iPad 2 review roundup

The iPad 2 reviews are in. And guess what? The critics are besotted.

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    iPad 2 is a home run, at least according to the first round of reviews. Here, two iPad 2 units are shown at an event in San Francisco earlier this month.
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The iPad 2 – the successor to the fantastically popular iPad tablet computer – hits stores tomorrow, and as is usually the case with the launch of an Apple device, the critics are salivating. In fact, it's pretty much a drool fest out there, so before we dive into the iPad 2 review roundup, you'd better grab an umbrella. Off we go....

The body: "Apple shaved 0.17 pounds off the Wi-Fi version and 0.26 to 0.27 pounds off the 3G version," writes Jason Snell of PC World. "The iPad 2 is also 0.16 inches narrower, 0.06 inches shorter, and 0.16 inches thinner than the original iPad. A matter of small degrees, to be sure, until you consider the percentage change: The iPad 2 is roughly two-thirds the thickness of the original iPad, and 88 percent of its weight (83 percent when comparing 3G models). Pick up an iPad 2 after handling an original iPad, and you'll notice the difference right away. This is a lighter, thinner device."

The design: "Overall, the device has a much more fluid design," writes MG Siegler of TechCrunch. "Apple notes that the body now consists of two parts instead of the three that made up the iPad 1. This makes it feel even more solid, and even more like a natural object instead of a machine. The tapered edges of the iPad 2 feel better in your hands. And those edges also make the buttons on the side and top more pronounced (and a bit easier to use). Of course, the tapered bottom also makes the dock connector a bit harder to use, but that’s a minor nit."

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The speed: "When we first handled the device, it seemed noticeably faster to us, and even after a week with the tablet, it's still zippier than the previous model by a longshot," notes Engadget's Joshua Topolsky. "The CPU and graphics performance of this tablet felt extremely impressive to us -- the iPad 2 performed excellently no matter what we threw at it, games and graphically taxing apps seemed to have higher frame rates, and even when dealing with CPU intensive programs like GarageBand, it rarely (if ever) seemed to be struggling."

The price: "Apple is at the top of its game these days – and at the top of the industry," points out David Pogue of The New York Times. "The rap, of course, is that you often pay extra for Apple elegance. But the shocker here, though, is that the iPad 2 actually costs less than its comparably equipped Android rivals, like the Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. That twist must have something to do with Apple’s huge buying clout — when you order five million of some component at a time, you can usually persuade the vendor to cut you a deal. But that price detail may turn a lot of heads."

The (two) cameras: "The iPad 2 does have some drawbacks. Its cameras take mediocre still photos and Apple won’t even reveal their megapixel ratings," writes Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. "The company says they were designed for video, not still photography. They did capture decent video in my tests, including high-definition video from the rear camera and video good enough from the front camera for satisfying video calling. But, for a company known for quality, which bundles a new still-photo app with the device, the cameras are disappointing."

The software: "The new processor and the new iOS combined to improve Web surfing, as I could load up pages noticeably faster over my home Wi-Fi network," writes Rachel Metz of the AP. "As expected, videos loaded quickly and generally streamed flawlessly. The new software allows you to share music and videos from your iTunes library on multiple Apple devices on the same Wi-Fi network. And it now lets you set the iPad's mute switch to function as a screen lock, which makes it even easier to prevent my Netflix movie from rotating mid-scene just because I've shifted my butt on the couch."

The final word: "Everyone now seems to agree this is a new product category, and most of Apple’s rivals — from computer makers to phone makers — want in on it," acknowledges Daring Fireball's John Gruber. "The iPad 2 is a solid second-generation iteration. Easier and more comfortable to hold, noticeably faster, equippable with foldable covers that are both literally and figuratively magnetic. Like last year’s iPhone 4, it seems like technology from the near future."

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