iPad 2 killer feature: The 2X factor

The iPad 2 is a worthy upgrade from the groundbreaking original iPad. A couple of crucial hardware upgrades make a big difference.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
3 min read

The iPad 2 is "winning" with two double-your-fun hardware features. Buh-bye iPad 1.

My iPad 2.  Buh-bye iPad 1.
My iPad 2. Buh-bye iPad 1. Brooke Crothers

After using the iPad 2 for a few weeks, I can now say the upgrade was worth it. Even waiting in line with the huddled Los Angeles masses, yearning for the iPad 2, was worth it.

Allow me to insert a brief parenthetical by saying I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't mention there's always a psychological need to justify the purchase of a pricey gadget. Not unlike seeking absolution for a sin. That said, I'm pretty sure this review passes the objective, dispassionate analysis test.

Let's move on. At the time of purchase, there was very little to choose from (Apple stores then were still handing out claim tickets). So, I was bamboozled (I'll play the victim) into buying the $829 Verizon 3G model with 64GB of memory (white). I upgraded from the original iPad with AT&T 3G.

Double the memory: This was apparent almost immediately. Going from a meager 256MB in the original iPad to 512MB in the iPad 2 makes a difference. Think about the terabytes (petabytes?) of advice over the years from "tech experts" that implore people to upgrade their PC's memory to get better performance. Well, it's true. More memory provides more space for more apps to reside in, which can then be accessed by high-speed system RAM.

I'll give one easy, everyday example. Web browsing is more fluid. I know this has something to do with the upgraded processor (which I'll get to below) but more memory is also playing a big role here. More specifically, Safari's version of tabbed browsing on the iPad 2 works better (no, it's not literally tabbed browsing but it's similar). When you jump between Web pages, a page that you haven't visited in a while often doesn't have to reload. That's a boon when I'm doing productivity-related stuff--and otherwise makes browsing more enjoyable.

Double the cores: the iPad 2's A5 processor is a dual-core processor, compared with the single-core A4. This, by far, is the most significant aspect of the iPad 2 and often overlooked or downplayed because it's considered too techie. (What's a core?) I remember when I bought my first dual-core PC (an HP nc6400 business laptop). For me, it was the single biggest step up in PC performance I had ever experienced. The iPad isn't quite that breathtaking but it's close.

It's not difficult to understand why. Two processing units are usually (though not always) better at handling demanding task loads than one. Would you rather have a four-cylinder Ford Ranger or an eight-cylinder F-350 hauling a big load? Not a perfect analogy but you get the idea. (Want proof? Check out these benchmarks, particularly the "multithreaded" tests).

And this applies to just about everything you do on the iPad. Launching, multitasking, Web surfing, multimedia (photos, movies). You name it.

One more feature I'll mention. So far, Verizon 3G has been more consistent for me than the AT&T 3G I had on the iPad 1. While I had no major complaints about the AT&T 3G, it's apparent that the Verizon 3G on the iPad 2 delivers in places that I know for a fact were dead spots for AT&T. So, I'm glad (so far) that I went with Verizon.