First Look: Apple's iPad 2
Out of the box
Identified simply as "iPad" on the box, the new version is packaged with a USB Dock connector cable, a 10 watt USB wall adapter, Apple stickers, regulatory information and a user guide that consists of a card: one side depicting the buttons and connectors, the other side explaining how to plug it into iTunes.
The 3G UMTS version of the new iPad also include a simple tool for popping the SIM card out.
Design compared with the original
The new model has a thinner body with a tapered edges, rather than the square wall edge of the original. This makes it more comfortable to hold in the hand, in concert with its significantly lighter weight.
On page 2 of 3: Sporty handling through tight corners; Face down, as up.
The rounded edges mean that the Dock connector and headphone jack both leave an exposed edge of the jack exposed, but they're still compatible with standard headphones and Dock connector cables, even the original iPad Dock, despite the new shape.
While the exposed margin looks a little alarming, both headphone jacks and Dock connector cables plug deeply enough into the unit to prevent either from extorting a significant risk of bending.
Even the partially exposed Dock connector cable (middle photo, below) exhibits no tendency to pry upward and bust off the delicate internal connector, largely because the edge of the connector fits into the port enough to offset the force of any leverage.
There's also no play or looseness evident when using Docks designed for the original iPad.
The speaker grille has has also been updated to fit the slim new profile. The wake button, volume controls and screen orientation/mute switch are also integrated into the rounded edge, and have a natural, comfortable feel that appears more than capable of handling normal wear and tear.
Face down, as up
Face down, the new iPad looks to be about the same thickness as the square edge of the previous model (and iPhone 4), but its actually considerably thinner, as is evident from the slant of the phone when laid across the back of both models.
Laying on their backs, the difference in thickness is even more pronounced, with the original model appearing to levitate— or beginning where the new model stops. The thin new body doesn't feel fragile or flexible, however. It's rigid and solid, with no flex at all, tight seams, and a substantial feel, despite being light enough to lack the fatigue-inducing weight of the original model when held like a book for extended periods.
On page 3 of 3: Smarter cover; Stand up, lie down.
Just as with the previous iPad, Apple has created a cover designed to protect and position it in either a tall or flat orientation. The new Smart Covers, profiled in detail earlier, are a nice improvement over the previous design.
The $39.99 polyurethane or $69.99 leather, magnetically retained iPad 2 Smart Covers ship in a retail package that doesn't require scissors to open. Instead, there's an adhesive-backed tab that holds the cardboard back of the box to its clear plastic front.
Unlike the original iPad's cover, the new Smart Cover doesn't add a lot of bulk or cover up the iPad's design; instead, it augments it with a tailor-made finish that snaps into place instantly, and peels back (or even off) just as effortlessly.
Apart from looking sharper and contributing toward a thin, clean appearance, the new Smart Covers are available in a broader range of colors and two finishes: a cheaper polyurethane (blue, green, orange, pink and grey) or a more luxurious "aniline-dyed Italian leather" (cream, tan, black, dark blue and red).
While the new Smart Covers don't "protect" the back, that's partly a feature, as the metal rear of the iPad should hold up to normal use without much scuffing (unlike the polished rear of most iPod models), so you won't need to deal with any extra thickness or the need to peel a more complex cover off of the unit to plug in adapters or docks. It was particularly annoying that the original iPad's cover couldn't remain on when plugging into the Dock designed for it.
Stand up, lie down
Rolled up into a triangle behind the unit, the new Smart Cover offers a more stable, hands free way to watch movies or play games; you can poke at the screen without knocking it over. The previous cover supported a similar configuration, but it required folding the back into a slot, and resulted in a rounded base that didn't confidently hold the iPad up very straight.
With the folded up triangle under the top edge laying down, the new cover presents a similarly solid typing surface, with less springy bounce compared to the previous design. It's quite solid, requiring a forceful push to dislodge the the back magnets from the iPad.
The self positioning nature of the Smart Cover works perfectly, and it does not appear likely that the metal strip that connects it to the iPad's edge will scratch or scuff the back. It's also clever that closing the cover automatically puts the device to sleep, and that opening it both turns it on and unlocks the screen (unless you have a security passcode set).
The cover peels up just like a paper back book. It feels a bit heavy to dangle open like the cover a magazine while using (imagine a magazine with a thin, segmented cardboard cover), but you can wrap it around back while using it. The Smart Cover doesn't stick the the back, but it does conveniently fold flat in half under your holding hand, virtually disappearing until you want to fold it back shut. Folded open this way, the cover also leaves the rear camera exposed for shooting video.
While the soft inside lining might prevent lots of dust from accumulating, it doesn't really clean the screen when you open and close it; the very shiny screen still requires a regular wipe to control the fingerprints and specs of dust, but unlike the previous cover, it's very easy to wipe the screen clean corner to corner without running into the cover's edges.
A more in-depth review of the new iPad will take a look at its unique software features and revised internals.