April 5, 2011 at 2:28 PM ET
Consumer Reports has given a stamp of approval to the iPad 2. But before the fanboys can rejoice, they need to know two things: CR gave the same stamp to several key competitors, too. And the publication has yet to emblazon the coveted "best buy" mark on any tablet, despite declaring iPad 2 a leader in "both quality and price."
You may recall that Consumer Reports garnered a lot of attention last summer by refusing to "recommend" the iPhone 4, despite giving it the absolute highest score in the smartphone category. Their argument was that the so-called "death grip" caused calls to drop, and that it was solved when Apple issued free "bumpers" to shield the antenna.
Months later, the whole "Antennagate" seems like a fallacy. Fewer dropped calls on Verizon's iPhones suggest that AT&T's network is likely to be the culprit for call drops. Even still, AT&T's iPhone owners report reasonably high satisfaction, so the problem clearly wasn't an epidemic. Meanwhile, the "death grip" itself has been proven in lab testing to apply to all phones.
Consumer Reports' backhanded iPhone 4 rating turned out to be a public-relations coup — I can't remember the last time they got this much publicity — so much so that their recommendation of Apple's iPad 2 qualifies as news.
But there's a catch. Even though iPad 2 has little competition in the tablet field at this current moment, CR has also given a "recommended" stamp to the worthy but overpriced Motorola Xoom; to the immediately obsolete original iPad; and to the played-out-before-anyone-knew-about-it 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab. Their only rejects were tablets nobody is paying attention to anyway, products from Viewsonic, Archos and Dell.
And CR is apparently not going to brand anything "best buy" until more tablets hit the marketplace, despite their acknowledgment of iPad 2's value:
“So far Apple is leading the tablet market in both quality and price, which is unusual for a company whose products are usually premium priced,” said CR electronics editor Paul Reynolds, in the press release. “However, it’s likely we’ll see more competitive pricing in tablets as other models begin to hit the market.”
Pressed for additional explanation, Reynolds wrote us, via his publicist: "There's at least one other recommended tablet that's comparably priced to the iPad 2 — the Xoom, at least in its 32GB, Wi-Fi version. While that version wasn't out when we posted the Ratings, we knew it was coming. So while the iPad 2 is a fine value, it doesn't quite fair enough above the competition in both price and quality to be a CR Best Buy."
I respect Consumer Reports and the methods of the Consumers Union a lot, and definitely rely on them when trying to decide on the best microwave or washer/dryer combo, even phones and computers in general. But let's face it, their stamp of approval on the newest Apple product has a rather rubber feel to it, doesn't it?
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