The iPad 2 has been teased, announced, launched, tested, and now it's time to be reviewed.

The iPad 2, like all of Apple's products, is a polarizing device; either you can live within its limitations or you cannot.  There is nothing revolutionary found in the second iteration of the world's best selling tablet, but the evolutionary upgrades do augment an already solid offering.  Are they enough to make you pry out the credit card though? For the visual amongst you, hit play on the video above and we'll take you through everything mentioned below.

Let's begin with pros and cons of the trimmed down iPad 2.

iPad 2 Pros:

  • Great media experience
  • Unparalleled mobile browsing
  • Thin design
  • Tremendous app support

iPad 2 Cons:

  • No Flash support (across all iOS powered devices)
  • OS, while eloquent, feels antiquated
  • Camera quality (photo and video) is awful.  Really bad.

Best For: People who want to bring their mobile experience to a larger screen.

Website: Apple
Suggested Retail Price: $499-$829

iPad 2 Hardware

iPad 2 Review Hardware

In this age of dual-core processors, the iPad 2 is not bringing the competitive thunder from a raw specifications standpoint.   Its A5 (Samsung built) dual-core system on a chip clocks in at around 800 MHz (although it is allegedly variable based on the applications being run) on each core and is augmented by 512MB of RAM (up from the iPad 1's 256MB).   Any way you slice it, it's not a processing powerhouse, but it doesn't need to be.   Apple's vertical integration business model means they control the software and the hardware, so they make sure the OS and its core applications are completely optimized for the internals.  To the end user, this yields blazing fast performance while sustaining almost 10 hours of battery life.   The iPad 2 is extremely fast at opening web pages, launching apps, playing HD video, or just about anything else you can throw at it.  I never thought the iPad 1 was slow, but there is no doubt its sequel is faster.

iPad 2 Software

iPad 2 Review Software

The software discussion is the same one we had last year.  Nothing has changed.   Everyone considering buying an iPad (or any iOS device) needs to be aware of its limitations.  If you can live within them, your mobile world will be bliss, if you can't have your tablet experience walled in and limited, you are best to look elsewhere.  The OS is extremely elegant, polished, and obviously well thought out.  It also remains frustratingly unchanged.  Notifications are still obtrusive and the lock screen continues to be a waste of space.  The entire ecosystem (we're not getting into jailbreaking here) is dependent on iTunes to distribute and disseminate content, which makes for a seamless, although restricting, experience.

iPad 2 Vs. iPad Original (1st Gen)

iPad 2 Review Conclusion

If you liked the first generation iPad, you'll love this one.  Its faster speed, 33% thinner design, and inclusion of front and rear cameras augment an already solid package.  Knowing its limitations, and being willing to live within them, I've thoroughly been enjoying it.  It offers the best mobile browsing I've tested (minus Flash…one of the limitations you need to be comfortable with) and I've found myself using the iPad in place of my laptop for light daily computing. Navigating through web pages is easy, multi-touch gestures work without a delay, and most sites I visit are iPad optomized.

The Smart Covers are a fun addition, and do a decent job at protecting the screen, but do little else aside from prop up your iPad.  At $39-$69 (for polyurethane or leather) they are tough to recommend.

If you have been waiting to jump into the tablet world, dive head first into the iPad 2, you won't be disappointed.  If you are debating the merits of upgrading, there are few compelling reasons.  While it is faster, it's not a huge increase, and while it's thinner, it's not drastic.  I'd recommend skipping this generation, and see what the iPad 3 has in store.  Although judging by the sales numbers and projections, I don't think it's going to matter.

The real review that matters is yours.  Did you pick one up?  Are you planning on it?  Are you looking to Android or webOS for your tablet needs?  Sound off.

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