Apple iPad 2 Tops Consumer Reports' Tablet Ratings

Apple's iPad 2 has earned top marks in Consumer Reports' tablet ratings. The publication also issued some pointers for buying tablets.

Consumer Reports may have longstanding issues with the iPhone 4, but its editors have decided to give a big thumbs-up to the new iPad 2.

The publication tested 10 tablets, including the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab, before deciding that the 32GB iPad 2 with WiFi and 3G ranked highest across 17 criteria ranging from portability to touch-screen responsiveness. The first-generation iPad apparently tied with the Motorola Xoom, which runs the tablet-optimized Google Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb") and is widely regarded as the iPad franchise's most robust competition.

"So far, Apple is leading the tablet market in both quality and price, which is unusual for a company whose products are usually premium priced," Paul Reynolds, Consumer Reports' electronics editor, wrote in an April 5 statement. "However, it's likely we'll see more competitive pricing in tablets as other models begin to hit the market."

Consumer Reports recommends that consumers in the market for a tablet consider a higher-priced device. "With prices for the best tablets still too high for many budgets, consumers may be tempted by lower-priced competitors. Don't be," the publication wrote in an April 5 statement. "Tests have found the performance of models costing $300 and under to be at best mediocre."

Other details for consumers to consider: easy navigation, easy-to-use virtual keyboard, automatic orientation from landscape to portrait mode (and vice versa), a GPS receiver and other components for "environmental awareness," access to a full apps marketplace, high-quality display, and capacitive touch screen.

Should the consumer consider an Android tablet, Consumer Reports added, "the Android tablet you buy should have at least Android 2.2 and access to the Android Market, not a secondary app market."

Consumer Reports sparked a bit of controversy among Apple fans in 2010, when it refused to recommend the iPhone 4 on AT&T's network. In their accompanying report, the editors cited how the device's signal would die when bare skin touched the lower-left portion of the device's antenna rim. "The signal can degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with a weak signal," the publication's Mike Gikas blogged July 12. "Due to this problem, we can't recommend the iPhone 4."

Apple CEO Steve Jobs later announced that customers who purchased an iPhone 4 through Sept. 30, 2010, would be eligible to receive a free rubber bumper that covered the rim.

However, the controversy continued into 2011, when Consumer Reports declined to recommend the iPhone 4 when it appeared on Verizon. "The problem is similar to the one we confirmed in July with the AT&T version of Apple's newest smartphone," the publication reported in a Feb. 25 blog posting.