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iPad 2 rated best tablet yet by Consumer Reports

US comparison and review outfit Consumer Reports has posted the results of its first round-up of tablet PCs, which should put smiles on the faces of Apple's execs.

The magazine and web site, which is a bit like the UK's very own Which? with a slightly bigger budget, has rated the latest rash of proddable PCs alongside Apple's recently-released iPad 2 - and it doesn't make happy reading for the competition.

The iPad 2 not only took the top honours in the test, but its older sibling, the original iPad, also took joint second place alongside Motorola's Android-powered Xoom device.

Despite boasting the Flash compatibility and card reader support most quoted by Apple-phobics as a good reason to buy the Xoom, Motorola's wannabe tablet failed to pip the iPad 2 and only just managed to match up to the promise of the long-in-the-tooth iPad, despite the fact that it has been available for more than a year.

"So far, Apple is leading the tablet market in both quality and price, which is unusual for a company whose products are usually premium priced," said Paul Reynolds, Electronics Editor at Consumer Reports. "However, it's likely we'll see more competitive pricing in tablets as other models begin to hit the market."

Consumer Reports included tablets from Archos, Dell, Motorola, Samsung and ViewSonic in the report, which used 17 tests to determine the winner.

Each was prodded and poked by several reviewers and scored on touchscreen response, versatility, portability, screen glare and ease of use. Apple's $730 32GB iPad 2 garnered top marks in nearly every category, whilst Motorola's $800 Xoom barely managed to keep up with the $580 iPad.

Once again, the iPad's battery came in for hefty praise managing to play a looped video clip for 12.2 hours - substantially above Apple's own figure of 10 hours. The Archos 70 Internet tablet lasted less than four.

Consumer Reports has had a rocky relationship with Apple in the past, famously refusing to recommend the iPhone 4 because of its apparent antenna issues.

But this latest report plays to the Cupertino company's strength and advises readers that you get what you pay for.

"With prices for the best tablets still too high for many budgets, consumers may be tempted by lower-priced competitors. Don't be," it says, suggesting that sub-$300 tablets are "mediocre at best".