With the Consumer Electronics Show merely a day away, Silicon Valley’s worst-kept secret – the purported ‘iPad 3’ – is the gadget on everyone’s lips.

The rumor mill has been in overdrive for some weeks now, with some reckoning Apple to break the habit of a lifetime by releasing a low-end model to accompany its third tablet installment. Such an eventuality seems largely unlikely though, with the conflicting story of the iPad 2 taking the entry-level label seeming a tad more plausible.

Blogs have been busily reigniting different stories, but in terms of spec, the Retina display – strangely absent from the iPad 2 – has been the only real guarantee-er. iLounge, claiming to have caught a glimpse of what’s in store, sheds even more light on what the fruit company will and won’t be including with the iPad 3.

Yesterday, one day ahead of the 2012 CES, I saw what’s supposedly the next-generation iPad. I’d show you a picture, but there’s honestly nothing to be seen. Think iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S: this device so resembles the iPad 2 that differences are only obvious when they’re placed next to each other.

Tying in with much of the speculation from the past week, the next iPad will be a tidbit thicker than the current iPad 2 measuring an almost unnoticeable 1mm thickness. Apparently, the entire design is almost identical to the iPad 2, with editor Jeremy Horwitz adding: “you could walk past this new iPad on display and have no idea that anything had changed.”

Such revelations certainly bode well for accessory owners, whom can often fork out a small fortune for cases and docks. In fact, only cases made with utmost precision will not fit on the new iPad.

An improved camera also joins the Retina display as a fairly certain feature. After persevering with sub-par cameras for the last couple of years, iPad users will now get a snap-shot experience worthy of the price, bringing it on par with the wonderfully crisp images taken on the iPhone. It’s unknown whether the new camera is the 5-megapixel one of the iPhone 4 or the 8-megapixel cam found on the iPhone 4S. Either way, we reckon any tech/photography enthusiast will be pretty stoked to be rid of the grainy VGA-esque capabilities hitherto. On the downside, there doesn’t look to be a flash, which is disappointing – but manageable.

The changes are reflective of those made in the Cupertino company’s smartphone division, fuelling speculation that the next version will be called the ‘iPad 2S’ or ‘iPad 2HD’. With Siri reportedly being prepped for iPad use, we would go as far as to say an iPad 2S is the most likely prospect just now.

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