Head and shoulders above most of the pack when it comes to looks, the Apple iPad 2 is the tablet to beat here. Its battery life, slim profile, beautiful 132 pixel-per-inch (1024x768-pixel) screen and accurate onscreen keyboard are second to none. It’s an IPS panel, which limits the reflectiveness but allows for good viewing angles.
The iPad 2 is slimmer than the original model and is also faster and lighter. It weighs 618g – a smidgen more than the plastic-clad Sony, but far slimmer at only 8.8mm. Apple has also given the interface an overhaul (not that one was really needed). With iOS5 you now get access to the wonders of iCloud. This automatically backs up your files and allows you to access your own content stored remotely via your own online portal. You can then stream it to wherever you are or play it through an AirPlay speaker. As well as accessible content on a Mac or another iOS device, you can, of course, call up anything you’ve downloaded via iTunes.
If you dislike being tied in to iTunes, iCloud offers a great alternative – and yet another reason to choose the extremely desirable iPad 2 over other brands of tablet (iPad 1 owners can also update to iOS5 for free). You can backup this way too: We were impressed to find content written on our commute on our iPad appear on our work PC without prompting.
Music you own but didn’t buy via iTunes needs to be bought again at modest cost though, but you aren’t actually tied to using iTunes for synching anything else from your iDevices (hurrah!).
Using the iPad 2 is an absolute joy. Web browsing allows you to open as many pages as you’d like (though pressing the Home button seems as an odd construct to us and is a rare instance of Apple unintuitiveness). You don’t get Flash support, but you do get an exceptionally smooth browsing experience without the stutters that plague some of the tablets we review here.
The iPad’s multi-touch control has not been bettered and you get by far the best choice of tablet-specific apps – and without the worry of accidentally downloading rogue apps. The closed Apple system is not for everyone, but the iCloud supports offers a workable answer to the limited storage issue and there are third-party accessories if you wish to physically connect your iPad to a large-screen TV via HDMI.
You get a 0.7Mp rear camera but only a VGA (480x640-pixel) front-facing one for video chat. Apple’s FaceTime works at full-size and lets you assume amusing guises and morph yourself in real-time as you shoot the breeze with friends. This and the much improved video handling are benefits of the faster Apple A5 processor that the iPad 2 sports over the original model. The Honeycomb tablets here are at least as good at video playback, though, and have better stills cameras, while the HTC Flyer is as good for zany video chats.
Really, though, this is nitpicking. The iPad 2 is clearly the best executed and most desirable tablet around – as the market statistics suggest.