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3/15/2011
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iPad 2 Rolling Review: Web Performance

Part 2 of InformationWeek's rolling review of the Apple iPad 2 pits it against the original iPad and Motorola Xoom to see which is the best when it comes to critical Web performance factors.

Apple iPad 2 3G Teardown
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Apple iPad 2 3G Teardown
Apple's original iPad was no slouch in the Web performance department. It has always delivered solid results -- minus Flash content, of course -- and iOS 4.3 gave it a nice kick in the pants, with improved JavaScript performance. The iPad 2 runs the exact same software, so how big a role does its fresher hardware play with respect to performance? We can't leave out the Motorola Xoom, which offers the latest Android browser from Google. Here's what we experienced.

Benchmarks

We ran all three devices against a series of Web browser performance benchmarks, including Google V8, Sunspider, and Peacekeeper, using the same Wi-Fi network connection.

For the Google V8 (version 6) test, the iPad 2 scored 536, the iPad scored 384, and the Xoom rated 534. With Sunspider 0.9.1, the iPad 2 scored 2068.8ms; the iPad scored 3281.0ms; and the Xoom scored 2140.3ms. On the Peacekeeper tests, the iPad 2 scored 781; the iPad scored 512; and the Xoom scored 889.

Are these benchmarks worth getting worked up about? I suppose if you're a geek they might be exciting, but it's a bit like trying to imagine what it would be like to reach 88 miles per hour and trigger the Flux Capacitor. What do these little numbers really mean?

Real-World Browsing

In my book, pitting the browsers of the iPad/iPad 2 and Xoom head to head in real-world browsing is the kind of test worth running. So we did that. We tested the iPad 2, iPad, and Xoom side by side using a host of Web sites. Before loading each page in the tablet's browser, we cached it on a desktop. All three devices were using the same Wi-Fi connection to perform the tests.

We then loaded: InformationWeek.com, Informationweek.com/video, Darkreading.com, Lightreading.com, Facebook,com, Twitter.com, CBSNews.com. Revision3.com, TMZ.com, ESPN.com, and PG.com. These sites have a diverse range of technology requirements, including hardcore graphics, JavaScript, HTML5, and H.264 tests.

In every single test, the iPad 2 and the Xoom clearly bested the original iPad. In direct comparisons, the iPad 2 and Xoom loaded sites, on average, about 30% faster than the original iPad. Not that the original iPad was pokey, but the other two tablets are definitely faster.

The results for the Xoom and iPad 2 are much harder to differentiate. In terms of raw speed, they split the line pretty much down the middle. (Remember, the Xoom doesn't yet support Flash, so that didn't play a role in our testing.) I can't say that either tablet handily beat the other, though each offers a number of individual user interface elements that may make a difference.

The Xoom has superior tab control, with what I'd call "normal" tabs that run across the top of the browser and can be easily pressed for fast tab switching. Switching tabs on the iPad 2 is a bit more cumbersome. It requires you to press a software button, which loads a new window where users pick the tab they want to load. The Xoom supports at least a dozen open tabs at a time, while the iPad 2 supports only nine. I also like the visual bookmarks (shows a thumbnail image of each site) available on the Xoom. Bookmarks on the iPad 2 are a boring old text list. However, the iPad lets you stick a bookmark bar at the top of the Web page, which makes it easy to jump to a number of your favorite sites in a hurry.

Bottom Line

The iPad 2 and Xoom clearly beat the original iPad in every sense. Calling a clear winner between the iPad 2 and the Xoom is tough, and, based on our benchmark results and real-world performance tests, comes down to user experience preferences. You're simply going to like one better than the other.

SEE ALSO:

iPad 2 Rolling Review: First Impressions

Review: Motorola Xoom Good, But No iPad Killer

iPad 2 A5 Chip Teardown Reveals Samsung Fab

Motorola Xoom Teardown: Inside The New Android Tablet

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