Best of the Best 2011: Personal Technology: Apple iPad 2

    First came the iPod, which changed the face of digital music, then the iPhone, which rang in the age of the smartphone. With the 2010 debut of the iPad, Apple again altered the mobile-technology industry, making the digital universe more accessible than ever before. And while the first-generation iPad set the standard for tablet computers—and sold more than 15 million units in the process—the iPad 2 takes the genre to a new level, with refined technology and ergonomics, a more complete set of features, and ultimately a greater level of accessibility.

    Released in March, the iPad 2 is 33 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than its predecessor, and is equipped with Apple’s dual-core A5 processor. The processor offers improved software responsiveness and the ability to run the company’s new lightning-quick iOS 4.3 mobile operating system. But the upgrades that seem to be the strongest selling points with many consumers are the forward- and rear-facing cameras, which enable users to capture photos and 720p video and to video chat live with others running Apple’s FaceTime software.

    The iPad 2 also synchronizes seamlessly with e-mail and other databases, providing smartphone-like access to calendars, contacts, and the Internet. Battery life is about 10 hours, even when viewing videos on the 9.7-inch, LED-lit, high-definition touchscreen display.

    Optional features include a wireless keyboard, USB and HDMI adapters, and a nifty magnetic cover that conveniently folds up to serve as a stand. The iPad 2, which ranges in price from $499 to $829, comes with as much as 64 GB of memory and offers 3G connectivity through AT&T or Verizon Wireless.

     

    Apple, www.apple.com

    Photo by Luke Milnes
    With a carbon-fiber cabinet and an array of 28 drivers, the new speakers look and sound beautiful…
    Photo by Jonathan Beer
    The camera features wireless technology along with other significant upgrades…
    Photo by Malena silva
    Among the finest conduits for playing music from an untethered digital device are the KEF X300A...
    Photo by VZPhoto
    The world’s top hi-fi manufacturers take personal listening to new levels with these small but...
    Peter Luehr
    Bob Ludwig has perfected recordings by some of the greatest artists of the last 40 years...
    Photo by Jeff Dorgay
    The speakers’ powerful response belies their diminutive size…
    The recent release of the Limited-Edition Linn Sondek LP12 (www.linn.co.uk) celebrates the 40th...
    High-definition content looks better than ever on these cutting-edge 4K displays.
    Photo by Berlyn Photography
    Going to the movies is a treasured pastime for many American families. But for celebrities and...
    Photo by VZPhoto
    Harnessing the control and clarity of digital audio…