Apple iPad 2 a Good Choice in Crowded Market: Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports described the Apple iPad 2 as a "good choice" and an improvement over the original iPad, though its camera is not as good as that on the Motorola Xoom.

Consumer Reports has subjected the Apple iPad 2 to its customary battery of tests and come back with a blah but positive recommendation.

"The iPad 2 is right now a very good choice in the tablet market," concluded Dean Gallea, an electronics engineer, in a video on the publications' blog, emoting the least amount possible while still moving one's lips.

Maybe it takes more than a nine-times-faster graphics processor to get an engineer grinning. While noting that Apple has made the iPad 2 thinner and lighter than its predecessor, and included the company's proprietary A5 processor - all while keeping the price the same - Gallea said the iPad 2's speed improvements aren't so noticeable, unless you're maybe running 3D games that would otherwise really tax the chip.

Opinions from other reviewers vary on this. The New York Times' David Pogue, in his review, said the improvements in thinness, weight and speed "transforms the experience" of using the tablet. And in the Wall Street Journal, Walter S. Mossberg said he "didn't find the speed difference on the iPad 2 to be dramatic, but it was noticeable."

In other non-dramatic news, Consumer Reports found the cover to turn the iPad 2 on when removed and off when clicked in place - just as it's designed to - and the iPad 2's new display to match the fine quality of the original version's. In Consumer Reports' tests, Jeff Fox wrote in a complementary (not to be confused with complimentary) blog post, the iPad 2's Web cam "worked well," and either party can surf the Web during the call or run other apps.

The iPad 2's rear camera, which at 0.7 megapixels of resolution and no flash or manual controls could hardly be less impressive, warranted a comparison to the Motorola Xoom - which, while pricier and not as thin as the iPad 2, Fox wrote, features a 5-megapixel camera, "which has a flash and controls for picture size (resolution), white balance, picture quality, color effects, scene modes, exposure level and focus mode."

While Pogue and Mossberg, in their reviews, wrote that when placed beside the iPad 2 the Xoom looks rather hefty, analysts generally consider it the iPad's greatest competition in an incredibly crowded contest. Fox said as much - calling the Xoom the iPad 2's "chief rival for now" - but added: "Still, many more tablets are expected to reach market this year. The tablet race is far from over."

A knock against the Xoom has been its price - Verizon now offers it for $600 with a two-year data contract, or it's available without a contract for $800. But in the Consumer Reports video, though in reference to the market's least-expensive offerings, Gallea notes, "You do get what you pay for."

The review is the most positive one that publication has given an Apple product in some time. In February it said it was unable to recommend the Verizon iPhone 4, since testing found the smartphone to suffer from low-signal conditions that could lead to dropped calls. In July, it said the same about the AT&T version.

"When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone's lower left side - an easy thing, especially for lefties - the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with a weak signal," Consumer Reports' Mike Gikas wrote in a July 12 blog post. "Due to this problem, we can't recommend the iPhone 4."

The publication later found the problem to be abated when the iPhone 4 was used with a rubber bumper - which Apple gave away free for a time, following a media to-do over the connectivity issues that were quickly coined "Antennagate," but soon after began charging for them again, saying that the antenna issue affected far fewer devices than was originally reported.