On Friday the iPad 2 arrives, meaning the first reviews of Apple's tablet are in. Several tech pundits got their hands on the iPad 2 and after a week or so of playing with it, they seem to agree Apple has on its hands yet another winner. Thin, light and sleek, the iPad 2 still has some caveats (like subpar cameras), the reviewers point out, but that doesn't mean the new tablet can't make a splash.
First off, Macworld's Editorial Director Jason Snell puts it simply: "for Apple's competitors in the tablet-device market, the iPad 2 is a bucket of water to the face." He notes the new iPad "addresses many of the iPad's deficiencies, dramatically improves its speed, and doesn't cede any ground on price, features, or battery life. The iPad 2 raises the bar Apple set a year ago--and it's time for the rest of the industry to scramble again to catch up." Snell however points out "the cameras in the iPad 2 are essentially the same as those in the fourth-generation iPod Touch: It's nice that they're available, but they're not particularly impressive in terms of quality." Here's a video of Snell's review too.
Walt Mossberg from The Wall Street Journal says the iPad 2 is thin indeed, but not picture perfect: "its cameras take mediocre still photos and Apple won't even reveal their megapixel ratings. The company says they were designed for video, not still photography." He writes "the battery life, while very good [10 hours, 9 minutes], isn't as strong as I found it to be on the first iPad [11 hours 28 minutes]," while pointing out this is still "2.5 hours better than the [Motorola] Xoom did on the same test". Overall though, Mossberg liked the iPad 2: "As of now, I can comfortably recommend it as the best tablet for average consumers."
Over at The New York Times, David Pogue begins by pointing out that early critics weren't right about the original iPad. Moving to the iPad 2, he notes there is "just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience. [...]The iPad 2 is now 0.34 inches thick. Next to it, the brand-new Motorola Xoom--the best Android competitor so far--looks obese. Yet somehow, the new iPad still gets 10 hours of battery life on a charge." Pogue also finds the iPad 2 back camera lacking, at only 0.7 megapixels. He believes "The iPad  will still dominate the market, because it dominates in all the most important criteria: thinness, weight, integration, beauty--and apps." "The kicker, though, may be the price," he concludes.
John Gruber of Daring Fireball found the new tablet has 512MB of RAM and discussed the processing power of the iPad 2: "In practice, the iPad 2 feels like the fastest iOS device I've ever used--faster in every way than the iPhone 4. [...] Doing various side-by-side comparisons with an iPad 1, I noticed all sorts of places where the iPad 1 lagged. Apps that were launched slowly. Buttons that were pressed that didn't take effect immediately. Every little thing on the iPad 2 feels more responsive." Overall, Gruber finds the iPad 2 "a solid second-generation iteration. Easier and more comfortable to hold, noticeably faster, equippable with foldable covers that are both literally and figuratively magnetic."
Moving on to Engadget, Joshua Topolsky is very frank: "It might frustrate the competition to hear this, but it needs to be said: the iPad 2 isn't just the best tablet on the market, it feels like the only tablet on the market." He also notes the iPad 2's "cameras are severely lacking, the screen--while extremely high quality--is touting last year's spec, and its operating system still has significant annoyances, like the aggravating pop-up notifications." Overall, Topolsky doesn't believe Apple enticed a lot of original iPad users to upgrade (unless they need the cameras), but the iPad 2 is "really quite good" for those who haven't bought one yet.
Finally, TechCrunch's MG Siegler: "Let me sum all of this up in a simple way: the iPad 2, should you buy one? Maybe--it depends on a few factors. Will you want to buy one? Yes. Use that information wisely."