“Apple claims the new iPad 2 is significantly faster than the old version, but to get an idea of how much faster it really is, we ran a quick benchmark test on the new model in our brief hands-on time with it last night,” Jason Jenkins reports for CNET UK. “One quick caveat: the iPad 2 we saw may not have been entirely finished, so take these numbers with a pinch of salt, but you should be able to get a pretty good idea of where each device sits relative to the other.”

“The good news for anyone thinking of buying the iPad 2 is that it did incredibly well in the test, outperforming all the rivals we have in the building to compare with it. That includes the original iPad, which at first was nearly 4x slower to get through the test than the new version. The iPad 2 has a new, dual-core processor inside it which, at first glance, seems responsible for all of this extra speed,” Jenkins reports. “There is another factor here, however: the version of the operating system the iPad is running. The iPad 2 we tested last night was running the latest version of iOS, 4.3, which changes the way it deals with JavaScript to speed things up considerably.”

“This will be released to everyone with the old iPad, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS on 11 March, but we have a beta copy of the software now,” Jenkins reports. “Once we’d updated the software on our iPad 1, the gap between the two devices narrowed considerably, with the iPad 2 coming out at just 1.5x faster than the iPad 1.”

“The reason this matters is that the original iPads are now being heavily discounted, with Apple itself slashing £100 off the cost of all models,” Jenkins reports. “Our numbers indicate that — providing you’re mainly going to use the iPad for Web browsing rather than gaming or videoconferencing — that’s a pretty nifty deal, as the performance difference between the two is closer than Apple’s marketing might lead you to believe.”

Jenkins reports, “Incidentally, when you compare the iPad to the other devices we tested, Android phones and tablets don’t come out particularly well. The Galaxy Tab is more than 3x slower than the iPad 2 in this test, and about 2x slower than the original iPad with the new software. The Google Nexus S smart phone doesn’t fare too well either, at nearly 3x slower than the iPad 2. There’s really good news for iPhone 4 owners out there: When it arrives, iOS 4.3 will deliver a 2.5x speed increase in this test.”

Read more in the full article, including a graph showing the relative positions of each gadget with the actual numbers, here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Gilles” for the heads up.]