Notable Add-Ons and Performance

Apple introduced a few new accessories for the iPad 2 as well. The first is the Smart Cover, a folding magnetic screen cover and stand that is designed to leave the aluminum backside of the iPad 2 uncovered. Available in different colors and finishes, the Smart Cover connects to the left side of the device using magnets and snaps in place on the right side using additional magnets. The iPad 2 senses when the screen cover is in place and can automatically turn off the display. The inside surface of the Smart Cover is designed to clean the display each time it is applied, although results were negligible at best.

The Smart Cover can also be used as a stand in landscape mode which works really well. Additionally, you can stand the iPad up for viewing in landscape mode, although the Smart Cover isn’t very sturdy in this position and easily falls over if you interact with the screen. This orientation is best left for video watching only. The Smart Cover proved to be quite convenient without adding bulk to the tablet - a desirable result and likely worth the $40 to $70 depending on which finish you choose.

Apple also introduced a Digital AV Adapter that allows you to output video and audio to an HDMI-compatible device. The adapter plugs into the 30-pin dock connector of your device and features an HDMI port and another 30-pin connector so you can simultaneously charge your device while using the adapter.

Using the HDMI adapter with the iPad 2 worked as advertised. In mirroring mode, you are limited to a 4:3 aspect ratio (1024 x 768) which is a bit of a downer. Outside of academia or work-related presentations, I suspect most consumers would use the HDMI cable to watch movies and television shows on their home theater systems. This is where the adapter excels, outputting 1080p video and audio while allowing you to charge iPad 2 simultaneously. After all, who wants an unsightly HDMI cable stretched across their living room floor just to surf the net on your TV?

Of course, the extra premium put on the adapter doesn't help matters since several other tablet competitors offer native HDMI-out. I would only suggest picking up the adapter if you frequently download movies on your iPad and want to watch them on a larger screen. Otherwise, save your money and put it towards a more useful accessory like the Smart Cover.

The adapter also works with the iPad 1, iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th generation but you can only output up to 720p and mirroring is disabled, so essentially it’s only good for watching videos on these devices. The Apple Digital AV Adapter retails for $39.00.

Performance

To say that the iPad 2 is faster than the original would be a huge understatement. After updating the original iPad with iOS 4.3, it was noticeably faster but still not on the level of the iPad 2.

Our Safari browser tests showed the second-gen device was faster at fully loading web pages every single time, sometimes by a very large margin. For example, the iPad 2 loaded TechSpot's homepage 1 second faster than the original, then it was 3 seconds faster to load CNN.com and ESPN.com, and up to 6 seconds snappier to load the long blog view of Engadget.com.

In Linpack, results showed iPad 2 was nearly 2x as fast in the N: 100 test and a whopping 8.6x faster than iPad 1 in the N: 1000 test. In Geekbench 2, the iPad 2 produced a total score of 748 versus the iPad 1's 451.

Hard numbers aside, the iPad 2 simply feels snappier than the original in several day-to-day activities and apps. Specifically I had noticed some lag in the Mail application on the original iPad when I selected and deleted multiple messages. This issue was cut down a bit with iOS 4.3, but is completely eliminated on the iPad 2. The same can be said for The Daily, an interactive iPad-only newspaper that feels pretty laggy on the original model.

The most obvious performance improvement comes with iPad 2-specific games such as Real Racing 2 HD. The iPad 2 features anti-aliasing which really improves the graphics quality and even with the extra eye-candy the new iPad is able to run the game more smoothly than its predecessor.

Images on the left taken with the original iPad, on the right with the iPad 2