Top of the form-factor
Notebooks and netbooks sit on your knee, on a desk, a table, or some other surface. Tablets don't. They're intended to be held, and if you feel the need to put it down after a few minutes, a tablet has failed as a mobile device. That's one reason why old-style Tablet PCs never took off.
Now more comfortable to carry and to hold
The iPad showed how it could be, and the iPad 2 shows how it should be. Yes, the new one is a bit lighter than the original, but that's only a contribution to its greater sense of pick up and use.
The big change is the design of the casing. Apple has rounded off all of the first iPad's flat, angle-cut edges and they're now a third of the width they were before. The back of the device curves less shallowly than the last one to form a flat face that's better if you do want to set the iPad 2 down, screen up.
In all, the the iPad 2 is much easier to pick up and hold in one hand as you might a magazine or a book. More angular tablets, such as the 7in Galaxy Tab, the as-yet-unreleased BlackBerry PlayBook seem downright boxy in comparison.
Magnets and miracles: the Smart Cover
One of the most innovative aspects if the iPad 2 is actually an accessory. Apple's Smart Cover is just that: a cover and a genius example of engineering. I tried the plastic SC, but you can get leather ones too. The hinged mount is a skinny curve of metal, but the magnets built into the tablet lock it tightly into place.
Opening and closing the cover doesn't loosen the grip in any way - it feels like it's built in. More magnets hold the cover closed. Its sensors tell the iPad to activate its screen when you pull the cover back - and to switch of the backlight when you close it.
It does indeed roll up in sections to angle the tablet for typing or video viewing, yet it folds flat against the back of the gadget unobtrusively - essential when you're holding the iPad in your hand.
At £35 the iPad 2 Smart Cover isn't ridiculously expensive, and simply as a low-profile screen protector, it's hard to beat.
Next page: Dangerous curves
Cue "but...but...but!" speech from fandroids
No I don't have a tablet. Watching the two fanboi camps slinging mud at each other is amusement enough, and it's free!
I agree with an earlier poster unless you have used one it is difficult to say what will I use it for. I love technology and took a punt and bought an ipad late last year and for me it has been a game changer. I have worked in IT as a Unix sys admin for 20 years now and at long last I am actually in the paperless office, the ipad comes to meetings with me, i display presentations, docs etc on it and write notes, both typing and with one of the pens you can buy in an app called noteshelf. I really didn't expect this to happen, but I have sold my old sony laptop which was a great piece of kit but to be honest was never truly mobile, it had all the connections I thought I would need, sd card. usb etc but never actually used and all my true mobile needs are met by the device and access to dropbox and other online storage
Would like to try an android device but lets all be honest with one another there isnt one out there worth buying yet (and I meet yet I am sure they will come)
And I'll get flamed for trying to answer the question. It's use cant really be explained, you just have to live with one for a while to really get it.
Just look at all the comments, people who don't have them hate them, people who do love them, it's all there between the lines.
the 3.5mm jack
Yes, the semi-exposed jack does look odd.
But the alternative you suggest (sinking it further in) would constrain the different types of jack that could plug in - the jack on my Sennheisers has a 1/4-inch adaptor, and the plastic boot at the back of the 3.5mm jack goes flush with that. Do Apple want a 1/4-inch cut-out in their shiny bevel?
Despite what many will probably say, I think this is a nice bit of kit. I've used the original iPad and it is very nice. For most people browsing, emails and looking at pictures is all they'll use it for, so it fits the bill nicely. So do others, but not as well as this :)
If I had the cash I'd buy one.