Judged on specs alone, the Apple iPad 2 doesn't do much more than keep pace with its tablet rivals. It's a bit thinner that its major rivals — the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the HP TouchPad, and the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook — and it's lighter than most. But its processor appears to be on a par with those of other tablets, and its cameras' resolutions seem to be lower.
Of course, people don't buy tablets based on specs alone. The iPad 2 will carry a base price (US$499) that no major competitor has managed to match; it will come with a new version of iOS, a mobile operating system that many people prefer; and owners will have access to vastly more apps than are available for any other tablet. Plus, Steve Jobs promised that the iPad 2 would ship on March 11. Of the competing tablets we looked at, only the Xoom is already shipping. There are no hard availability dates for the other competitors.
Spec-by-spec comparison of five competing tablets. Apple has shaved off a third of the thickness of the original iPad in the iPad 2, making it the thinnest tablet in this comparison. (Click to see our full comparison.) At 1.35 pounds, the iPad 2 is also lighter, on a par with Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet as the lightest of the roughly 10-inch-screen tablets. Motorola's Xoom and HP's TouchPad are slightly heavier at 1.6 pounds.
Apple didn't change the display of the iPad 2: As on the original iPad, it has a 1024-by-768-pixel resolution and a 9.7-inch size (same as the TouchPad). The Android tablets from Motorola and Samsung have 10.1-inch screens with 1280-by-800-pixel resolution.
The iPad 2 will have the largest available built-in storage (64GB), but the Xoom probably trumps that advantage by providing 32GB of internal storage plus expandable storage via an SD Card in a future software update.
The iPad 2 is also stronger under the hood. It packs an Apple A5 dual-core 1GHz processor, putting it on the same level with all of the other tablets in the comparison except the TouchPad, which will have a 1.2GHz dual-core processor (the fastest pure clock speed of this comparison). Of course, clock speed and number of cores don't in themselves determine how fast a tablet is or how well it manages power. That determination will require side-by-side testing.
Apple isn't saying how much RAM the iPad 2 contains (the original had 256MB, some are speculating that the new version has at least 512MB), but the Xoom, the TouchPad, and the BlackBerry PlayBook have 1GB of RAM inside.
The iPad needed front- and rear-facing cameras to keep pace with the competition, so Apple added a front-facing camera for video calling and a second camera on the back. Apple didn't specify the megapixel count of the back-facing camera, beyond saying that it records 720p HD video. Nevertheless, even with the new additions, Apple appears to trail in megapixel count, especially when matched against the Galaxy Tab 10.1's 2-megapixel and 8-megapixel cameras.
Apple has improved the speaker on the iPad 2, introducing a larger, wider grill. But all of its rivals have stereo speakers.
The iPad 2 will come in two separate 3G models — one for Verizon and the other for AT&T — alongside the Wi-Fi-only model. Both the Xoom and the Galaxy Tab will come only in a 3G version initially, with Wi-Fi only versions to follow. For its part, the TouchPad will come only with Wi-Fi support at the beginning, with 3G versions to follow.
The Xoom will soon be the only 4G tablet, however. Motorola has said that the Xoom can receive a free 4G radio update soon (though installing it will be a hassle).
What do you think? Has Apple done enough to maintain its dominance in the tablet market? Sound off in the comments.