Pop your iPad into the bottom of the Smart Case, and flexible rubberized edges form a secure fit while exposing most of the iPad's front glass. The case adds extra bezel around the edges, makes the iPad seem wider and a bit larger than before. Hand-held typing in portrait mode feels a tiny bit awkward, but for reading and for viewing media, especially one-handed (I ride a subway to work), it offers a comfy grip. Maybe it's the way the case handles weight distribution, but the iPad feels lighter to hold when in the Smart Case than when using a Smart Cover and a third-party back shell. It feels comfortable with the cover folded back, too.
The cover's a bit challenging to open, which some may not like. Just like in the original iPad case, the top cover nestles into the base when folded down, protecting the screen better but making the cover harder to lift casually. I found myself having to use a fingernail.
Compared with the original Smart Cover, the Smart Case doesn't work so well in other orientations. When folding the top lid back for keyboard mode, the way the flap hinge rests causes the iPad to ride lower than with a Smart Cover, and the extra bezel makes reaching the keys feel a little different. It works, but it takes getting used to. You can also stand the iPad up in landscape picture-frame mode, but I wouldn't recommend it. My third-gen iPad didn't feel solidly balanced that way -- not nearly as sturdy as a iPad with a Smart Cover in the same position.
The Smart Case is best viewed as a comfortable, all-around basic folio case. At $50, it's not outrageously priced, especially when you consider that a Smart Cover plus a third-party back cover would cost at least as much, and probably more.
I consider the Apple Smart Case a throwback case rather than something progressive. But if you liked Apple's original iPad case, or just want a little more protection, this is a throwback you'll be happy to have.