19/12/2011 12:25 | By David Phelan, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Apple iPad 2 review

Despite great recent competitors, Apple's iPad 2 is still the tablet to beat.

iPad 2 (© Apple)

What is it? The iPad was the gadget that created the tablet as we know it and this second edition is still the model to beat.

What's great: Apple has given the iPad an outstanding operating system, super-cool styling and a busier app store than the competition.

What's not: The camera is low-resolution and the closed system of Apple's iOS means it's hard to get documents on and off the machine.

The bottom line: The iPad 2 is a joy to use. Its fast processor means it's slick and butter-smooth, its range of apps means you'll never be stuck for something to do and the video playback quality is just great.

There were tablet PCs before the iPad but they were touch-friendly Windows machines that never took off. Apple's media-friendly screen changed everything and the most recent release improved things further.

The iPad 2 is a gorgeous piece of hardware: it's light, glossy and snazzy-looking. The back is all aluminium so it's strong and pleasing to the touch. We'd still recommend a sleeve or case to stop it getting scratched (the latest Folio from Knomo is tremendous).

Apple's genius was to create a blank canvas to inspire the ingenuity of app designers. It combined appealing, high-end hardware with the versatility offered only by touchscreens. And the canvas is now far from blank with over 100,000 iPad-specific apps for everything from electronic books to games and more.

Of course, none of these apps would be worth having if it wasn't for the slickest, most intuitive of operating systems that even tiny children can understand. For the rest of us it means it's a pleasure to use. Swiping between screens is simple and effective while the pinch-to-zoom effect is as pleasing as when Apple first launched it to wide-eyed praise on the iPhone.

The iPad 2 is fast: the A5 processor that's now in the iPhone 4S as well keeps everything speeding along, opening apps or loading web pages in a jiffy. The iPad's screen is good - though an upgrade next time around would be nice as other tablet screens are now nipping at its heels - and displays video well. The wide viewing angle means it's easy for two people to watch at the same time. The large screen is great for playing games as so much less display real estate is hidden by controls (or your thumbs).

That display is also good when you're shooting video, which the iPad does in 720p HD. Mind you, a tablet this size isn't that manageable for extensive recording - there's a reason why camcorders aren't usually this shape and size. What's more, the camera's optimised for video, not still shots, and offers less than 1-megapixel resolution as a result. Still, the front-facing camera, which has an even lower VGA resolution, is good for video calling using Apple's FaceTime app.

iPad 2 (© Apple)

If you want to use the iPad as a substitute laptop, it's largely successful. In terms of portability it beats the lightest netbook, though the glass screen is no match for a regular keyboard. You can get round this with an external keyboard: Logitech's ZAGG aluminium keyboard case even clips on to protect the screen.

Apps like Pages make a decent stab at word processing with sophisticated results possible. But it's not easy to get documents on and off the iPad except by email or uploading them to the cloud - there is a USB adapter for the iPad's proprietary connector but it has limited functionality.

Apple's email app is strong but if you're used to a more comprehensive experience on your computer desktop, you may find it doesn't quite match up.

Battery life for the iPad 2 is tremendous. Even if you use it heavily you won't find it going flat in a hurry. Ten hours is promised and it seems to deliver. Leave it in a drawer for a week or two - if you can really leave it alone for that long - and the charge is largely untouched.

The iPad is one of those gadgets that, once you've picked it up, you want to keep. Its deeply intuitive operating system draws you in with its simplicity and slickness. The iPad 2's whizzy processor ensures it's a fast, lag-free experience that is satisfying and enjoyable, while the massive range of available apps is comprehensive and endlessly rewarding. Although there are faults like the basic camera resolutions, there is so much to enjoy in the iPad 2, disappointments quickly fall by the wayside. The coolest, and still the best, tablet around.

5 stars

Essential info:
Camera: 0.7MP
Video: 720p@30fps
Display: LED backlit IPS TFT capacitive touchscreen, 768 x 1024 pixels, 9.7inches
Dimensions: 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8mm
Internal Memory: 16/32/64GB storage, 512 MB RAM
Colour: White or black
Weight: Wi-fi 601g, 3G 607g
Touchscreen: Yes
Audio playback: 3.5mm ear jack & speaker
Processor: 1GHz dual-core processor
Operating System: iOS 5
Battery Life: 10 hours

What you said:
"The quality is definitely reflective of the price and I could not recommend it any more" - Lucy439br
"I am very happy with my iPad and I would recommend him to anyone" - JL132

- Read more reviews and compare prices on the iPad 2 on Ciao

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