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iPad 2 launched. Not much different from the original

Apple has just announced the iPad 2 and to tell you the truth, we were expecting so much more. This latest announcement is probably the first time in a long time that we left a Steve Jobs keynote feeling severely underwhelmed.

On the upside, Steve Jobs made an appearance. We’re always happy to see him in action and although there has been no indication of how his health is. It’s just nice to see him on stage.

Ok moving on to the iPad 2. Right off the bat we’re amazed at how thin the new iPad is. At only 8.8mm thin, the iPad 2 is as thin as some of the thinnest smart phones out there but other than that, everything is, relatively speaking, unchanged including the weight which at 600 grams is not much different from the original WiFi iPad (680g). However, the 3G iPad 2 is significantly lighter that its predecessor at 613g vs the old 3G iPad weight of 730g.

Apart from that you get the same screen size with same screen resolution. There’s two cameras, one front-facing VGA and the other a rear-facing camera with 720p HD video recording capabilities. The lack of detailed information about the two cameras in the keynote and in the official spec sheet tells us that both are very likely to be the same modules as the ones you get in the the iPod touch. We were expecting the same 5MP unit seen in the iPhone 4.

In terms of processing power, Apple introduced the A5 chip with dual-core technology. The new chip runs 1Ghz but no info on the RAM or GPU. Apple did mention the A5’s graphics performance is nine times faster than the A4 — we’ll have to see how that pans out.

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What else? There’s a white version (hopefully this one is not vapourware like the white iPhone 4). Battery life still remains at 10 hours partly thanks to the A5 being much more energy efficient that the A4 chip. Pricing wise the iPad 2 is priced exactly the same as the original. We wondered if there will be an entry-level iPad in the shape of a cheap version of the original but nothing was mentioned in the keynote so there could very well be none.

In terms of availability, the iPad 2 ships to US stores March 11. If you’re thinking of getting the iPad 2 direct from the US, you need to know that US iPads are locked. Although you can unlock them, it becomes too much of a hassle when you want to upgrade OS (we made a big boo-boo on this, all iPads sold are unlocked and it is safe to assume the iPad 2 will be unlocked too. So technically you can get an iPad 2 directly from the US right from March 11 if you wanted to). Then on March 25 the iPad 2 ships out to 26 other countries. Your best bet of getting unlocked an iPad 2 is from either the UK or Australia but expect to pay hefty premiums on units from these countries.

No word on when the iPad 2 will hit Malaysia but you can expect the lead time to be reduced significantly. In other words, the iPad 2 will hit Malaysian stores faster than it took the iPad to get here.

There’s an iOS update in the form of the iOS 4.3. Nothing much here as well. iOS 4.3 brings WiFi hotspot capabilities to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4 only. Also you get iMovie for iPad and Garage band. Both pretty nifty but nothing exciting there.

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In his keynote Jobs also introduced two accessories for the iPad. One is a HDMI adapter. The iPad 2 can churn out full 1080p HDMI video mirrored on both an external display and the iPad 2 itself. The adapter also allows you to charge while using the HDMI out feature.

The next accessory is a magnetic cover that Apple calls the Smart Cover that cleans the screen while the same time protecting it. That’s all.

So what do we think about the iPad 2? Nothing wrong with it but at the same time, there’s nothing great about it. Everything is the same save for some upgrades to make sure the iPad stays current with the onslaught of new tablets set to hit the stores soon.

Save for the app advantage, the iPad 2 is not much of a gap from the Xoom. In fact we feel that the Xoom along with the other tablets like the PlayBook and the Galaxy Tab II have more to offer than the iPad 2.

Looking back at the list of features rumoured to come with the iPad 2, we would love for the iPad 2 have a carbon fibre shell and SD card slot and some sort of enhanced display but none of these rumours materialised. With so little improvements in the iPad 2 we can’t help but to think that Apple is feeling slightly threatened by the new generation of tablets coming this year — hence the rushed launch to capture market share.

The first 1/3 of Job’s keynote focused on downplaying the competition especially Honeycomb. If this is not a sign of Apple being concerned about the competition, we don’t know what is.

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If you just bought an iPad, this is not going to make you switch. If you’re looking to get a tablet, you might want to wait for the others to hit the stores compare them before you make a decision because let’s face it, the iPad ain’t what it used to be.

iPad 2 official images