I've had the pleasure of trying out most of the new Apple products for the last few years. If you have any questions or requests for clarifications you can leave a comment, and I'll be emailed, or you can email me directly by clicking on my name and looking for the link.
I mostly use an iPad 1, but I have the opportunity to use an iPad 2 often.
A lot has changed since the iPad came out, and I wrote my original review (located here: Apple iPad (first generation) MB292LL/A Tablet (16GB, Wifi)
titled with a quote from Woz, saying "Everyone wants things to be simpler, and along comes this simple thing" and its still very true. Tablets aren't like PCs, you don't need to maintain them or worry about software requirements at all. Its wonderful for people who hate that. My friend can tell you exactly what processor his last laptop had, but what processor does his iPad have? He'll say "Don't know, don't care". If you are wondering why to get a tablet at all, I would recommend that you read that review. Its the second review on that page.
So I bought the new iPad, the 2.5, or whatever you want to call it. I'm not going to go into the tech specs, because, they are posted everywhere and unless you are a geek you will also fall into the "don't know/don't care" category. I'm going to try to focus on just telling you what I would want to know before I bought it. This review will be about real use.
I chose a 32GB version. Why?
1) The new apps that will support the retina display are supposed to take more memory, so you should expect that whatever you had on your older iPad will take more space on this new one.
2) I feel that the days of 16GB being enough may soon be passing. With my 16GB iPad I was actually having to start managing my memory. I had to start leaving things off it.
3) The more powerful the iPad becomes, the more I expect to use it. And this means, more memory will be needed. The iPad has never been my primary "computer", but with this iteration it might be there: I can plug an HD screen into it via HDMI now, and use a nice bluetooth keyboard. However, you have to use the iPad itself as a gigantic touchpad, as you can't use a pointing device. It mirrors whats on the screen, so, its clumsy-but-possible. Still, we are getting so close to throwing the ipad down on the desk at work and just... working.
So for the first time I plunked down my hard earned money for the 32GB version. I think the 16GB version will be like having a 4GB iPhone 2G.
I'd also like to point out that despite the improvements and upgrades, Apple is maintaining the same starting price that it did for the iPad 1 and the iPad 2. This is very nice.
The main new things -for me- in order of importance are:
1) The 4G LTE network (I have the AT&T version). We'll skip the cell phone enthusiast argument over whether this is really a 4G device, because 4G was actually supposed to be (clears throat) even better. Because in spite of that, the 4G LTE may be the primary reason I plunked down my change and bought it. I want to be able to do my work remotely without problems.
I ran some tests on the new iPad.
--In my office, which has a 6mbps DSL and wifi, I saw a 3.6Mbps upload and a 512k upload. You might say "who cares?" Ah but wait.
--I signed up for the 3GB Data Plan at $30/mo, and when using the 4g LTE network, I saw a 17Mbps connection.
--And at home, where we have the fiber optic connection, I only saw an 11Mbps connection.
--And finally, my iPhone 4s got a lousy 2.5Mbps on the AT&T 4G non-LTE network.
So there you have the relative speeds. All calculated using the Speed Test app.
So here's the point... the new 4G service is a major upgrade. On the LTE network it is very fast - however, I did experience some latency when just checking emails traveling in a car driving 70 mph. This is typical for this technology, it seems to have problem switching from tower to tower. But if you are sitting at a park downtown then I don't think you'll see those problems. What does this mean? You should see a movie download in 1/2 to 1/4 of the time. And the iPad will be able to act as a wifi hub for all your devices. In other words, I will be able to use the iPad for internet for my laptop too. Now, at the time of this writing, it should be noted that you cannot use your iPad as a wifi hotspot with AT&T. At this time only Verizon supports that feature. (Maybe you want to pick the Verizon version if this is important to you).
Now, I live in a metro area in one of the biggest cities in the USA, so, your 4g service may vary. And they are charging a super premium price: $10 per GB. A full length movie on iTunes is 2GB or 3GB, so it can't replace my home connection, but its great for work and casual use.
Back to the countdown:
2) The "resolutionary" screen. It is true that this screen is amazing and a pleasure to look at. You can't see the pixels, and I love that. I love that on my iPhone 4 too. It will take a while for the App makers to really utilize this to its full extent, so I don't think you need to got all excited and upgrade tomorrow.
3) The faster processor. I actually did not have a problem with my old iPad processor, but soon my old iPad will be like using a 2G iPhone. But it will take a while for the App makers to really utilize this to its full extent. Once again, I don't think you need to upgrade tomorrow, but, a few months after release it should be a lock (I happen to know that many iPad developers wait until they can actually get their hands on a retail unit before upgrading their existing apps, although once they get the retail unit its like a race to finish).
