After weeks of rumors and speculation, the long-awaited iPad 2 is here. Apple’s new tablet was revealed on Wednesday by Steve Jobs at an invitation-only event in San Francisco.

The iPad 2 is lighter, thinner and faster than the original but will retain the same pricing structure, with the base model beginning at $499.

The dual-core 1Ghz A5 processor has effectively doubled CPU performance on the iPad 2, with graphics performance reported to be up to 9x better than the original iPad. With its low power consumption, the iPad 2 still manages 10 hours of battery life on a single charge.

The new iPad has the same screen size as its predecessor (9.7 inch), but 4.6mm has been shaved off the thickness of the original – the iPad 2 comes in at a super-slim 8.8mm and weighs 0.2 pounds less.  To the disappointment of many, the iPad 2 display has not received the same ‘retina’ treatment as the iPhone 4 and still features a 1024-by-768-pixel resolution (132 pixels per inch).

As expected, front and rear cameras have been included in the iPad 2.  The rear camera is capable of recording 720p video at 30 fps, while the front camera is “VGA” quality (640×480), suitable for FaceTime video calling, as well as still photography.

As with the iPhone 4, the iPad 2 has received a 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope which will provide new opportunities for game and app developers.

The iPad 2 is scheduled to ship on March 11th.