ipad-2-side-by-sideWith the iPad 2 officially launching on Friday, the usual suspects for early reviews of Apple products have made their thoughts heard.  While overall Apple is well-known for playing its cards close to the vest, there is an inner circle of sources that do usually get to play with the products early and run them through their paces.  You can’t exactly call them “favored” sources in the company’s eyes as they will tell you if they find a product unsatisfying, but it is definitely a select group that they believe will be fair.

The overwhelming comments seem to be that the device is definitely “evolutionary” as opposed to the “revolutionary” feel that the original iPad delivered.  There is no doubt that the original iPad was the tablet that launched hundreds of competitors, but overall they are still playing catch-up with the market leader.  This is, of course, not to say that they won’t eventually surpass the iPad, but it also seems to say that the iPad 3 will have to be a major leap if it’s to keep ahead of the pack.

Overall the reviews are positive with lots of praise being heaped on the battery life in particular.  There are also a lot of comments about it being noticeably faster thanks to the faster processor and additional RAM.  Everything, however, is not rosy, especially when it comes to the front and rear cameras.  The general consensus appears to be that Apple went for some really sub-par cameras in the device, almost to the point of you having to wonder if they should have really included them.  If the technology just wasn’t there, which would seem odd since they are putting cameras in just about everything these days, perhaps they should have waited another year.

In the end it  seems to be the conclusion that if you have an original iPad, an upgrade is not mandatory.  For those who waited things out, you’ll be happy you did, and you should be extremely happy with what you purchase.

Here are some of the conclusions the reviewers came up with.

Walt Mossberg, All Things D – “iPad 2: Thin, Not Picture Perfect

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.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball – “The iPad 2

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.

ipad-2-hdmi-cableJoshua Topolsky, Engadget – “iPad 2 Review”

For owners of the previous generation, we don’t think Apple’s put a fire under you to upgrade. Unless you absolutely need cameras on your tablet, you’ve still got a solid piece of gear that reaps plenty of the benefits of the latest OS and apps. For those of you who haven’t yet made the leap, feel free to take a deep breath and dive in — the iPad 2 is as good as it gets right now. And it’s really quite good.

David Pogue, The New York Times – “Appeal of iPad 2 Is a Matter of Emotions

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. It means that for the first time, your heart can succumb to the iPad mystique — without having to ignore the practical input from your brain.

Edward C. Baig, USA Today – “iPad 2 is even better than the original

Pros: Thinner and lighter design. Fast with souped-up graphics. Front and rear cameras for FaceTime video chat and other uses. By far the most apps. Excellent battery life. Nice screen. Software iOS 4.3 lets you stream over home network. Video “mirroring” (with accessories).

Cons: No Adobe Flash support means some Web videos won’t play. Requires accessories for HDMI, USB and SD. AirPlay feature sometimes hiccupped.

What do you think? Has your opinion changed about picking up an iPad 2?