In an ever changing and evolving technology-hungry world, the iPad 2 hit the market about a month ago and there has been a lot of talk whether Apple has raised the bar for tablets…again. In many cases, Apple has done it again by releasing a solid product that is user friendly. I showcased the iPad 2 to my 60-something year old mom (who is a technophobe) and was pleasantly surprised to watch her figure out the interface with very limited direction from me.

The iPad 2’s strength and upgrades are in the hardware, which inevitably make the device run faster than its predecessor. Internally, it’s running a 1GHz Dual Core processor, happily dubbed A5, a step up from last year’s A4. It also boasts an 800 MHz CPU with 512 MB of RAM. Although that should seem impressive, it’s not quite as big of a change as many were anticipating.

Of course it isn’t just the hardware that’s had changes. In pure Apple fashion, the OS has also been given a slight upgrade to iOS 4.3, which included a few minor changes. The iOS upgrade is also available for the original iPad, iPhone, and 3rd and 4th generation iPod touch. Couple both the new hardware and iOS together and the iPad 2’s performance speed is pretty stellar.  I rocketed through a few levels of Angry Birds and, more importantly, easily read through a couple chapters of Heat Wave by Richard Castle, based off the awesome TV series, in OverDrive Media Console for iPad.

In regards to the iPad 2 being an eBook reading device, there are two other positives worth mentioning. It’s super thin and fairly light weight, which makes reading for extended periods of time still enjoyable. You don’t feel as though you are straining to hold it up. The device feels great in your hands whether you’re reading a book, playing a game, or just surfing the web. The second positive is in the battery life. The average user can expect more than 10 hours of battery life with continuous use, which is amazing for a tablet.

Believe it or not, the iPad 2 is not the perfect tablet (I really don’t know if that currently exists or will exist in the near future). There were a few things that surprised me that Apple did or didn’t do with the new version.

To start, the speaker was placed on the back of the device. It does not make it a great experience for listening to audiobooks or watching movies in your Netflix app. Although the speaker was improved and the sound is clearer, it still isn’t quite up to snuff. If you are in a room with a lot of ambient noise or your husband is watching Sports Center in the living room with the volume on high, you may want to use your headphones.

I expected Apple to improve the screen resolution for this version.  Although it is already high quality, I think I was just expecting more compared to what was released on the original version. Basically the screen resolution is exactly the same as the first iPad.

Lastly, the cameras are disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a step in the right direction to even have cameras on the iPad; however, Apple could have at least met some expectations in the camera department. The front facing camera is fine for Face Time and video messaging, which is all you would use that camera for. It’s the camera on the backside of the device that is disappointing. I don’t expect the quality of a lens on a high powered DSLR handheld but still, it would be appreciated to have something a little better.

Overall, the iPad 2 is a great product that could still use some tweaks in certain areas. Starting at $499, it’s pretty pricy and is considered a luxury item for most people. As I have mentioned before, the iPad 2 should not be used for only reading eBooks, especially because of the price.  I would never suggest purchasing an iPad 2 to be used only as an eBook reader. That would be like suggesting for someone to buy a new 10 piece cookware set for only the small frying pan – it’s just silly. There are many more pieces and parts to explore and utilize. The iPad 2 can do so much more than just read eBooks and should really be used for all it’s made to do to thoroughly enjoy the product.

Megan Greer is a retail project manager for OverDrive.