Review: iPad

We’ve had a few iPads at work since April, and one of them is presently assigned to me as I optimize our web viewer for the WiFi iPad and iPhone. While I’ve taken it home a few times to give it a whirl, our Memorial Day trip to Michigan was my first real serious time using it.  I decided to bring it with me instead of my laptop, just to see what it was like using it regularly. My experience was very pleasant.  Here are some random observations:

  • Unlike what I’ve grown to expect out of years of laptop and cell phone usage, the iPad’s battery seems to last forever.  I found myself hooking it up to power before going to sleep out of habit, not because I actually had to.
  • While I find myself being able to do quite a bit on my iPhone, the extra screen real-estate is crucial for certain tasks.  I never liked reading RSS feeds on my phone, but it was really pleasant on the iPad in NNW or Reeder.
  • I had accidentally bought a copy of “Anathem” when Amazon released their Kindle app for the iPhone (even though I already owned the print edition). This book is ~900 pages, which I always find intimidating and often choose smaller books when looking at my bookshelf.  Being able to carry a long book like that without dealing with the physical size of it was fantastic.
  • Furthermore, I used to think I liked really small print in the books I read.  It turns out that I think that was just an attempt to keep books physically smaller.  As soon as the physical size of the “book” was no longer bound to any of that, I jacked that type up.
  • Reading on the device was very pleasant.  The backlit screen made reading possible regardless of the room lighting, although outside reading might be difficult in the direct sun given the glossy screen. I was up at 1am reading silently in the living room with all the lights out.
  • I don’t understand complaints that the iPad is too heavy. It is certainly less heavy than my copy of Anathem and my laptop.  It is heavier than the Kindle, sure, but the Kindle is a one trick pony.  If you only care about that one trick, then that device is perfect for you.  But the iPad is closer to a general purpose computer than it is a eBook reader, so to compare it to one seems disingenuous.
  • The case that work bought kinda sucks.  A case which doubled as a stand might be nice for resting it on the tray table, etc.  That is just speculation, though.
  • Browsing the web by touch really is a different experience.  There is something strangely satisfying about being able to flick and zoom around the page, touching the links you wish to visit. Even though it seems like it should be a similar experience to the iPhone, the larger screen makes all the difference. That said, I think more thought has to be put into the overall UI of Safari. While the usual tab paradigm wouldn’t necessarily work on the iPad, having to switch to the tab “screen” kinda sucks.
  • The iPad will be a much more realistic light-laptop replacement when it gets the iOS 4 improvements like ‘multitasking’ and fast app switching.  Having had these on my iPhone for just a few days has completely changed the way I use the phone.  I suspect It will be even more pronounced on the iPad.

So my ultimate verdict is that it is a great tool and neat gadget.  But I think I will hold off purchasing one until the next generation.  I would love to see on of the new Retina Displays from the new iPhone 4 the size of an iPad, it would only improve the reading experience. I also am concerned about the limited RAM in the current iPad generation and the impact that will have on multitasking once the OS 4.0 upgrade is rolled out.  It also doesn’t hurt that I have nearly exclusive access to a ‘free’ iPad through work. The lust for one might be more intense if that were not the case.

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