We’ve heard rumors about the launch of the iPad 2 for awhile now, and finally, Apple has just released the first look today. Based on what we’ve seen so far, the improvements look to be worth the wait. Well, for those of you who had the patience and willpower to wait. Take a look at why we’re so excited.

Compared to the first generation iPad, the new version is the iPad we know and love, now on steroids, featuring the same amazing battery life, but with a much faster processor (a dual core A5 chip for you nerdy types) as well as a sleeker design–sort of reminiscent of an ebook at just about 33% thinner. And much to my own excitement, it has both front and rear cameras which look amazing, something that was definitely lacking in the first generation and an HDMI cable, letting you output video. Sweet!

It’ll be available in two colors–black and white–with service for both AT&T and Verizon users (whoo!). And I love their new “smart covers” which is a magnetic cover that keeps your screen protected and wakes up the iPad 2 when you pull it off. Designed alongside this new version, you can manipulate the cover into a stand as well.

And the best part, the pricing remains the same with the 16GB wifi-only option at $499 and will be available starting March 11. So, who’s going to watch my kids so I can wait in line? -Kristen

The iPad 2 will be available in the United States starting March 11. Get more info at Apple.com.