I'll leave a little mystery for you: I won't tell you exactly what we did to the iPad in our first-ever Always On torture test, but generally speaking, we tried to simulate some of the toughest tests that real life throws at our devices, like say, when we leave them in cars in inclement weather, or they fall, or ... well, darnit, now I'm verging on spoiling the tests.
What I'm trying to say, though, is that we weren't just stunt joyriding by shoving the iPad in an ice chest -- darnit! And I think there were times when it hurt me more than it hurt the iPad! That said, I think I can safely say that our $500 was well spent on this device.
Obviously, your mileage may vary. Interestingly, the idea for starting with the iPad came from a conversation I had with CNET Reviews Editor in Chief Lindsey Turrentine, who told me her story about simply laying in bed reading her third-generation iPad and having it fall forward, hit her wedding ring, and crack on impact. So, I was sure the iPad wouldn't make it past even the most light-touch drop tests. (Darnit!) And yet, here it sits, none the worse for wear other than a dead battery.