There are pro’s and con’s for both the iPad 2 and the new iPad (referred to as iPad 3 from now on). The iPad 2 is still a good buy and regularly still promoted by Apple, so many people are conflicted with what one to get. Is the iPad 3 worth the extra money? I am going to compare the two devices in a few key categories.
Performance:The iPad 2 is still a very capable device and as far as I know there are no apps or games that require a iPad 3. While 3D benchmarks and browser benchmarks will show a clear lead for the iPad 3, having used both tablets extensively I can say that in terms of real-world performance they feel about the game. You have to remember in newer games the iPad 3 has to render everything in higher resolution so any performance benefit is usually negated by that. In terms of apps there is one clear advantage the iPad 3 has and that is multi-tasking. You can have more apps open in the background before they start auto-quitting when they device runs out of memory. Also, in Safari you can have many more tabs open before the device starts purging older ones from memory (causing you to have to download them again when you switch back). This is due to the iPad 3 having 1GB of memory while the iPad 2 has 512MB.
Winner: iPad 3 (mostly because of the extra memory benefits)
This is a fairly easy one. The iPad 3 is slightly thicker and slightly heavier than the iPad 2. While the iPad 3 isn’t cumbersome, the iPad 2 has the clear advantage here. It definitely does feel lighter. The extra bulk is mainly for the bigger battery to support the extra horsepower and better display while I’ll get to below.
Winner: iPad 2
While Apple claims the iPad 3 has the same battery life as the iPad 2 I have noticed that the iPad 2 lasts a bit longer and that is with using the same brightness settings on both of them (screen brightness is by far the biggest factor in battery life). When Apple claims “10 hours” most people don’t know that means at 60% screen brightness. If you pump up the brightness to 100% that can easily drop to 5 or 6 hours. Thankfully the iPad screens all look nice even at a moderate brightness. I find around 70% to be a sweet spot of brightness and battery life for me.
Winner: iPad 2
This is by far the easiest category. The iPad 3’s screen is simply one of the best mass-produced screens ever released, regardless of device. It kept the great viewing angles of the older iPad screens but increased the resolution to a staggering 2048×1536 (vs. 1024×768 on iPad 1 and 2). To put this in perspective this is much higher than even a 1080p monitor or television which is 1920×1080 pixels. All this on a small 10 inch screen! Switching back to an iPad 2 after working on an iPad 3 is a night and day difference. Not only is resolution improved but so is color fidelity. Despite this, the screen on the iPad 2 is still a very impressive display. Part of the reason the iPad got so popular in the first place was because of how nice this screen is to look at. In the below screen the iPad 3 is on the right.
Winner: iPad 3
Features: Apple tends to only enable newer software features on their newest devices (even if the older ones can handle it) so the iPad 3 will have the edge here. One of the main features it shipped with is the text-to-speech ability which works surprisingly well. Also, Apple announced that in iOS 6 the iPad 3 will support Siri, while the iPad 2 will be left out.
Winner: iPad 3
Cameras: Both the iPad 2 and iPad 3 have front-facing and rear-facing cameras. The front-facing camera is the same on both; a simple 640×480 webcam for video chat (Facetime) that works well enough for that. The rear camera on the iPad 2, while capable of recording somewhat decent 720p video, takes absolutely atrocious still photos. They are only 960×720 and very blurry and noisy. The iPad 3’s rear camera is capable of 1080p video and can take 5 megapixel stills. It is the same camera as the one in the iPhone 4 (not 4S). While its capable of taking decent looking casual shots, it is not a replacement for a real digital camera. My favorite use for the 5MP iPad 3 camera is taking photos for eBay auctions or quick random candid shots of pets and things like that.
Winner: iPad 3
Wireless speed: As for wifi both support wireless b/g/n networks (though only to a max of 65Mbps sync). The main difference is iPad 2 only supports 3G data speeds if you get a 3G version while the iPad 3 can support both 3G and 4G networks. The speed difference between 3G and 4G can be significant, but if you only plan on buying a wifi model you should disregard this.
Winner: iPad 3 (for the 4g)
Hopefully these points make your decision a little easier. Another thing you might be thinking is…should I just wait for the iPad 4? Well, I think it depends when you are reading this article. It’s July 2012 now and if things go as they have in the past the iPad 4 will not be available until at least March 2013. I would say just get one and enjoy it. The good thing about iPad’s is, if you take care of them (get a case!) they have excellent resale value. When the iPad 3 came out I was able to unload my iPad 2 on eBay for about 70% of its original cost. As a PC guy, I was a skeptic when the iPad originally launched and dismissed it as an oversized iPod touch. Once I tried one it had me hooked. It’s used hours every day.