iPad vs iPad 2 back-to-back: what’s new, plus all the specs compared

And so in one of the most anticipated product launches of the year – and one which probably leaves last week’s not insignificant Sandy Bridge debut on the Mac well in the shade – Apple has finally taken the veil off the iPad 2. It’ll be out in Australia as soon as March 25 so what are the new features in the new iPad 2 and overall how does it compare to the original iPad? Here’s our run-down of everything you need to know from a specifications point of view.

Thin is in: iPad 2 in all its svelte glory.

The most significant differentiator between the iPad and its successor is the iPad 2’s new processor the 1GHz dual-core A5 CPU which succeeds the A4 found in the original iPad. Apple claims the dual-core A5 is up to twice as fast as the single-core A4 with graphics performance said to be up to nine times faster. This should make a real difference in the overall speed and responsiveness of the device particularly when it comes to games but also in relation to some of the more heavy-duty media-editing apps which Apple also announced today (namely iMovie for iPad and GarageBand for iPad).

If the iPad 2 is going to succeed at becoming a gaming powerhouse like Apple wants it to it’ll need all the juice from its new dual-core A5 processor.

Both the A4 and A5 are low-power chips and as a result battery life hasn’t changed. The iPad 2 still features a 25-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery which Apple claims will deliver 10 hours of battery life when only using Wi-Fi (which drops to nine hours when 3G connectivity is utilised in the 3G version). On this account while Apple isn’t delivering better battery performance from an hour-on-hour perspective the significance of the accomplishment here is that Apple has managed to deliver equal battery performance from a significantly smaller device.

Everything’s relative: the iPad 2 is significantly skinnier than its predecessor and Apple claims it’s more comfortable to hold.

Measurements-wise the iPad 2 is thinner and lighter than its predecessor although the display size itself is unchanged at 9.7 inches diagonally (and it still offers a 1024 x 768 resolution). The iPad 2 is 33 per cent thinner than the iPad measuring 8.8mm thick compared to the original’s 13.4mm and it’s up to 15 per cent lighter than the original weighing 601g for the Wi-Fi only version (or 613g for the 3G) compared to the iPad’s respective 680g and 730g footprints.

Apple says it’s redefining the iPad: the iPad 2’s ability to perform processor-intensive tasks like video editing (in the new iMovie for iPad app seen here) will be a hallmark of the new generation of tablets we’ll see this year.

The other physical dimensions are understandably not as reduced (given that the display’s size is unchanged): the iPad 2 measures 241.2 by 185.7mm compared to the iPad’s 242.8 by 189.7mm. The structural barrier around the rim of the original iPad’s framing has been removed which results in the iPad 2’s thinner unibody housing. The iPad 2 is available in either black or white whereas the original was black only and the same storage capacities have been preserved with the iPad 2 for sale in 16GB 32GB and 64GB models.

With the addition of the new cameras on the iPad 2 Apple has rolled out FaceTime chat across iPod iPhone iPad and Mac product lines.

Perhaps the most obvious new addition feature-wise in the inclusion of two new cameras for photos video recording and webcam chat (or in Apple’s lexicon ‘FaceTime’). The back-facing HD camera records video in 720p at up to 30fps and also functions as a still camera although Apple sneakily hasn’t disclosed its megapixel count. The front-facing camera captures VGA-quality video and stills. Video out support has also been upgraded from up to 576p on the original iPad to up to 1080p on the iPad 2 (with the relevant adapters sold separately).

Apple has upgraded video out capabilities with the iPad 2 which now offers 1080p video mirroring (with the correct separately sold adapter of course).

The Wi-Fi capabilities of the Wi-Fi only iPad 2 are unchanged from the original iPad’s spec although the iPad 2 3G model now incorporates support for UMTS / HSDPA / HSUPA (850 900 1900 2100MHz) and GSM (850 900 1800 1900MHz). The iPad 2 features the same accelerometer and ambient light sensor as the iPad but also includes a new three-axis gyroscope which should add a new level of sensitivity and control (especially in games).

The iPad’s new gyroscope should offer enhanced sensitivity and control in gameplay.

To address screen scratch issues which plagued the original iPad Apple is releasing a new iPad 2 accessory dubbed Smart Cover a lightweight segmented display cover available in a range of colours which magnetically clings and self-aligns to the iPad 2’s body. The iPad 2 automatically wakes and sleeps when the Smart Cover is removed and attached and additionally can convert into a mini stand for the tablet. It’s a neat feat of design and a likely must-buy for iPad 2 purchasers although third party makers of iPad accessories will understandably be less thrilled by the new peripheral.

Smart Cover: clings like a primary-coloured alien parasite. Apple should have done this years ago.

All in all Apple is offering a significantly revamped tablet in the iPad 2. Going off the specs and new features it’s faster lighter and can do more and it’s definitely the iPad to be considering (although some last-minute deals on the original iPad are certainly tempting).

Showing its trademark style nous Apple’s Smart Cover enables you to personalise your otherwise fairly uniform iPad 2.

Having said that despite Apple’s effervescent spin doctoring the iPad 2 certainly doesn’t seem to deliver the same “magical” (their term) wow factor that the original iPad had in droves. Back then it was the only killer tablet on the block but now with so many feature-packed competitor devices already in the market or on their way very soon the iPad 2 is no longer the only option out there for shoppers. There’s no doubt that Apple has a strong offering in the iPad 2 and a healthy lead on the rest of the pack but will 2011 really be the year of the iPad 2 as Steve Jobs claims or has Apple’s original 2010 game changer gone and changed the game on Apple?