilizing videoconferencing features or graphics-intensive apps frequently, it may be smarter to purchase an original iPad, following models’ recent $100 price drop. If price is a special concern, also consider that refurbished iPads can be had for as little at $349.

Low-Quality Still Photos – As Wired points out, just because the iPad 2 can act as a digital camera and snap pictures doesn’t mean that they’re any good. If photos do in fact shoot at only 0.92 megapixels, it would make them the virtual equivalent of fuzzy old Polaroids compared to today’s crisp, colorful images, suitable for reproduction on poster-size prints. As such, the twin video cameras are mainly a boon for those who plan on shooting videos or making face-to-face calls.

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