Make no mistake, the iPad 2 is one very skinny tablet. It's obvious the amount of effort Apple has put into reducing what was already a pretty slender slate to a ridiculously thin slice of iOS goodness; the 8.8mm body - thinner than an iPhone 4, don't forget - should feel delicate, you worry, but the metal chassis still feels sturdy and the whole thing is flex-free.
Thanks to the new 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 processor and the latest version of iOS, 4.3, the whole thing feels quicker and smoother than the original iPad. Still, we should notice the improvement more when the iPad 2 starts getting loaded down with apps; the iPad was never a slouch when it came to gaming, and the new model will only improve that.
Apps open quickly and screen rotation is snappy; we appreciate being able to lock it again with the side-switch, a new addition to iOS 4.3. Despite concerns that a white bezel might be distracting from the screen, the white iPad 2 is actually surprisingly usable: it feels a lot more like a pad of paper, and should be popular with those who primarily use their tablet for reading ebooks.
The Smart Covers work just as Steve Jobs described, clicking into place instantly and proving surprisingly sturdy in the magnetic grip. The polyurethane versions may be cheap - at $39 each - but they don't feel that way, and they're lighter than the original iPad case too. The automatic sleep functionality works just like a BlackBerry holster, and adds to the feeling of the iPad 2 being a magical book that's always ready and waiting for you when you need it.
All in all, while there isn't the huge resolution change many hoped for, and iOS 4.3 offers much the same as before, the overall usability feels significantly improved. Simply being able to hold the iPad 2 more easily with one hand makes a big difference, and the lighter chassis and dual-core CPU will make for a more instantaneous user-experience. We're definitely excited to get our hands on an iPad 2 for a longer review period, but until then check out the hands on gallery below.