4) Dictation. I have used this with success. However, like most voice recognition software its usefulness is reduced by the fact that I'm seldom in a quiet place. Still, I like it. I think its a valuable addition, and I typically use it when I only would have to type a few words. I don't use it to type long letters, as its not completely accurate and I think editing out all the mistakes would take longer than typing it out. (I do use an Apple brand bluetooth keyboard for serious typing: Apple Wireless Keyboard MC184LL/B [NEWEST VERSION
] I have also tried a chicklet style one but it didn't work well for me: Kensington iPad 2 Case with Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard for Apple iPad 2 3G Tablet, WIFI Model K39521US
5) The camera. I don't think I'll use this much. Mostly when taking pictures of things that I'm writing about, which isn't that often. Maybe for some FaceTime. But I don't think this makes it worth it to upgrade from the Original Ipad. (the iPad 2 had a camera, so you can ignore this if you have an iPad 2)
Other usage changes since iPad 1:
1) I bought an HP envy ( HP Envy 110 e-All-in-One Printer
for the wireless printing from iPad and iPhone. This has worked out VERY well. I think the AirPrint implementation has worked nicely.
2) One thing I was disappointed with the original iPad for was the inability to see what was on the iPad screen on a TV. Since then I have purchased an Apple TV Apple TV MC572LL/A (2010) [OLD VERSION
] which is now the old version. And Apple has made it possible to see whatever is on the screen of the iPad on a bigger screen, and you can buy HDMI adapters now: Apple Digital AV Adapter (MC953ZM/A)
3) On my first review I talked about the ability to put your iPhone sim card into your iPad and share your existing data service. I tried this out, putting my iPhone microsim in the new iPad and I was invited to purchase a new data plan. So apparently that little moneysaver has been eliminated.
Other things that stay the same:
You still won't be able to use Flash, a website programming language that allows websites to act more like computer programs. I've read that the reason that Apple won't allow this is that Flash is often the gateway to getting viruses and other nasties. As a result, there is no need to have antivirus software on your iPad, its very very safe. The iPad is rock solid reliable. In fact, the only virus I've heard of for the iPad is where someone had to send you a Pdf via email and get you to open it. And of course, thats threat was removed before I even heard about it.
On my last review, I talked about usage. Apps I use a lot now:
1) Logmein: to do anything on my computer that I can't do on an iPad. This would include Flash based software. I connect to a computer THROUGH my iPad, and control the computer to go to flash sites. Ordinarily I would say this is not worth it, but the computer also runs engineering programs and other programs that don't really exist for the iPad.
2) Gopayment to accept credit cards, although Quickbooks Online usage is hampered by the fact that Quickbooks makes you use a stripped down version through the safari web browser. Once again, use LogMein Ignition.
3) I find the spreadsheet program (numbers) to be highly annoying. However, there was recently an announcement that MS Office programs Excel Word and Powerpoint will soon be available for the iPad with an interface similar to MS OneNote. I'll be buying a copy of Excel and hoping that it doesn't suck.
4) Find my Friends: I see where people are without having to call them and say "where are you?" which is nice. Because I can see where my wife is without calling her, I get less honeydos. Wipe that smirk off your face >:( But also if you know they are driving you don't have to worry about distracted driving causing an accident.
5) I don't end up playing many games on the iPad. I play a lot of games on the iPhone. But thats just my usage experience. Maybe that will change with the new screen.
You can read my original iPad review (linked above) for more usage ideas, if you are new to tablets.
A bit more about usage, someone pointed out in a comment that you don't need the HDMI adapter if you intend to use AirPlay. Airplay includes the ability to wirelessly stream audio and video from your iPad to a TV. Typically this is only from apps that share music and movies, which is the functionality of Airplay (You PLAY things over the air). There are Airplay adapters, including the AppleTV. However, the HDMI connector does more than the Airplay allows: You can share the actual screen of your iPad, no matter what it shows, to a TV as a mirror image. If you were to want to use the iPad as your primary "computer", you would probably want an HDMI adapter for big screen use. I meet more people each month who do use a Tablet as their primary computer, so I felt this was an important point to clarify. I own the AppleTV and the HDMI adapter, and use them in different ways at different times.
Will this Ipad 2.5 make my original iPad as useless as a 4GB iPhone 2G? For the first 6 months, no. But after that, its likely. Overall I am happy I bought it, mostly for the native 4G LTE internet. Followed by the beautiful screen. The faster processor is the 3rd reason, and as soon as the app developers start utilizing it to greater advantage, it will likely become the #1 reason. And I think I'll feel that that has happened in about 6 months.
After MS Excel comes out I may make an attempt to make the iPad my primary computing device, using the HDMI out and a bluetooth keyboard. Wish me luck.