The iPad 2 Dock Review

The iPad 2 Dock is by far the accessory people ask about when getting a new iPad 2. Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit and their Digital AV Adapter are clear in purpose; both products add utility to the iPad when used with a camera or television. The iPad 2 dock, however, is a questionable purchase. What utility or benefit will it provide me, and should I pay a pricey $29.00 for a plastic stand that comes with no cable and only provides audio out? The portrait only dock is an additional expense many owners are unsure about, and today we’re taking a look at whether one of these guys can be of benefit to you now that customers are receiving the first batch of shipments in the United States.
I can’t say that I’ve fallen completely in love with the iPad 2 Dock, but the dock itself is an incredible little thing that’s unexpectedly heavy. There are no cables in the tiny box it comes with; Apple didn’t even include stickers! You will only find a quick user guide and limited warranty in the package, leaving just enough space for Apple’s weighty gadget.
The biggest complaint I forsee will be how difficult it is to initially insert the iPad 2 in the dock. In part this because of how the iPad 2 exposes the dock connector on the bottom curved edge, though in time you’ll learn to use the backboard (back rest) to guide the iPad onto the dock connector. If you attempt to insert the iPad straight down, you’re going to struggle to line things up correctly. With the home button as your reference point on the horizon, simply slide the iPad 2 onto the connector, and you’re set for an evening charge or a quick play through a connected pair of speakers.
I’m a little peeved that Apple doesn’t show the back of the iPad 2 Dock in any of their product shots (they didn’t either for the iPad Dock or iPad Keyboard Dock), which makes me wonder if they’re either afraid that limited connectivity options will scare people off or if they don’t think it matters. I think it’d be nice to see beforehand that all you’re getting is a line-out and a dock connector to verify Apple’s lengthy promotional text. There’s really no explanation needed here for how the dock itself works: the iPad 2 sits upright at a slight viewing angle, and the rear dock connector allows you to connect aforementioned accessories providing the same functionality. In reality, the only benefit the docks adds is a stable base for your iPad for charging, or for use with a bluetooth keyboard (Apple does not make a version of the Keyboard Dock for the iPad 2). You don’t need the dock to use any of the iPad’s accessories, although now would be a good time to note that the iPad cannot wear the Smart Cover while docked.
Using the dock with an Apple Wireless Keyboard is terribly interesting, and I’m not sure yet how and if this new mode of interactivity with the iPad will affect my lifestyle or workflow. You could use an iPad 2 with a Staples notepad stand or some other cheap hack that’ll make rounds on websites as they did when the first iPad launched, but quite frankly nothing beats the elevation or elegance of the little white stand. When paired in combination with a bluetooth keyboard, I can only chuckle as I write an article on a 768 x 1024 IPS display that’s as thin as a number two pencil, when just four years ago I was doing schoolwork on a 1024 x 768 CRT monitor connected to a rather clunky desktop. As a small, disconnected portrait monitor, the iPad 2 turns into a machine that’s ideal simply for writing (and without a keyboard, reading) and nothing more. Composing Tweets in Twitterrific or banging out a document in Pages was pretty enjoyable, and ideally if the iPad supported a wider variety of writing tools I utilize, I could seriously see myself moving into an office with nothing but a dock, positioning the iPad for writing, and undocking the iPad to put it in my bag as I leave. Ultimately if you’re not bothered by the lack of a windowed interface, an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard, coupled with the iPad 2 Dock, would provide an excellent environment for switching to a writing mode. With apps like Textastic, it’s also completely possible to code while you’re away from the MacBook (outside from compiling and all of that good stuff).
Many complain that the dock isn’t compatible with the iPad 2?s landscape orientation, but I say that’s what your Smart Cover is for. If you’re already pulling your power cable to your dock anyway, it’s not going to make a bit of difference if you connect it directly to the iPad. Of concern is the iPad’s ability to rock forward in the dock (thanks to a flat front inside edge), and I’m of the position the iPad should be much more snug. In the dock, pushing and tapping on the iPad is fine as it rests against the backboard and doesn’t wiggle or wobble out of its holdster. But you can tilt the iPad forward, which really concerns me if it’s knocked off a table or your cat decides to bat the damn thing. Is it possible to break the dock connector inside? I don’t think so (I think the rocking is again a result of the curved edge), but Apple could have shaped or angled the front lip to better tighten the grip on the iPad, and to avoid any initial confusion on alignment.
The quality of the dock itself is pretty fantastic, and you’re already familiar with what the dock will look and feel like if you own a Time Capsule, AirPort Extreme, or white 13? MacBook. The white plastic — somewhat sticky and definitely fingerprint attractive — tops a gray rubber based embedded with the Apple logo and the unit’s designated model number, providing a non-slip grip across your working surface. As always the textures are appealing to touch, though the rubber base will attract dirt and grime as you slide it around or manhandle it in a bag; the same gritty texture found on the bottom of the 13? MacBook attracts that same dirt and dust unless you plan on keeping your iPad dock completely immobile.
As a stand, the iPad 2 Dock functions very well and can aid in your attempt to set up a portrait monitor for learning code (use the iPad 2 to display a recently purchased iBook as you practice on your Cinema Display), can be used in combination with a bluetooth keyboard to turn the iPad 2 into a portable typewriter, or simply be used as a temporary placeholder during day or night to charge the iPad in a safe place. The iPad 2 Dock is elegant in design, sans the front lip that doesn’t follow the contour of the iPad below the home button. While it feels great in the hand and can provide utility, in the end you’re paying for a $29.00 stand that comes without any additional cables for the convenience of holding your iPad upright on a desk, nightstand, or table. It is an affordance you definitely don’t need or have to make, and the luxury fee for the polished block only provides a solution for keeping your iPad locked down. It is nice to own and can complete your set of iPad accessories if you find yourself using the iPad as an additional screen for research or reading, and I’ve found plenty of use in Apple’s 2nd generation docking solution. For $29.00 in the Apple Store, the iPad 2 Dock is now shipping.


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