Apple’s iPad 2 has been out since March/April this year, even here in South Africa. But in order to make an informed decision on which Tablet is best (and prove that there was/is no bias), I decided to do a complete roundup of the device. The original iPad set the world alight when it was released, setting a trend, even amongst other manufacturers. This resulted in Apple suing almost everyone they could, some successful, some not. That aside, many of the other devices that spawned out of Apple’s tablet design aren’t that bad. So, I’ll highlight a few points of interest, and decide at the end if the iPad is still the best tablet.
In terms of the OS and its features, the iPad is not as much fun as the Motorola XOOM or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. If, like me, you’re predominantly an Android user, you’ll find things like the no desktop, no notification menu a bit annoying. And although the iPad has 3G access, you cannot send messages or USSD commands (although most Android tablets don’t have USSD either). Be that as it may, there are a number of aspects in the UI that work well on the iPad. In terms of smoothness (sliding and rotation animations), Android devices won’t soon match that of the iPad. If you wish to know why this is, read through the technical note below. Otherwise, you may skip to the next paragraph.
Technical Note: There is an easy explanation as to why iOS rendering will always be better than that of Android devices. On iOS, all UI rendering occurs in a dedicated UI thread with real-time priority. Android devices, however, follow the traditional PC model of rendering occurring on the main thread with normal priority. If this makes little or no sense to you, try the following test: get your iPad (or iPhone) and open Safari. Open a intricate web page like Facebook. While it loads, place your finger on the screen and move it around; all rendering and page loading stops immediately. The web page will, literally, not load until you remove your finger. This is because the UI thread is intercepting all events and rendering the UI at real-time priority. Android, on the other hand, does its best to both render the HTML site and complete your rendering requests.
When it comes to gaming, the iPad 2 is simply magnificent. Although there are many awesome games for the Tegra 2 tablet devices, for some reason they still do not compare to a number of iPad 2 HD games. With titles such as Epoch, Real Racing 2, Modern Combat 3 and Race after 1977, the handful of Tegra 2 games cannot compete. The quality of the games on the iPad 2 is just better, with smoother animations and enhanced graphics. The good news for the Android community is that Tegra 3 will soon rectify these issues (graphics and smoothness). The only question remaining is “how many Tegra 3 games will be released?” Apple has the upper hand on this one.
If you ever wanted to get your hands on a few accessories for your Android tablet you would have been hard pressed to find much. As far as I know, there isn’t much out there besides the manufacturers own accessories. When it comes to the iPad 2, however, you’re faced with a totally different issue, which accessory do you choose. There might be millions of different accessories out there for the iPad, from the simple music dock, to the crazy log dock (see image below). The reason for this is quite simple; there’s only one iPad 2 and many variants of Android tablets, making it easier for companies to create a concept dock station. Another victory for iPad.
I can spend all day going through advantages and disadvantages of both Android and Apple tablets, but there would be no point. In my earlier tablet reviews, the concept of owning a tablet made sense to me. But once I looked at the pricing, I was quickly brought back down to earth. I can’t imagine myself just forking out the cash to buy a tablet, and already having a data deal, I can’t see myself been bound to another 24 month contract on a tablet and a bit of data to go with it.
If you’re willing to make those brave decisions, there is only one option at this point in time, and that’s the Apple iPad 2. Sure the device is getting on in months (yeah, months are all it takes to make your device obsolete), but I can assure you that it’s just a little bit more fun to get an iPad than a XOOM or Galaxy Tab. Between the gaming and amount of accessories available, the decision is made easy. The only good uses for owning a tablet, other than the above mentioned, are to send emails, browse the internet and connect to some sort of social media.
I did not mention any specifications in this review. You can find the full specifications here.
Note: To see which phone made the list of top phones (per category), stay tuned for the full review this week. The three categories for smartphones are: “budget”, “medium” and “money is no object”. We will also have a roundup of Tablets to choose from.