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Should you buy an iPad 2? Here's what the reviews say...

The iPad 2 is available today. At present it's only available online, but will hit retail stores in the U.S. later on today. The big questions is: are you going to buy an iPad 2?

If you're like me, you decided to skip the first iPad and hold out for the 2nd version. Not because you didn't love the first iPad, but because its debut release didn't quite justify you parting with your hard earned, but limited cash. Do the iPad 2's specs now warrant a purchase?

Those who took the plunge the first time round and were very, very pleased (just ask any smug iPad 1 owner -- they won't hesitate to tell you). But now, even they are faced with a dilemma: sticking with their beloved iPad 1 or discarding it for the thinner, lighter and faster, camera-endowed replacement. What to do, what to do?

To help us come to a decision, we thought we'd do a roundup of what some of the high-flyers of the tech world (those fortunate enough to get preview models) think about the iPad 2.

David Pogue at the New York Times seems underwhelmed by the iPad 2's specs on paper (thinner, lighter, faster, a camera and a gyroscope), but when he actually gets his hands on it, he seems thrilled. Pogue says, "Just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience." He goes on to say, "This is a tablet. You are almost always holding it. Thin and light are unbelievably important for comfort and the overall delight." In comparison, Pogue says, "the best Android competitor so far -- looks obese."

However, Pogue seems to share some of the same concerns voiced over the cameras found on the iPad 2, particularly with still shots. He also notes the absence of Flash, which he says, "thousands of news and entertainment Web sites still rely on."

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg says the iPad 2, "...offers an excellent balance of size, functionality and price, and keeps Apple ahead in the tablet race, at least for now." However, Mossberg continues, "unless you are desperate for the cameras or feel you are laboring under the greater bulk of the original model, I don't advise that iPad owners race to get the new version."

Mossberg praises the iPad 2's "airier" feel due to its lighter and thinner spec, saying it makes other tablets "look bloated" in comparison. Mossberg didn't find the speed of the iPad 2 to be "dramatic," but notes that apps launch and run "a bit quicker," and says the "whole device felt very snappy."

Like others, Mossberg wasn't all that impressed with the iPad 2's "disappointing" camera. He also notes two omissions in the iPad 2. First, there's no Flash support (which we all know is is not going to happen), and second, the iPad 2 can't use the new 4G cellular data coverage being rolled out, unlike the upcoming Motorola Xoom tablet.

Engadet's Joshua Topolsky possibly did the most comprehensive review. Our own Chris Rawson shared his impressions on Topolsky's review here, but to sum up Topolsky's review in a nutshell: despite the disappointments with the iPad 2's camera, the lack of an upgrade in screen resolution and the "significant annoyances" found in Apple's iOS, Topolsky says, "It might frustrate the competition to hear this, but it needs to be said: the iPad 2 isn't just the best tablet on the market, it feels like the only tablet on the market."

Other reviews worth checking out are Andy Ihnatko's first impressions as well as USA Today's Edward Baig's review. But all reviewers seem to be saying roughly the same thing. The general consensus is that, for now, the iPad 2 is the tablet to go for -- it stands head and shoulders above the competition. Its thinner and lighter specs seem to have made a significant impression, but the new cameras -- touted as a main feature -- seem lackluster, though not without some merit.

In conclusion, to answer that big question, should you buy an iPad 2? Well, based on the reviews, if you've already got the first generation iPad and are happy with it, and you're not desperate to make video calls or record or take photos, then there's probably not much point in upgrading to the iPad 2. But if you held off on the first iPad, the iPad 2's thinner and lighter package, increased speed, improved graphics and cameras (albeit that the quality is slightly disappointing) present a rather convincing case for you to take the plunge now. Of course, to make things even more difficult, there is the option to buy a discounted or refurbished first generation iPad, but that's a whole different story!

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