THE HARDWAREThere's no denying it: compare the iPad 2 to any of the other tablets currently available, and the iPad 2 simply stands out. It feels very solid, doesn't flex, and I really have the idea that I'm holding something valuable, something worth its price. The Android tablets on display, on the other hand, felt plasticky, cheap, and overpriced because of it. As an ordinary customer - the mode I'm in when spending these amounts of my own money - there simply was no comparison.
Still, there are curious omissions as far as design and functionality go. I find it absolutely baffling that the iPad 2 doesn't come with a few rubber feet on its back - the MacBook Air has these very nice, flat rubber feet that would go very well with the iPad. Without them, you can't really lay the iPad 2 flat on its back without even the tiniest of particles causing scratches. I have the sneaking suspicion Apple omitted them due to style concerns - and let's face it, if you buy Apple, you'll have to accept their form-over-function approach in some areas.
Even though the iPad 2 sits among the lightest of the current crop of tablets, it's still too heavy. You can't hold it comfortably with one hand for longer than a few minutes without your arm and fingers getting sore. I guess this is the price you pay for buying into a relatively new market - I'm hoping these things will get lighter over time.
A weird complaint I never thought I would have is about the bezel. When the iPad was first unveiled, I found the large bezel distracting and ugly, but now that I actually own and regularly use one of these things, I actually find the bezel far too narrow. There simply isn't enough space to rest your fingers when holding the device, making the grip quite uncomfortable - especially when holding it with one hand. It continuously slips out of my hands because there isn't enough 'grip space' on the bezel.
There are also a few things which, while working just fine today, don't look particularly sturdy in the long term. The dock connector has been a continuous liability in my eyes, as it's too thin and too fragile. I've seen my share of damaged dock connectors, and I'm fairly confident the one on the iPad will become problematic as well.
I'm also not particularly confident that the slider switch (either to lock orientation or to mute it, depending on your preference) will hold out very long. This switch is a weak spot on 3G and 3GS iPhones, and the one on the iPad 2 doesn't exactly instil me with confidence either.
In summation - it feels solid and sturdy, but there's still room for improvement. Of course, whether or not the innards are any good is something only time will tell. Apple has a history of choosing cheap, sub-par components, so we'll have to wait and see how the iPad 2 holds up.
InCase's Apple's Smart Cover
One accessory that I really wanted to buy alongside the iPad 2 was Apple's Smart Cover, a clever screen protector that doubles as a stand or typing aid. While heralded as a major Apple innovation, it was of course a straight 1:1 rip-off of InCase's iPad 1 cover. The Smart Cover works fine, but does have some curious flaws.
Firstly, for something that costs Apple next to nothing to produce and next to nothing to steal from someone else, they're way overpriced: €40 for the regular one, €70 for the leather one. Laughably obvious money-grab.
Secondly, Apple claims it's covered with microfibre to keep the display clean, and while that's technically true, the designers made one major brain-dead mistake: the strips of microfibre between the metal segments don't actually touch the display. End result: you're always looking at three bands of smudge and dirt running from top to bottom. It's much more annoying than you'd think.
Thirdly, when the cover is opened and wrapped around the back, it doesn't fit very firmly, causing the iPad to slide from left to right on top of the cover. At the same time, the cover will bulge outward because it tries to wrap itself around the curved edges of the device. This makes the iPad+Smart Cover very uncomfortable to hold when 'opened'.
The final complaint is a small one: the red leather cover is not available outside of the United States. Boo. Instant update: they are available in the online store, as it turns out. Weird the Apple store guy didn't tell me.