Apple iPad 2: Why I'm hitting the Amex again

Summary:Apple's new iPad 2 has me reaching into my wallet to upgrade to the new version of their flagship tablet. Here's why I'm becoming a repeat customer.

Apple's new iPad 2 has me reaching into my wallet to upgrade to the new version of their flagship tablet. Here's why I'm becoming a repeat customer.

Ah, the tides of spring. April showers, blooming flowers. New iPads. $500 dents on my AMEX card.

As an original iPad owner, I was fairly certain this morning I was going to pass on the iPad 2. After all, the rumor mill late yesterday had suggested this was only a minor upgrade.

If you consider the addition of a dual core processor, significantly improved graphics performance, front and rear cameras, HDMI output and a much thinner design as a minor upgrade, then maybe you should pass on this one if you already own an iPad.

Indeed, I've been watching the tablet landscape quite a bit since I bought my first iPad just over a year ago. I've seen all the competitors announce and delay products.

I was genuinely looking forward to Android 3.0-based systems. I was legitimately considering buying something else this go-around, or maybe even sticking with what I've got, and perhaps handing the iPad over to my wife.

But I've become comfortable with my iPad. It's like a warm and fuzzy blanket I reach for. It's a weird thing to say about a bundle of silicon and aircraft aluminum, but I really love the thing. Call me a fanboi, but there isn't another comparable product I'd rather use right now.

Yet again, Apple has set the bar for what feature set a tablet should have and what it should cost.  I've discussed this at length before -- there isn't a single manufacturer operating in this space that can match Apple due to massive advantages the company has in supply chain management.

I mean seriously, who can afford to make devices out of aircraft aluminum, with custom-designed microprocessors and with the bundle of features that this device ships with for a measly $500.00 on a base model? Nobody.

So, back to the upgrade. I really like my current iPad, but I want more memory and CPU and graphics horsepower. Apple hasn't disclosed how much RAM the iPad 2 has, but it has to be double what the current device has, at a bare minimum. I'd sure like it to have 1GB, but I could work with 512MB which is twice that of the original model, which has 256MB.

We won't know until someone has done an X-Ray job on the new dual-core PoP A5 SoC, but it has to have at least as much as an iPhone 4 does, which is 512MB.

A faster processor, improved integrated graphics and a larger amount of memory were the three big things I focused on in my crystal-ball piece about iPad 2 that I wrote about back in July. These three things for me alone are worth the price of admission. Everything else, such as the dual cameras, the gyroscope, and the thinner, lighter design are pretty much gravy.

And in my opinion, this is a lot of gravy.

[Next: The Power of HDMI Compells Me!]»

In my original "Next Generation iPad" piece, I also mentioned the HDMI output as being an important addition. There's a bunch of reasons why I think this is significant on the new model.

First, unlike the original device, the new HDMI accessory allows you to "Mirror" in the actions of ALL of the applications running on your iPad onto a larger HD screen, not just output (up to full 1080p) video from selected apps as on the original VGA cable accessory, which I considered to be next to worthless.

[UPDATE: It appears the new HDMI accessory will work with iPad 1 and even iPhone 4/IPod Touch with an OS 4.3 update, but the older iPad model can only output to 720p and cannot do display mirroring.]

That means the Web, games, word processing applications, spreadsheets, document viewers, Netflix, everything. Remember the original demo Steve Jobs did of the first iPad where he sat down on the couch and you saw everything he did on the screen? Yeah, well now there's finally an App for That. It's called the HDMI accessory.

I suspect also since HDMI supports HDCP, we'll finally be able to output videos purchased from iTunes onto a larger screen as well. I would like this, a lot. It means I could bring a HDMI cable with me when I travel and output video to my hotel room's full-size TV.

Given that I am now no longer a spring chicken at the tender age of 41, and my eyesight stinks, being able to watch videos and work from a larger screen in my hotel room on my iPad is a big improvement.

For business folks, this is also isn't a trivial feature because HDMI is pin-compatible with DVI, which is the standard used on most flat-screen PC monitors as well as projector systems. With an inexpensive HDMI to DVI converter cable, you can pretty much replace a laptop for presentations if you're satisfied with Keynote as a PowerPoint replacement.

Frankly, I think HDMI and full mirroring of the device's display output to an external display more than makes up for the fact that the new iPad has an identical screen resolution of the old one. Sure, it would have been nice if the new unit had a higher resolution display, but it's not like there isn't anything wrong with the existing built-in XGA display. I mean, it's a great friggin' display.

So I'm buying a new one. It's a done deal. This time around, however, I'm probably going to go with the 16GB model instead of the 32GB model, since I barely use the storage I have on the thing, with most of my data stored in the cloud, and I usually don't rent more than two or three movies to preload before I go on a trip. Even with 4, I still wouldn't max out on 16GB.

Now, it should be added that I've already arranged to sell my original iPad, but this does not factor into my purchase plans. I was originally going to simply give my original iPad to my wife if I liked what I saw in the new device, but this is a nice way to finance the new purchase.

Net net, I might just end up buying a second tablet to swap with the spousal unit if say, a reasonably priced Android 3 device comes along, or if she makes me buy her another iPad because she refuses to share it.

So if you don't own an iPad or any sort of tablet yet and if you're considering the device -- I'd say this was a no brainer, if the price is right.

If you're an iPad 1 owner, and you like the new features of the iPad 2 and they are actually worth it to you -- then I'd definitely say go for it, especially if you can find your old device a new home or even sell it.

If, however your current device makes you perfectly happy, then don't go throwing perfectly good money out the window just because you want the latest and greatest. I'm not necessarily a good indicator of what a typical consumer actually needs, since I actually write about this junk and can justify the purchase regardless.

Does the iPad 2 have enough new features and improvements that you've decided to upgrade to the new model? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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