Early reviews of "new" iPad: "Stunning" retina display, "really zippy" 4G speedThe first reviews of the iPad 3—ahem, the new iPad—are in. The overall verdict? Get ready for a “spectacular,” “dramatically better” display, plus “zippy” 4G data speeds.

But here’s the burning question: do you really need the latest iPad if you’ve already got the iPad 2?

Of course, the initial reviews of the latest iPad (which lands in stores March 16, starting at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only version) weren’t completely positive.

Among the nitpicks: a slightly thicker and heavier shell; no Siri, the voice-activated “assistant” that debuted on the iPhone 4S; and no revolutionary new features that demand an upgrade from last year’s iPad.

So, what about this new, high-resolution “retina” display we’ve been hearing so much about? Well, expect to be amazed at the difference, writes USA Today’s Ed Baig:

Examine the new screen side-by-side with one of its near-10-inch predecessors, and you’ll swear you just had Lasik surgery. Text on Web pages or in books is so crisp and sharp that you don’t want to go back to reading on an older iPad. Movies and photographs reveal rich detail.

Also winning raves is the iPad’s new support for speedy 4G LTE data networks, with Joshua Topolsky of tech blog The Verge writing:

On the data side of things, at least on Verizon’s LTE network, this thing (unsurprisingly) screams. If you own a Verizon 4G phone, or know what they’re capable of, then you’ll get the gist of what the new iPad can do. Actually, the iPad seemed faster to me then many phones I’ve tested.

Of course, something had to give to accommodate the iPad’s “stunning” new display and “zippy” 4G speeds, while still maintaining the same battery life (about 10 hours, or 9 hours when connected to 4G data networks): namely, size and weight, writes the New York Times’s David Pogue:

The new iPad is one millimeter thicker, and 1.8 ounces heavier, than the iPad 2. It’s a very slight difference, but fingers used to handling the old iPad will feel it, and that’s too bad.

So, is the new iPad a must-buy? That depends on whether you already own an iPad 2, concludes Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal:

If you already own an iPad 2, and like it, you shouldn’t feel like you have to rush out to buy the new one. However, for those who use their iPads as their main e-readers, and those who use it frequently while away from Wi-Fi coverage, this new model could make a big difference.

As for me, I’ll be getting my own “new” iPad delivered to my doorstep on Friday, so stand by for my initial impressions.

The new iPad (Apple has made a point of not calling it the iPad 3) goes on sale Friday, March 16, but good luck getting it on launch day unless you’ve already pre-ordered one. Apple’s initial shipment has already sold out, and those who order online now can expect to wait two to three weeks before getting their new toy.

Another options is to camp out in front of an Apple store or queue up at an Apple-authorized retailer (doors will open at 8 a.m. Friday). If you really want to walk away with a new iPad, though, plan on lining up early—very early.

Have any questions about the new iPad? Let me know!