If You're Buying an iPad 2, Don't Get Last Year's Model

By Norman Chan

According to battery rundown tests, not all iPad 2s are created equal.

When Apple released the newest iPad in March, it also kept the 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2 in stock as an entry-level model. The price of last year's iPad was lowered to $400, and according to Apple's most recent quarterly earnings call, many consumers are flocking to that option. While Apple doesn't release specific sales data for individual iPad models, the reduction in iPad 2's price (effective for only a portion of Apple's last fiscal quarter) caused the average selling price (ASP) of all iPads to drop by eight percent in the quarter overall.

So it sounds like many people find the $400 price point more attractive or practical than the hardware improvements in the new iPad. That's fair. But if you're planning to buy an iPad 2, you also have the option of buying a used device from last year or one of the iPad 2s left over in stock at a brick and mortar shop like Best Buy. According to Anandtech's latest tests, some of the iPad 2s Apple is currently manufacturing use a revised version of the A5 processor built off of a 32nm process. That's a die shrink from the 45nm process used in last year's product. Internally, the models are identified by different model names: iPad 2,1 for last year's build and iPad 2,4 for this year's.

The move to 32nm yields significant battery life improvements, according to Anand. Web browsing, 3D gaming, and video playback all gain over an hour of extra run time. The device runs slightly cooler than the iPad 2,1 too. Of all the iPad models released so far, it has the longest battery life--including a 40% advantage over the new iPad 3 in video playback.

Photo Credit: Apple

Unfortunately, there's no way of telling whether you have the old iPad 2 or the new 32nm build just from the box or looking at the iPad itself. The iPad 2,4 will come with iOS 5.1 pre-installed, and its model number will show up in Geekbench. If you buy a new iPad 2, check its model with Geekbench first and trade it in if you don't have the 2,4 version. Of course, if you want to buy an iPad 2 with more than 16GB or one with 3G, your only options are one that was built last year with the original A5 processor. Apple isn't making any new iPads for those SKUs.