When Apple’s original iPad was released around this time last year, the device not only created the biggest buzz in the tech world. It also defined a new category of gadget. But as enthusiastic as reviewers and early adopters of the device were, consistent criticisms surfaced as well. The iPad’s lack of USB or Ethernet ports and glossy screen were consistently cited as shortcomings, for example.

Now, though, Apple is upping the ante again with the unveiling of iPad2, due out in the U.S. on March 11 and in other countries over the weeks that follow. Will the latest iPad solve the problems of the original or get you to want to hand over your hard-earned cash for one? Read on for some answers.

Q: What’s new about the iPad2?

A: Apple has made the iPad2 faster, thinner, lighter, more powerful, and more versatile than the original iPad. And it has done so while keeping the starting price -- at about 499 dollars for a base model -- the same as the previous generation iPad.

Notable features are a dual-core processor at the heart of the device, which Apple claims is twice as fast as the previous iPad’s, more powerful graphics designed to do justice to fast-moving games, battery life that’s better than the original iPad’s by about an hour, and, perhaps most interesting, two integrated cameras -- one on the front and one on the back. The two cameras are there so that you can use the device for different purposes. The camera that faces you as you look into the iPad2, for example, can be used to capture your image for the purposes of video chats or Skype video sessions. The other camera can be used as a more traditional movie or still camera.

Point your iPad at something you want to film, and let it roll.

Apple has also taken note of the most useful accessory that owners of the previous generation procured for their device -- a cover for the screen -- and included one with the unit. Apple’s is not just any cover, however. It can be folded in upon itself several times and turned into a stand that makes the device easy to view while sitting on a desk or your lap.

The iPad2 also sports upgraded WiFi compatible, with the 802.11n standard, for much faster surfing and downloads when connecting to an 802.11n hotspot. 3G connectivity is also standard, for use with mobile carrier networks that support it. Finally, the device’s interface boasts features that iPhone 4 users enjoy, including an “accelerometer” that allows you to rotate the device to landscape mode and have whatever you’re watching adjust itself automatically, as well as “multi-touch” technology, which enables you to move and manipulate objects on the screen with your fingers in a very intuitive manner.

Q: Does the iPad2 fix the shortcomings of the previous model?

A: If you’re talking about the original iPad’s lack of a USB or Ethernet port, you’ll have to keep waiting. Some also complained that the original iPad lacked a memory card slot. So does the iPad2.

Complaints such as these are made by those worrying how they will connect the iPad to various data sources. Apple does sell an iPad Camera Connection kit, however, that allows you to import photos and videos from a digital camera using the camera’s USB cable or an SD card.

Some also complained about the original iPad’s screen, claiming that while it was fine for surfing the web, playing games, and viewing multimedia content, it was not as well suited to long periods of reading. The same holds true for iPad2, which has a backlit screen rather than the E Ink non-backlit screen that devices such as Amazon’s Kindle sport. The iPad2, in short, is less of an eReader than it is a general media consumption and creation device. Perhaps even more disappointing, the iPad2 does not even incorporate a larger version of the iPhone 4’s “retina display” technology, which renders graphics and text at a resolution so fine that the human eye cannot detect pixellation.

Q: So the base price is 499 dollars. How much will the iPad2 really cost? And will the original iPad now be cheaper?

A: With the base model of the iPad2, you get WiFi connectivity and 16 gigabytes (GB) of memory; the next model up, with 32 GB, will retail for around 100 dollars more; the next higher model, with 64 GB, will cost yet another 100 dollars.

There’s another class of iPad2, however, with both WiFi and 3G connectivity. This series starts at 629 dollars, again with more memory increasing the price by 100 dollars each time.

You’ll want the WiFi + 3G model if you wish to connect the device to information sources both at home and while on the road.