Apple's iPad 2 will go on sale this Friday March 25 with prices ranging from $579 for the entry-level Wi-Fi 16GB model to $729 for the cheapest 3G 16GB model, topping out at $949 for the 64GB version with 3G and Wi-Fi.
(The prices are up to $100 cheaper with those for the original iPad, which started at $649 through to $1,049, although Aussies are also paying an average $100 more than Apple's US customers, even when US sales tax at the top rate of 10% is taken into account.)
Depending on how keen you are to grab the second-gen touchscreen tablet, you can order online from 1am Friday at apple.com.au or – if you're tragically in the must-have category – you can join what we expect to be a long queue outside Apple stores once the first iPad 2 goes on sale from 5pm Friday.
If the experience in the US is anything to go by the lines will be massive but stock will be minimal and quickly sold out, so you may as well order online and be patient.
But before clicking that button or joining that queue you'll want to know what the iPad 2 offers the business traveller – does it bring any significant gains for frequent flyers compared the first-gen iPad, which you may have in your travel kit?
First up, here's the full iPad 2 Australian price list so you know how much you're in for.
Wi-Fi 16GB: $579
Wi-Fi 32GB: $689
Wi-Fi 64GB: $799
3G+Wi-Fi 16GB: $729
3G+Wi-Fi 32GB: $839
3G+Wi-Fi 64GB: $949
New iPad 2 accessories include the $45 polyurethane SmartCovers (shown below) and the upmarket leather SmartCovers for $79.
One thing's changed since the original iPad was launched in May last year: the iPhone 4 can now act as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot thanks to Apple's latest software update, which may remove the need for you to stump up for a 3G version of the ipad 2.
If you've already got an iPhone 4 and carry it with pretty much everywhere, you could settle for the cheaper Wi-Fi model of the iPad 2 and use your iPhone 4 to turn its 3G signal into a private Wi-Fi signal to get your iPad online. (We've got all the details plus step-by-step instructions.)
Either way, if you're soon to head overseas don't forget to use the TRS rebate to claim back the 10% GST on your iPad 2 (or any other bit of tech with a $300+ price tag, for that matter).
This will turn the cheapest $579 iPad 2 into an even cheaper $521, slash the sticker on the entry-level 3G model from $729 to $655 and send the top-shelf iPad 2 tumbling from $949 to $855 – click here for full details on how to claim the TRS rebate.
In the meantime, we've already had our hands on an iPad 2: here's what it means for business travellers.
Ebooks and magazines
The iPad 2 is a little lighter than the original iPad (down by a mere 80 grams, if you really care to know – that's equivalent to four AA batteries) but it's a lot thinner, slimming down from 13mm to 8.6mm.
Apple finesses this into a substantially sleeker and more sculpted design compared to the rather slab-like iPad 1, as shown below.
This seemingly minor modification makes all the difference to using the iPad 2 for long periods of time. It fits better in your hand and can be held longer without putting a strain on your wrist or repeatedly changing your grip.
As a result, if you rely on the iPad for reading books and magazines, or even long spells of web browsing, the iPad 2 is a smart upgrade.
The iPad's form factor makes it ideal for presenting to one or even two clients – tablets create less of a physical 'barrier' than a laptop. But if you've got a larger audience you need a larger screen, which is where the iPad 2's 'video mirroring' feature comes to the fore.
While the iPad 1 could connect to a larger desktop monitor or projector using a special video adaptor sold by Apple, not all applications supported this external video mode.
The iPad 2 uses a simpler approach known as 'video mirroring': whatever is on your iPad's screen is also show on the larger display, pretty similar to how most notebooks work.
Another step forward is that the iPad 2 can be connected to flat-screen TVs and PC monitors with a digital HDMI connection. You won't get lush HD images because the iPad's own display is not HD, but it's still a boon for getting your presentation, sales pitch or online project in front of a crowded room.
The first-gen iPad lacked even the most basic digital camera lens, which ruled out using Apple's handy FaceTime visual chat app found on the iPhone 4.
If you're often on the road and want to keep in close contact with your partner or family, the iPad 2's inclusion of a webcam could be a deal-breaker. You'll still need a wireless broadband connection, as FaceTime doesn't work over 3G, but your hotel's in-room wi-fi network will do the trick.
Just don't expect the picture to be anywhere near as good as these Photoshop efforts supplied by Apple PR!
All work and no play, etc... if you're into serious games (we're talking car racing, shoot-em-up and role-playing action games rather than Angry Birds) the iPad 2 is going to be hard to resist.
The combination of a dual-core processor (double the muscle of the original iPad's single-core chip), more RAM for running apps plus vastly improved graphics is like your games have been bumped up from economy to business class. Everything's better, from smoother gameplay to the quality of details and lighting.
There's also a three-axis gyroscope which adds twisting awareness to the iPad 2. In games like Real Racing 2 HD (shown above and below), which has just been updated for the iPad 2, you're able to exercise even more control over the car's handling by treating the iPad as if it was a steering wheel.
Read more iPad stories on Australian Business Traveller