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Apple iPad 2
The launch of the Apple iPad last year opened up a new market and left rivals struggling to catch up. The new Apple iPad 2 looks to give those rivals a serious headache by a number of all-round improvements that again make Apple the one to beat in the tablet market.
Thinner, lighter and much more powerful than the original, the iPad 2 is still very recognisably an iPad. It's an elegantly styled device, available in both black and white, which is about the same "footprint" as the iPad from the front, but it is 33% slimmer at just 8.8mm in thickness.
The iPad 2 retains the same screen size as the original with a 9.7" 768 x 1024 pixel display, which gives excellent compatibility with almost all iPhone and original iPad apps, but it isn't the ultra high-res "retina" display that some had hoped for. It's certainly every bit as good as the competition though.
Inside the iPad 2 has a much more powerful processor than the original. This time, the tablet has a dual-core 1 GHz ARM-based A5 CPU, which Apple say is twice as fast as the old iPad. Apple also say that graphics are nine times faster with the iPad 2, and considering that the old iPad wasn't exactly slow then this promises to be very impressive.
On the back is a camera capable of capturing 720p video, although the large size of the iPad 2 does make it quite unwieldy when filming. There's also a basic VGA resolution camera on the front, which would mostly be used for video calling with Apple's FaceTime system.
As before, there's a WiFi-only version of the iPad 2 and one that also supports 3.5G cellular data, which adds $130 to the price in the US. The iPad 2 will be available on both Verizon and AT&T networks in the US, with a number of other carriers worldwide. Both versions feature GPS, and it is possible to use the iPad 2 as an oversized SatNav if you really want. The iPad 2 now also incorporates a gyroscope which is useful for some games.
Some optional features are a HDMI adapter which mirrors the content of the iPad 2's display on a compatible HD TV. There are also a range of new smart covers that can double as a stand, made from leather or translucent plastic.. the covers are pretty impressive in their own right.
All versions of the iPad 2 measure 241 x 186 x 8.8mm and weigh a little over 600 grams, which is still quite heavy but the 3G version is actually about 20% lighter than the original.
There is also a new version of iOS, version 4.3, which adds a variety of features including improved media sharing. As ever, this version of iOS will also end up on other compatible Apple devices soon.
In the US, the iPad 2 is priced about the same as the outgoing iPad, starting at $499 for the base 16GB WiFi-only version and heading up to $829 for the 64GB WiFi + 3G version. US availability is 11th March. The iPad 2 will then be available in most of Europe (with a notable exception of Russia) plus Mexico, Japan, Australia and New Zealand from 25th March with other regions to follow afterwards.
Overall, probably the key improvement here is the dual-core processor.. something that competitors are already doing with devices such as the Motorola XOOM. But then the original iPad is no slouch, and there's probably not a hugely compelling reason to sell your old iPad and move to the iPad 2 just yet. Rumours are already circulating about the iPad 3, which of course will be even better and faster than even the iPad 2..
Images courtesy of Apple Inc.
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