iPad 2 Tablet Competition

FRESNO, Calif.

Peter Scherer has the original iPad, and says it's changed his life. "After I looked at it a little bit, I realized it filled that perfect niche between the laptop that's sometimes too heavy and too awkward, and the iPhone."

Now there's the iPad 2. Consumer Reports' first look at the iPad 2 finds it's an improvement. It has two cameras - one on the front and another in the back, so you can video chat and take photos.

It also has a sleeker profile and weighs less, making it more portable. And it processes graphics more quickly, which will be most evident if you play serious video games.

With everyday tasks, you might not notice a big difference. As for competition, there are two tablets giving Apple a run for its money.

The newest is the Motorola Xoom, which is about the same size as the iPad and has a built-in USB port, which the iPad 2 doesn't. But it's a little thicker and heavier.

The Galaxy Tab from Samsung is smaller than the iPad, making it easier to carry around. And both include a memory card slot, something else the iPad 2 lacks.

"Both of these tablets run on the Android platform, and, unlike the iPad, they support the Flash videos used by many websites. But there are fewer apps in the Android Market than there are in Apple's iTunes store," Paul Reynolds said.

Of course, price factors in, and at most configurations, the iPad still costs less than these competitors.

The iPad 2 scored well in Consumer Reports' battery tests. Its battery lasts 12 hours. That's hours longer than the original iPad, the Motorola Xoom and the Galaxy Tab.

Bottom line? Apple improved the iPad - and kept the price relatively low, starting at $500 - making the iPad 2 the tablet to beat.

The tablet computer market shows no signs of slowing down. There are many more coming, including ones from Blackberry, Toshiba and Acer. Consumer reports will be testing them all.

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