Test Test
iPad 1 iPad 1
iPad 2 iPad 2
Start up from off 30 seconds 23 seconds
Epic Citadel* boot 15 seconds 6 seconds
Boot up Pages 6 seconds 4 seconds
Boot up GarageBand** 11.7 seconds 5 seconds

I promised to run some timings over iPad 2 compared to 1, and also to look at the GarageBand app in more depth.

The timings compare an iPad 1, WiFi only, 64GB storage, OS 4.3.1 vs iPad 2, WiFi/Cellular (no SIM installed), also with 64GB capacity, running the same version of iOS.

iPad 1 has a 1GHz A4 processor (one core), and 256MB RAM.
iPad 2 has a 1GHz A5 processor (dual-core), and 512MB RAM.

Not much is really known about this A5 processor, but there's a technical attempt at an overview on the EETimes.

Both iPads have 1024x768 pixel 4:3 aspect ratio displays, but the first generation uses a PowerVR SGX 535 Graphics Processor Unit while the 2 uses a PowerVR SGX543MP with two cores.

Of course, the 2 is lighter, about one third slimmer (and you become very aware of this) and it has front and back facing cameras.
Both iPads were fully charged and connected to my wireless network.

I timed the load through video screen until the Start button became available. Standing at the same points in the exploration game looking at the same scene, I couldn't tell the iPad 2 looked any better. But I did notice the white on the 2 was slightly warmer than the slightly blueish tinge on my year-old iPad 1.

Then I left the Epic Citadel running on each iPad as well as settings, and booted Pages.

GarageBand is extraordinary. There's simply no other word for it. Don't let the fact that even musical incompetents can create reasonable-sounding recordings (and have a lot of fun doing so), this tablet-app can be used for all sorts of things by professional and amateur musicians too.

There are many instruments to choose from: keyboards, guitars, several drum kits and even four basses, including a double bass.

Sure, sound is tinny from the built-in speakers - but plug in earbuds or, better, headphones, and it's quite a different story.

If you start with a drum kit, you can try and play all the drums and cymbals as you would a real kit, but you don't need to. It loops so you can lay down kick, then on the next time around add toms, snare etc progressively until you have a pretty complex beat. It has quantisation settings, too, to mop up your mistimed hits. The drums (like the strings and keys) respond differently to the strength of the tap.

The guitars have chord and note modes. In chords, touch a string and the chord plays/records. There's also an Autoplay control, offering several chord formations (four) that sound - in different ways - through the whole chord on each touch of the virtual fretboard. Under Note, you can pick, slide and even bend the strings. Effects are available, and you can control master parameters for echo and reverb, including room size. There are several keyboards and if you don't like the limit of a few keys, you can opt for two layers of ivories to tinkle, doubling you range.

In mixing mode, you can move sections around, change tempo and length, mix the volume and instantly add in new instruments.

If this all sounds a little overwhelming, it's not. Touch on the little top-right help symbol (a question mark in a circle) and handy tool tips append to each feature.

You can even record vocals. Quality isn't exactly stellar through the built-in mic, but if you're serious, there are several accessory, third party mics which will give you much better renditions.

This, in turn, posits the use of your iPad as one unholily sophisticated digital field recorder. And one that's hardly fiddly to use, albeit much bigger than a typical digital field record, at least in two dimensions. This could revolutionise several work flows in itself.

Also, it syncs with GarageBand on your Mac. You can load your iPad-originated projects into your Mac, and add all the additional features, and/or use your Mac to send out versions to collaborators.
An iPad 2 won't be replacing your guitar or keyboard, but as an aid to a musician (it has a great built-in tuner, too) for getting ideas down like a kind of high tech musical notepad, it's really fantastic.
If you have an iPad, is it worth saving hard and dropping $6.49 - yes, $6.49! on this amazing app? Good gracious, yes it is!

But ...

Still, I have a couple of little problems with iPad 2. The Smart Cover looks fantastic, but I find the advertised way you can roll it up as a prop to hold the iPad slanted for ease of viewing wasn't very effective. With me, anyway, it kept collapsing. The Smart Cover looks great and it's very clever, but if I bought one of these new iPads, I would be looking for a third-party case that offers more protection and forms a better stand.

The slimmer form factor is great in general, but it's getting so slim, it's heading towards the same thickness as the plug on the charging cable. Since the edge of the iPad 2 rolls off in a curve back away from the screen, it's a bit fiddly getting the charger plug in, compared to the straightforward operation with iPad 1, into which whacking the plug straight in is a no-brainer.

This sounds like a minor quibble, but after a few months of fiddling about, your frustration levels may rise and you may start creating marks on the iPad 2's body where you have repeatedly missed the slot. Plus you could potentially damage the plug itself after too many misses - in the dark, say.

Finally, there's the usual indented Home button a là iPad 1, iPod touch and iPhone. No problem there - but there's a front-facing camera on the iPad 2's face also, at the other end. Several times I found myself trying to press this instead of the home button. This wouldn't create damage. It's just that it's positioned exactly where you expect the Home button to be.

I wonder if it could have been visually differentiated a little more, is all.

All said and done, iPad 2 is an extraordinary marriage of slick design and utility that's constantly expanding, thanks to the App Store.

- Mark Webster mac-nz.com