Apple's iPad 2
Apple's iPad 2 is a "safe" followup to the original

Apple's iPad 2 will launch officially tomorrow, but the reviews are up a day early. The iPad 2 is clearly an evolutionary upgrade to the original design, having slimmed down from 13.4mm to 8.8mm, and dropped a few ounces from 1.5 pounds to 1.3 pounds. 

As expected, the iPad 2 now features a dual-core A5 processor that Steve Jobs claims offers double the performance of the original A4 processor. The new graphics core supposedly delivers 9 times the performance of the first generation iPad. 

On the downside, the iPad 2 is stuck with the same 1024x768 resolution display that is a step down from the Motorola Xoom's 1280x800 display. Another disappointment is the rear camera used on the iPad 2. Whereas its iPhone 4 sibling uses a 5MP camera with LED flash (the Xoom also features 5MP rear camera), the iPad 2 makes do with a lowly 0.7MP camera without flash.

For the $500 price of entry, you'd think that Apple would spring for a superior camera than what's available in a $229 iPod touch. However, it appears that Apple is going more for looks and slimness which means that the thicker camera module in the iPhone 4 wouldn’t fit in the iPad 2’s sleek new body (the iPad 2 is actually thinner than the iPhone 4).

But enough of what we already know about the iPad 2; here's what reviewers have to say about Apple's newest tablet. 

Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky on the iPad 2’s performance (the iPad 2 now has 512MB of RAM, identical to that of the iPhone 4): 

The CPU and graphics performance of this tablet seem extremely impressive to us -- the iPad 2 performed excellently no matter what we threw at it, games seemed to have higher frame rates, and even when dealing with processor intensive apps like GarageBand, it rarely (if ever) seemed to be struggling. Still, on the specs front the iPad 2 feels very iterative. There's nothing here that is totally mind blowing, but there's nothing here that makes it feel far off from its nearest competition.

Topolsky also touches on the subpar camera: 

Let's just put this out there: the iPad 2 cameras are really pretty bad. They're not unusable, but it's clear that the sensors employed are not top shelf by any measure. If you have a fourth generation iPod touch with cameras, you can expect the same results. In fact, it seems to us that these are the SAME cameras used in the iPod touch -- there's an "HD" lens around back (which means it's roughly a single megapixel shooter), and on the front you've got a lowly VGA cam.  

MG Siegler of TechCrunch describes the iPad 2’s new body:

Overall, the device has a much more fluid design. Apple notes that the body now consists of two parts instead of three for the iPad 1. This makes it feel even more solid, and even more like a natural object instead of a machine.

The tapered edges make it feel better in your hands. And those edges also make the buttons on the side and top more pronounced (and a bit to use). Of course, the tapered bottom also makes the dock connector a bit harder to use, but that’s a minor nit. 

Jason Snell of MacWorld talks about the 3G performance of the iPad 2 on AT&T’s network:

The iPad 2’s connection to AT&T’s network has been upgraded from the original iPad models. Like the iPhone 4, the iPad 2 supports AT&T’s HSUPA/HSDPA system, which will result in faster 3G transfer in areas where that protocol is available. I managed a 2.2-mbps upload rate and a 1.1-mbps download rate from my house, comparable to the speeds I saw from the iPhone 4 on AT&T’s network. (Apple didn’t provide us with a Verizon-compatible version of the iPad 2 for review, but its transfer rates will likely be similar to those on the Verizon-compatible iPhone 4—generally slower than AT&T’s.) 

Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD perhaps summed up all of the reviews of the iPad 2 the best with his conclusion:

As new contenders move into the field, Apple isn’t likely to keep its 90% share of the booming tablet market. But the iPad 2 moves the goal posts, by being slimmer and lighter, boosting speed and power, and holding its price advantages, available apps and battery life. As of now, I can comfortably recommend it as the best tablet for average consumers. 

As we’re previous reported, there are three iPad 2 product lines. There is the Wi-Fi iPad 2 that is available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB storage capacities. AT&T and Verizon also have their own Wi-Fi+3G versions of the iPad 2 in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB storage capacities. Prices range from $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2 to $829 for the 64GB iPad 2 Wi-Fi+3G on AT&T/Verizon.

You can read more reviews of the iPad 2 from Daring FireballThe New York Times, The Daily, The USA Today, SlashGear, and Laptop Magazine.

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