iPad 2 mic quality said to differ between models

A new report claims that iPad 2 users with the Wi-Fi models are getting noticeably better audio recording than those with the slightly different 3G models.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read
An iPad 2 with 3G. The microphone is the small hole in the middle.
An iPad 2 with 3G. The microphone is the small hole in the middle. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

If choosing between the 18 different models of the iPad 2 wasn't hard enough, new findings suggest that the hardware differences between the Wi-Fi-only and 3G models of the iPad 2 lead to different audio recording quality, with buyers of the less-expensive Wi-Fi only versions coming out on top.

That claim, made by iLounge as a footnote to its iPad 2 review, centers on how the same microphone is placed in the two different models. On the Wi-Fi-only version, the microphone hole is simply carved out of the larger piece of metal that makes up the back of the device, whereas on the models with the 3G antenna, it's built into the antenna casing.

"Perhaps due to this change in materials, the Wi-Fi model offers markedly cleaner audio than that of the 3G, which sounds slightly muffled and echo-prone as a result," wrote iLounge senior editor Charles Starrett in a post about the findings.

With the iPad 2, Apple changed the location of the microphone from right next to the headphone jack to the very top of the unit. With the original iPad, this situating meant that the 3G antenna, which sits along the top of the device, did not affect the microphone's placement.

Along with the audio differences between the 3G and Wi-Fi-only models, Starrett said that the site had discovered further differences between the two different 3G models--the GSM AT&T version, and CDMA Verizon version--finding the GSM 3G model "slightly preferable" by comparison.

The microphone has become an exceedingly important aspect of the iPad 2's hardware specifications with the inclusion of FaceTime, Apple's video chat service. Besides FaceTime, recent iPad-specific applications from Apple like GarageBand and iMovie also take advantage of the microphone to let users do things like create audio samples and record voice-overs. Worth noting on top of these observations is that the iPad--like the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Apple's Mac computers--can record audio from external microphones through the 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as attached accessories via the 30-pin dock connector.