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Update: Check out our new iPad 3 review.
Say what you like about the original Apple iPad, you’d have to be deluded not to admit that Apple's equally lauded and derided tablet has changed a market more dramatically than we've seen in a long time. Apple may not be the only company making a good tablet any more, but it was certainly the first and it definitely takes credit for opening up the minds of the general public to the idea that, yes, a tablet just might have a place in their lives.
Think about it, and you realise that's an incredible feat. The iPad was in many ways a revolution, but it was also incredibly lacking in many ways. It lacked not just a front-facing camera for FaceTime, but any camera at all, couldn't handle multitasking and for all that its display offered a great portal to the Internet and a plethora of apps, the Apple iPad was actually a somewhat unwieldy device to sit in bed or on the sofa with. And you definitely couldn't call it cheap.
Despite the shortcomings, the iPad was a runaway success - millions of customers wouldn't be pleased to have you describe them as wrong. Perhaps fortunately for Apple, it's taken the competition close to a year to catch up, after a couple of false starts including, most notably, the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Unlike the Tab, in their own ways the BlackBerry PlayBook and Motorola Xoom offer a genuine alternative to the Apple iPad; they have well-designed and well-made chassis, slick operating systems, and are fairly price-competitive.
The problem for these iPad-rivals is that Apple wasn't sitting idle during the year-long head start it had over the competition. And so while the likes of the Xoom and PlayBook have been designed to best the iPad (and looked set to easily do so had they arrived earlier), now Apple has changed the goalposts again by launching it's own take on making an iPad-bester: the Apple iPad 2. In a similar vein to the iPhone 3G, it's not entirely unfair to call the iPad 2 the iPad Apple should have launched in the first place, and it's hardly a break from the tradition of Apple upgrades; thinner, lighter and more powerful? Check, check and check. Nonetheless, like it or not, right or wrong, the Apple iPad 2 is going to become the de facto standard against which all other tablets launched this year are measured, and it's to that standard we'll be holding it - game on, Apple.
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