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10 Things You Need To Know About The iPad 2

1. The Dual-Core Chip Matters

Processing cores has never been a big deal in the first-generation product, but the upgrade from the A4 to the A5 and from one two cores does matter. Apple says that the dual-core chip is nearly twice as fast as the first gen 800 MHz processor, while the graphics core is about 9x as fast. We do not know the details about the A5, but we speculate that it is a 32 nm dual-core 1 GHz processor that is based on the ARM layout of the A4. The graphics core is likely an upgraded PowerVR SGX 5-series XT design from Imagination technologies. The processor is not just in the iPad 2 to run games and applications faster: It is necessary to provide a smooth delivery of video features, including support of 1080p video out.    

2. There Are Two Cameras

The iPad 2 has two cameras, one on the front and one on the back. The front camera records in VGA resolution at 30 fps to act as a camera to take snapshots of you as well as to support Facetime video chat. The back camera records video at 720p and 30fps. The still camera resolution is 5 megapixels.   

3. It's Thinner and Lighter

The new iPad keeps the 9.7" screen size form factor, but is thinner 88 mm versus 134 mm of the iPad and 93 mm of the iPhone 4. The overall foot print is slightly smaller, down from 9.56 x 7.47 inches to 9.50 to 7.31 inches. The weight drops from 1.5 pounds to 1.33 pounds, which isn't much, but it is nice to see Apple addressing the weight concerns of the tablet. The decreased weight hints to increased integration of core hardware that enabled Apple to drop the weight despite the addition of more features, such as the gyroscope.

4. The Battery Life Is The Same

Apple claims that the battery life has remained the same at 10 hours. The new iPad 2 should easily get you through one day of average use. However, we suspect that such an average day does not include a whole lot of video recording and video chats.

5. No Retina Display

There was quite a bit of speculation whether Apple would use a higher resolution display in the iPad 2. The answer is no. It's the same 9.7" 1024x768 pixel display (132 ppi) that was used in the original iPad. It's good enough, but not a standout anymore. This came as a small surprise as there were plenty of reports from China that Apple had ordered iPad retina displays. The iPad 2 shell is available in black and white.

6. Price: The Same ($628, on average)

This is a tough one for Apple's rivals. Pricing remains the same - from the 16 GB Wi-Fi model for $499 to the 64 GB 3G version for $829. Apple provides a choice for virtually every taste, while the $499 version is a clear eye opener. No other competitive tablet is available at that level. Motorola's 32 GB Xoom sells for $799, $70 more than the comparable iPad 2. According to Apple, the average iPad sells for $628, which means that the $499 version could merely be the device that pulls customer attention. However, it also indicates that Motorola's Zoom is way too expensive and priced out of the market. I am almost tempted to think the iPad 2 is a bargain.      

7. Availability

March 11, or about 11 months after the original iPad, in the U.S. On march 25, the iPad 2 will become available in 25 more countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. More countries will follow in the months thereafter.

8. Don't Forget The Color Cover

If you spend more than $500 on a tablet, it may be a good idea to buy the cover right with it. Apple will be offering what it calls a foldable smart cover that attaches magnetically to the front of the iPad 2. Folded back it doubles as a stand for the tablet. It is available in 10 colors, which essentially delivers on the analyst request to bring out more colors for the iPad. The cover sells for a (pricey) $39 for the plastic version and for $69 for the leather version.    

9. The App Advantage

Apple is increasingly playing the app card against the competition. According to Apple, 65,000 iPad apps are now available, while Google's Honeycomb Android stands at about 100. A big deal is also a coming iOS 4.3 update, which delivers a JavaScript accelerated Safari browser, iTunes home sharing as well as AirPlay enhancements. The iPhone 4 will get a personal hotspot feature through this update.

10. Verizon Is An Option

If you just don't like AT&T as a 3G carrier for the iPad 2, you can choose Verizon as Apple will be offering a CDMA/EV-DO version of the iPad 2 as well.