Modern technology gives us many things.

Hands-on review of the iPad 2

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The iPad 2 is thinner, faster and lighter and is ready to take on all the tablet competitors in 2011

By Stephen Fenech in San Francisco

The first thing you notice the minute you pick up the iPad 2 is how amazingly thin the device is.

It is actually one third thinner than the first iPad – 13.4mm down to 8.8mm – which makes it even thinner than the iPhone 4.

The iPad 2 is just 8.8mm which is actually thinner than the iPhone 4

The iPad 2 has an all-new design that means the edges form a point rather than a flat side.

As a result the headphone jack, sleep button, screen lock, dock connector and volume keys are now positioned on the curve of the product instead of the edge – because it doesn’t have that edge anymore.

In terms of the weight of the iPad 2 it is also lighter by 100g – 680g down to 580g – but it was hard to notice the difference in my hands.

The screen is exactly the same resolution as the original which was pretty impressive to begin with.

It’s thinner and lighter but the iPad 2 is also faster.

That’s thanks to the new dual core A5 processor, created by Apple itself, which makes things twice as fast.

I did notice a slight speed increase in general use when opening and closing apps but Apple mentioned the graphics performance has also been amped up for a 9x improvement that will be a bonus when using apps.

The white iPad 2 and the Smart Covers in a range of colours

As we expected the iPad 2 includes a front and rear camera – a feature many criticised the original for lacking when it was revealed in January 2010.

Now those naysayers have been silenced.

The iPad 2 can now make and receive FaceTime video calls first seen with the iPhone 4.

Users can now make video calls within a wi-fi network to other iPad 2s, iPhone 4s, iPod Touch fourth generation and Mac computers.

The rear camera can also be used to show the other person in the chat what you’re looking at. That rear camera can capture stills and video in 720p resolution – so it sounds like it’s the same 5 megapixel camera used on the iPhone 4.

Users will be able to choose between a black and white version of the iPad 2 with both being available at launch – March 11 in the US and March 25 in Australia.

A white iPhone 4 was also shown alongside the regular black iPhone 4 but it has failed to materialise – yet. Problems with applying the paint to the glass have held back the release.

But Apple CEO Steve Jobs made a point of saying the white iPad 2 will be available day one.

Another surprise was the cool new Smart Cover for the iPad 2. It is basically a front cover which is attaches magnetically to the side of the device to protect the screen.

And the reason it’s called a Smart Cover is because the cover itself also has magnets which wakes the iPad 2 as soon as it is lifted off the display.

There’s no need to slide to unlock – it is ready to go as soon as the cover is removed.

Smart Cover also comes in handy when it is folded back on itself and used to hold the iPad 2 in position for typing or held at a steeper angle for watching movies.

And when you put the Smart Cover it also puts the iPad 2 back to sleep as well so there’s no need to hit the lock key.

The iPad 2 and Smart Cover which can hold it in place and protect it

But some things that remained the same were equally as impressive – the battery life and the price.

On the battery side the iPad 2 offers 10 hours of battery life which was excellent with the original but even more remarkable now considering that same battery now resides in a much thinner enclosure.

On the price side the iPad 2 will cost the same in the US as the original. For Australians if the price, which has yet to be announced, remains the same it will also be extremely competitive.

But with the Australian dollar now so strong hopes are that the iPad 2 could actually be cheaper than the first model.

The entry level price in Australia for the 16GB wi-fi is $629 – if that figure can slip under $600 to $599, I think Apple should prepare for the stampede of customers.

In the meantime there are some amazing bargains to be found with the original iPad which will be on sale for the next three weeks as long as stocks last.

The $629 16GB  original iPad wi-fi is now priced at $449 – that’s $180 cheaper. The prices on the other higher capacity models have also been slashed.

But for those who held off buying the first iPad to wait for iPad 2 will find it was definitely worth the wait.  

* Stephen Fenech travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Apple.