iPad 2: The reviews are in

March 10, 2011, 11:26 AM UTC

Apple seeded the usual suspects with its new tablet last week. A sampling of the reviews:

Photo: Apple Inc.

Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal: I’ve been testing an iPad 2 for about a week and I like it a lot. While it’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary like the first model, the changes Apple has made are generally pleasing and positive, and the device worked very well for me… It never crashed in my tests, unlike every Android tablet I’ve tested.

David Pogue, The New York Times: On paper, Apple didn’t do much. It just made the iPad one-third thinner, 15 percent lighter and twice as fast. There are no new features except two cameras and a gyroscope. I mean, yawn, right? And then you start playing with it… 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.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: Every once in a while, Apple releases something brand-new. The original iPod. The 2007 iPhone. Last year’s iPad. These original releases tend to be minimal technically, but radical conceptually. Then, generally on an annual schedule, Apple improves them iteratively and steadily over time. This is exactly what they’ve done with the iPad 2… If you didn’t like the original iPad, you’re not going to like the iPad 2. If you liked the original iPad, you’re going to like the iPad 2 even better.

Joshua Topolsky, Engadget: Let’s just put this out there: the iPad 2 cameras are really pretty bad. They’re not unusable, but it’s clear that the sensors employed are not top shelf by any measure. If you have a fourth generation iPod touch with cameras, you can expect the same results. In fact, it seems to us that these are the SAME cameras used in the iPod touch — there’s an “HD” lens around back (which means it’s roughly a single megapixel shooter), and on the front you’ve got a lowly VGA cam. Neither one of these produces remotely satisfying results for still shots, and in particular (when compared with something like the Xoom), the back camera just seems utterly second rate.

Edward Baig, USA Today: As Apple (AAPL) unleashes the latest object of desire, a slimmed-down iPad 2, it makes what was already a splendid slab even better, even if the overall upgrade is relatively modest. Apple didn’t boost the screen resolution or bump up the storage. There’s no iPad that can take advantage of nascent high-speed 4G cellular networks. The external speaker is mono. No SD card slot or USB, either. But these are nitpicks, and Apple has kept prices in check, crucial in the battle against viable, as well as expensive, alternatives such as the Motorola (MOT) Xoom tablet, which runs Google’s (GOOG) rival Android Honeycomb operating system.

Rich Jarovslosky, Bloomberg Businessweek: The iPad wasn’t slow before. Now it’s faster. It wasn’t bulky before. Now it’s thinner. It wasn’t heavy before. Now it’s lighter. That, plus a couple of new cameras, sums up the difference between Apple Inc.’s first tablet and the iPad 2, which goes on sale in the U.S. tomorrow. Taken together, the changes are unremarkable. What’s remarkable is that Apple didn’t really need to do more to maintain its position as the class of the field. Here’s something even more remarkable: The iPad is the value-price leader in the market. Trust me, it isn’t often you can say that about an Apple product.

Jason Snell, Macworld: A year ago, nobody had an iPad. Then Apple sold 15 million of them in just nine months, creating a whole new category of technology product… It’s awfully hard to follow such a massive success, but that’s the task set out for Apple’s new iPad 2, which goes on sale Friday. At least the iPad 2 has this going for it: the original model caught the technology industry so flat-footed that only now are true competitors beginning to appear. Those competitors will now face a new iteration of the iPad, one that’s faster, smaller, and lighter than the model introduced a year ago—all while retaining the $499 entry price that has proven all but impossible for Apple’s competitors to match. It’s almost unfair.

Tim Gideon, PC Mag: As cocky as it may seem, when Steve Jobs boasts that most of the new 2011 tablets are no match for the original Apple iPad, he has a point. Currently, only the Motorola Xoom (Verizon Wireless) ($599-$799, 3.5 stars) shows enough promise to compete with Apple’s tablet. RIM’s (RIMM) BlackBerry PlayBook, HP’s (HPQ) TouchPad, and Samsung’s Honeycomb Galaxy Tab could also be contenders, but as Apple hits its second tablet rev, they’ve yet to arrive. The iPad 2 is thinner than the original iPad, with a faster processor, dual cameras, and FaceTime video chat. Apple also drummed up some excellent new accessories and apps, like the innovative Smart Cover and the endlessly fun, yet affordable GarageBand music app. Android lovers and Apple haters can argue that there are quality non-Apple tablets out there, and, like Jobs, they have a point. But these other tablets are few, and right now, none of them rival the iPad 2, which easily wins our Editors’ Choice for tablets.

Peter Ha: The Daily: Other manufacturers are already a year behind, and Apple just dealt another blow to the industry with the iPad 2. It’s fast, light and a heck of a lot of fun to have around. Even folks from HP and Google are astonished by it. It’s just that good. But should you, reader of The Daily, upgrade? That all depends on what you’re doing with your iPad now. Cameras and speed aside, the iPad 2 isn’t drastically different than what you have in your hands. It’s just a much sleeker and sexier version of it.

Also on Fortune.com:

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