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Wednesday, March 09, 2011, 08:50 pm PT (11:50 pm ET)

Review roundup: Apple's iPad 2 is best tablet yet, but cameras disappoint

The first reviews of the iPad 2 have emerged, declaring Apple's new touchscreen tablet as even farther ahead of its competitors than the original iPad, though some reviewers were disappointed with the image quality of the device's new front- and rear-facing cameras.

The iPad 2 sports several new evolutionary enhancements both inside and outside. On the outside, the tablet is thinner, has a flat back with tapered edges and a front-facing VGA camera and a rear-facing HD camera. Internally, Apple has upgraded the original A4 processor to a dual-core A5 chip with significantly faster graphics.

The device goes on sale on March 11 at 5 p.m. and starts at $499 for the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi version.

Reviewers were impressed with the changes Apple made to the iPad, though minor complaints ranged from poor image quality on the cameras to the lack of Adobe Flash and 4G connectivity.

Wall Street analysts have reported being impressed by Apple's new iPad, with one analyst warning that the success of the iPad 2 could burst a bubble for its rivals in the tablet market.

The Wall Street Journal

In his review for The Wall Street Journal, Walt Mossberg found improvements to the device to be "generally pleasing and positive," noting that the tablet "worked very well" for him.

For Mossberg, evolutionary enhancements made to the second-generation iPad outweigh any drawbacks or feature omissions. "For most average, nontechie users, I would recommend it over the handful of tablet competitors I’ve tested so far, especially given that the entry price remains attractive," Mossberg wrote.

"The iPad 2, in my view, offers an excellent balance of size, functionality and price, and keeps Apple ahead in the tablet race, at least for now," he continued. However, Mossberg doesn't advise current owners of the iPad to "race to get the new version," since he sees nothing particularly "revolutionary" about the new iPad.

Mossberg found the new iPad 2 to be "airier" and noticeably lighter. The device "felt very snappy," with apps launching and running "a bit quicker" than on the first-generation iPad. And, unlike the reviewer's tests with Android tablets, the iPad 2 never crashed in his tests.

Mossberg found still photos taken by the iPad 2 to be mediocre and battery life to be slightly less than the original iPad, though still above 10 hours. Another drawback to the device was that the new tapered edges make the dock connector port more difficult to use.

The reviewer also missed the lack of Adobe Flash compatibility and the fact that the iPad 2 will be unable to take advantage of 4G cellular data networks.

In spite of these drawbacks and omissions, Mossberg said he can "comfortably recommend it as the best tablet for average consumers."

The New York Times

The New York Times reviewer David Pogue wrote that the iPad experience had been transformed by Apple's improvements in thinness, weight and speed.

At just 0.33 inches thick, the iPad 2 makes the Motorola Xoom tablet look "obese," said Pogue, who views the iPad's success as a function of its emotional appeal, rather than its 'on paper' qualifications.

Pogue also spent ample time praising Apple’s new Smart Cover as "a perfect symbol of its fondness for high-tech magic tricks."

Even as dozens of rival tablets are set to hit the market in the coming months, Pogue believes "the iPad will still dominate the market, because it dominates in all the most important criteria: thinness, weight, integration, beauty — and apps."

According to Pogue, Apple's aggressive pricing could help the iPad maker stay ahead of the competition. Despite Apple's usual reputation for costing more than its competitors, "the iPad 2 actually costs less than its comparably equipped Android rivals, like the Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab," Pogue noted.

Associated Press

AP Technology Writer Rachel Metz wrote that Apple, with the iPad 2, "is pulling further ahead" of its competitors, even as numerous companies are trying to catch up to the original iPad.

According to Metz, Apple's improvements "make an already excellent tablet even more enticing," revealing that the iPad maker "refuses to be bested."

The iPad 2's "sleeker lighter body with a curved back" help the device "fit more naturally" in the reviewer's hands, making it "easier to hold for extended e-reading sessions."

Metz enjoyed the addition of front- and rear-facing cameras and Apple's FaceTime video chat application, though she did find still photography "awkward given the tablet's size."

After spending time with the new GarageBand app for the iPad 2, Metz "was wowed by how simple it was and how well it took advantage of the iPad's touch screen."

Metz did find herself wishing for a second speaker, but noted that the lone speaker "did sound quite crisp, even with the sound turned all the way up."

Metz concluded by saying that the iPad 2 is, without question, a "great tablet," while recommending that those looking for the latest and greatest should "go for it." "Chances are, it will be the best tablet in town — at least until the iPad 3 arrives," she quipped.