An Afternoon with the iPad 2

My good friend Marcus, design entrepreneur and founder of Sumajin, was kind enough to let me play around with his iPad 2 over lunch today.
Interestingly enough the first thing I did was to flip it over so that I can examine the details on the back. Following a tradition in designing consumer electronics, the back somehow ends up looking more interesting than the front, and the iPad 2 is no different!

Marcus and I both noticed that the online images on were not 100% accurate to that of the actual product. In particular, the curvature of the edge of the back housing looks much better in real life than the rendered image (above). The rendered image makes the rounded corner look hard, where in reality the back rolls away softly in the usual way that Jony “I hate tangents” Ive likes it to be.

With regard to the business side of things, I was initially a little concern that the edge of the iPad 2 would cut into your palm when you are holding the product. It was however very comfortable to hold. The edge has the exact same edge detail as the latest iPod touch, so the glass top runs right to the edge and meets a tight 1mm chamfer that softens the area where the glass meets the aluminum back.
Like the first iPad, the iPad 2 feels firm and solid in your hand with no flex at all in the housing. It however still feels heavy, or in other words, not any lighter than the original. Also like most other online reviews of the iPad 2, we experienced the back getting warm just by us playing around with something as simple as the Maps app.

As you can imagine we spend most of the time playing games and reading comics. What else can you expect when two industrial designers get together? Infinity Blade was just awesome to play, with the graphics smooth and fluid. I did however notice some lag in between cut scenes. One thing to note is that we found the built-in speaker horrible as the game sounded very muffled. The voices all sounded like Darth Vader! But take my observation with a pinch of salt as we were dining Al fresco, though I did put the speaker grill right next to my ear.

We found the positioning of the buttons and volume control very interesting. The buttons do not face directly to the side or the back, but in fact perpendicular to the curved surface and looks to be aligned with the center of the spline. I can imagine that this would be a nightmare for accessory case manufacturers to figure out. Not only that, my industrial design readers would recognize that these corner-mounted buttons are in an unfavorable position for alignment with the electronic tack switches behind the button. That being said, the button experience still feels solid and reliable, a testament to the skill of Apple’s engineering team.
All in all I enjoyed playing around with the iPad 2, especially when there is great content to interact with. But will I get it? Probably not, unless I happen to have some spare cash lying around! It is still a heavy media consumption device and great for casual use, but for my needs, I’ll stick to my MacBook Air.
Check out the full sized photos on our Design Sojourn Facebook page and let us know what you think?

  • Brian

    April 28, 2011 at 10:33 pm Reply

    Stefan: Thanks for your comment and good to hear from you. I also disliked the button position. I think the iPad 2 would make a good drawing tablet as iPad 1 was a little laggy.

  • Stefan R.

    April 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm Reply

    Nice techical topic, Brian. Sorry for not commenting on the topics for quite some time.
    I personally had the pleasure to hold and test an Apple iPad 2 yesterday. First of all, great engineering level and overall design. To be honest it felt like an up sized iPod touch. I had to first get familiar where exactly the buttons are positioned, so some flipping of the iPad 2 was inevitable. I would point out that these “hidden” control buttons are ergonomically not optimal positioned. All in all the aluminium back has a soft curvature, which feels very comfortable. I am not missing the previous iPad back shape, as it felt a lot “harder/heavier”. Personally own only a Macbook Pro 17″ from Apple´s product range, was considering to get the iPad 1 to use as a sketch tablet. Finally got a Wacom Intuos 4 L as it has a larger size, to work on bigger files, directly in PS.
    The iPad 2 in general may make sense as a sketching tablet for Designers or graphic artists. There is a lot to optimize in terms of Flash compatibility and battery life.

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