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iPad 2 Reviews Are In: Long Live the King

iPad 2
The first batch of iPad 2 reviews have landed. Predictably, most reviewers can't speak more highly of the latest Apple tablet. Then again, as Laptop Magazine's Mark Spoonauer points out, "Apple didn't need to do a lot to stay in the tablet lead." This isn't Apple playing catch-up or exploding into a new market; this the Cupertino crew simply treading water. And, if the reviews are to be believed, that's more than enough.

Even though Engadget's Josh Topolsky says that "the iPad 2 just seriously raised the bar on sleek, sexy computer hardware," it's hard to ignore just how similar it looks to the original. It's "Jobs' Law" (as Jason Snell at MaxWorld dubs it) that "the latest version of any Apple product is likely to be thinner and lighter than its predecessor." But, as he point out, "for products this small, every ounce and fraction of an inch counts." Walt Mossberg says the iPad 2 makes both the original model and the Xoom "look bloated." All of this adds up to a device that's much easier to carry and handle.

Amazingly, Apple managed to slim down the device while maintaining battery life. In fact, practically every review found the iPad 2 exceeded the stated battery life of 10 hours, with Spoonauer breaking the 11-hour mark in his Wi-Fi browsing test. That battery life is especially remarkable in light of the iPad 2's dual-core processor -- which makes it "zippier than the previous model," according to Topolsky -- and what Snell called "the fastest iOS device ever made, by a long shot."

But it's not all roses on the hardware front. Engadget called the new cameras "really pretty bad," and both Laptop Magazine and MacWorld found that they recorded grainy video in less than ideal lighting. Still, they were deemed serviceable for their intended purpose.

The software hasn't changed much. iOS 4.3 is the same iOS you've come to know and love (or loathe) on the previous iPad, with a few tweaks. The most notable is a new version of Safari, with an improved Javascript engine that "gets a lot closer to the speed and fluidity you see on your laptop," according to Engadget. And, of course, there are newest additions to Apple's stable of iOS apps, like iMovie and GarageBand. Though Engadget's "initial reaction to GarageBand was one of heavy skepticism... that attitude changed pretty quickly." And MacWorld called it "an almost breathtaking achievement." iMovie drew fewer ooos and ahhhs from reviewers, but Engadget said "the raw materials provided are more than enough to create competent work."

Walt Mossberg did harp on two very big features missing from the iPad 2. One complaint that we've heard before, and will likely hear again, is that there's still no Flash support. (iOS devices can't display Flash content and never will. If you want an iPad, you're just going to have to learn to live with it.) The other gripe is the lack of 4G. While Apple told Mossberg that 4G chips were "too immature, draining battery life," the fact remains that 3G only will leave it at a distinct disadvantage when 4G Android slates flood the market in a month or two.

The iPad 2 has drawn generally rave reviews, with its drawbacks failing to detract from the overall experience. All of this matters little, though. As David Pogue at the New York Times rightly points out, "the iPad's appeal is more emotional than rational." If you're caught up in the iPad mystique and fascinated by its large touchscreen, no amount of bad reviews will deter you from picking one up.

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