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iPad 2 'feels like the only tablet on the market' say first reviews

The big guns of the US tech press have published their reviews of Apple's iPad 2, praising the device's slimline looks and powerful processor, but criticising its cameras.

The iPad 2 goes on sale in the US tomorrow, although us Brits will have to wait a couple of weeks to get our hands on the device. Still, we can ooze livid green jealousy from across the ocean, as the big guns of American tech journalism publish their reviews of Apple's updated tablet.

So what do the people who've been playing with the device for a week before its launch think? Perhaps unsurprisingly, they like it a great deal. The iPad 2's A5 processor and slimmer design come in for praise across the board, although its cameras and angled charging port come in for some criticism.

"The iPad 2 isn't just the best tablet on the market, it feels like the only tablet on the market," concludes Engadget. "As much as we'd like to say that something like the Xoom has threatened Apple's presence in this space, it's difficult (if not impossible) to do that."

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg agrees that iPad 2 will keep Apple at the head of the tablet hordes for now. "While it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary like the first model, the changes Apple has made are generally pleasing and positive, and the device worked very well for me... For most average, non-techie users, I would recommend it over the handful of tablet competitors I've tested so far."

Meanwhile, the New York Times' David Pogue rhapsodises about the iPad 2's size and weight. "Just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience. We're not talking about a laptop or a TV, where you don't notice its thickness while in use. This is a tablet. You are almost always holding it. Thin and light are unbelievably important for comfort and the overall delight."

All three reviews point out the relatively weedy nature of the iPad 2's cameras, saying that while the 640x480-pixel front camera is fine for FaceTime video calls, making the rear camera sub-megapixel is a strange decision. Engadget suggests the iPad 2 may be sporting the same 960x720-pixel (0.7-megapixel) camera as the iPod touch, compared to the multi-megapixel models that will be seen in rival Android tablets this year. Apple has refused to confirm the precise resolution of the rear camera.

The GarageBand and iMovie apps are warmly praised, but there are concerns about the docking port at the bottom of the device. "The new, more tapered design makes it harder to plug cables and accessories -- including the charging cable -- into the main port on the bottom of the device, because it is now angled," as Mossberg puts it.

What the US reviews can't tell us is when the iPad 2 will be available to pre-order here in the UK, although with its Stateside debut coming tomorrow, we're hoping Apple will have news for us early next week.