The machine that kick-started the entire tablet computing revolution is back, and it's better than ever: the iPad 2 has a better processor, better graphics, better design and hugely entertaining covers. If we were making tablet computers, we'd be furious: Apple has taken a winning formula and refined it without upping the price or cutting any obvious corners. So does the iPad 2 raise the bar?
It's evolution, not revolution
There's nothing earth-shattering here, but Apple's already got a successful formula - so the iPad 2 takes the iPad template and tweaks it. It's thinner - less than 9mm - and two pounds lighter, its dual core processor runs twice as fast as its single core predecessor and its graphics system nine times faster, and you still get ten hours of battery life. The heart of the system is the A5, a 1GHz dual-core processor that's Apple's own design.
It's the same price as before
As before, the iPad 2 has two models - Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi plus 3G - and three different storage capacities: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. Prices should be the same as the previous model: £429/£499/£599 for the Wi-Fi one, and £529/£599/£699 for the 3G.
It's got twin cameras
The first iPad was supposed to have a camera but it didn't make the cut, so it's hardly a surprise to see that the iPad 2 has two cameras: one in the front and one in the back. That means FaceTime videoconferencing as well as the gimmicky but fun Photo Booth.
There isn't a retina display
The rumoured iPhone-style retina display didn't make it this time. iPad 3, anyone?
There's a white one
Which is more than you can say about the iPhone 4.
It's a drumkit, a guitar and a piano
Apple's Garageband makes clever use of the iPad 2's accelerometer to work out how hard you're hitting the on-screen piano keys, drums or strings - and it can even play the instruments for you. If we'd had that when we mucked around in bands...
It talks to your TV
iPad 2 can communicate with your TV in two ways: AirPlay, which streams audio and video to an Apple TV; and video mirroring, which connects directly to your HDTV or projector and displays anything the iPad does - so it'd be great for games. Video mirroring requires the Digital AV Adapter or Apple VGA adaptor, which is - surprise! - an optional extra.
It's got unlimited storage
Well, sort of. iTunes Home Sharing in iOS 4.3 streams anything in your iTunes library to your iPad or iPad 2, so at home your storage is limited only by the size of your iTunes library and your PC or Mac's hard disk.
You might not need the 3G model
Unless the networks nobble it - which doesn't seem likely - then this month's iOS 4.3 update will bring personal Wi-Fi hotspots to the iPhone 4, enabling it to share its 3G connection with up to five devices - including iPads. Older iPhones won't get this feature, but if you've got an iPhone 4 we'd strongly recommend waiting until iOS 4.3 is out and on your phone before deciding whether to buy a 3G iPad 2 or just the Wi-Fi version.
It's got a really cool cover
The iPad 2 has hidden magnets in the case, which Smart Covers take full advantage of: as if by magic they stick to the face of the iPad 2, protecting its screen and putting it to sleep. To wake, simply lift the cover and fold it into a stand for comfortable typing or viewing. There are ten different colours, including five leather ones.
The old one's going cheap
No sooner had the iPad 2 turned up in the Apple Store than Apple knocked £100 off the old one, which is eligible for this month's software update to iOS 4.3. At around £330, an entry-level iPad is a steal.
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