After much speculation, the iPad 2 has been officially announced and will be released to a ravenous public on March 11, 2011. So now that the specifications have been unveiled, how does it stack up? Is it leaps and bounds more advanced than the original iPad? Does it blow the competition right out of the water?

The answer to the former is sort of. The iPad 2 does sport a dual-core Apple A5 processor, compared to the original iPad’s single-core A4, making the CPU twice as fast as its predecessor and giving it enhanced graphics capabilities. And while the original iPad was lacking any sort of camera, the iPad 2 features a VGA front camera and a 720p-capable camera on the back. Then there’s the 3-axis gyroscope. Other than it, the improvements are all aesthetic: lighter, thinner, and comes in white this time around.

So if you were to pick up an iPad, then sure, the iPad 2 would be the way to go. But how does it stack up to the Android tablet army?

Poorly, at least from a specification standpoint.

The Motorola Xoom, LG G-Slate (Optimus Pad), and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, three of Android’s heavy hitters, all contain a Tegra 2 dual-core processor, equivalent to the iPad 2’s dual-core A5. The iPad is also slightly cheaper, weighs slightly less than the Xoom and the Optimus Pad, and offers access to 65,000 apps.

Now for the bad news. The iPad 2 supports up to 720p playback. The Xoom and the Galaxy Tab support 1080p. Nor does it support expandable memory. You can double the Xoom’s storage with a 32GB microSD card. Information is not yet available on the other tablets. The iPad 2 does not and will not support Adobe Flash. The other tablets will. The iPad 2 has a mono speaker (stereo headphone jack), whereas the Xoom has a stereo speaker. The Xoom has one million pixels, the iPad 2 has 786k. Finally, while the other tablets are cruising along at 4G speeds (or will be), the iPad 2 is stuck at 3G.

There are those who will argue that in the end, specs only mean so much, and it’s Apple’s iOS which makes their products superior. There’s no point in debating such a subjective thing. Going solely off of the hardware specifications, the iPad 2 is clearly the weakest of the bunch. Not only did Apple put out a product that can barely stand up to the competition, but it can barely best its predecessor. (Sound familiar?)

I’ve seen arguments that justify the lack of improved hardware by explaining that the original iPad was released just under a year ago. That’s not a justification. I know it’s standard practice to release an updated product every year, but if this is the update that we can expect, maybe that practice needs to change.

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