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.