New Old iPad

For Christmas, Mom got a new iPad Air 2 and gave me her old iPad 2 she has been using for the last four years. Available for as little as $349, the iPad Air 2 is a great deal right now compared to the latest iPad Pro 9.7″ model for $499, but that is still more than I paid for my new HP laptop. I got a smaller Nexus 7 around the same time she got the iPad 2 and I eventually got an Asus Transformer which is a 10″ Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard. Unlike my iPod touch which I use all the time, I never have made much use of the tablets. The Nexus is a nice size for reading magazines and even watching videos, but kind of small for web browsing.

From top to bottom, iPod touch 6G, Nexus 7, Asus Transformer, iPad 2

From top to bottom, iPod touch 6G, Nexus 7, Asus Transformer, iPad 2

The Asus is kind of big to carry around (does not fit in a coat pocket like the Nexus) and it basically takes the same Windows screen you might see on a 15″ laptop and shrinks it down to 10″, making it hard to read. Now that I am buying some Blu-ray disks, a lot of them come with digital versions, so I have been thinking I could use the tablets for watching movies and TV episodes. The Asus, since it has iTunes, can be used to download and watch videos from iTunes and has a bigger, higher resolution screen. I bought a 64 GB micro SD card to increase its storage capacity (32 GB built in). But the glossy screen of the Asus makes it a little harder to see while on the train even when I make sure it does not dim while on battery power. Also the headphone volume is not high enough to overcome train noise all the time. The Nexus works a lot better for watching videos, but again I have to max out the volume and it still isn’t loud enough. While the Nexus has Vudu and Google Play videos available along with whatever I have been ripping from DVD’s, I don’t think it has a way to watch iTunes videos, which isn’t that bad since the only videos I have exclusively on iTunes are my Disney and Pixar movies.

So now I am thinking with the new old iPad that I could use it as a media player. The iPad 2 was the last product introduced by Steve Jobs before he died in 2011. It was an improvement over the iPad, but it lacks the higher resolution retina display of the iPad 3 as well as a higher resolution camera. Neither the iPad 2 or 3 can be upgraded to the latest iOS 10, so it makes sense that some apps will not be available for it. Plus the reason Mom wanted to get rid of it was that it was crashing and freezing too much for her. Also, it only has 16 GB of memory and the operating system and overhead take up all but about 6 GB of that. Still, I can download a decent handful of videos with that as long as I don’t try to put music and pictures on there as well (my iPod has 64 GB, so it has tons of room for all of that). I thought maybe with the number of years that have passed that there might be some way to physically upgrade the memory, but short of sending it to someone to unsolder the old memory and add a new module, there isn’t.

I eventually was able to restore the iPad to blank by getting Mom’s iTunes password. Then I added the iPad to my iTunes and downloaded a couple of movies. It works quite well and I don’t have to turn the volume all the way up (Eric says a lot of devices have low volume because it takes a more expensive sound decoder to amplify the sound). But as soon as the movie started, I realized an issue: the iPad screen is 4:3, like an old TV screen, so when you play movies, a lot of the screen is wasted with black bands along the top and bottom. The more rectangular Nexus and Asus match up to movies better. Also both of those have more pixels in width than the iPad (1280 for the Nexus, 1366 for the Asus, compared to 1024 for the iPad). And because of the bigger screen, the pixels are a little bigger too. My eyes don’t notice it too much and for some content, it doesn’t matter: for instance a DVD maxes out at 720 pixels wide, so you are blowing up the image anyway. Most of my iTunes videos are available in 1080p which is 1920 pixels wide, so I can’t really show all of that anyway. I am watching some old episodes of West Wing that I ripped, which are 4×3, but it is kind of a pain to add ripped videos to iTunes and have them sort correctly, so I have been watching them on the Nexus with black bands on the sides. I think eventually that show went to 16×9, but I am still watching Season 1.

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