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iPad: My Review

There are a ton of iPad reviews out there right now, but I thought I’d go ahead and add my thoughts into the mix.  If nothing else, this will serve to get all of my thoughts about the iPad in the same place.

If you want the quick version:  I love it.  Absolutely, positively love it.  There are good and bad things about the device, but overall this device is simply awesome.

Now for the long version.  :)   Let’s start with the good.  The iPad is definitely speedy compared to a iPhone, and good in comparison to a full blown computer.  Moving from one application to another is quick, and speaking of applications there are well over three thousand apps available for the iPad right now.  That’s three thousand iPad apps, i.e. that doesn’t count the 150,000 iPhone apps that will run just fine on it.  Before I even had the iPad at home I was able to download and prep a bunch of new apps to put on there, from updates to current apps I use to completely new ones.

Some of the updated apps include the IMBD app and the NPR app.  Those both got serious updates that improve their functionality, especially NPR’s.  Some of the new apps are just so-so right now, generally better than their iPhone counterparts but not stunning….yet.  A few of the apps, though…. wow.  Both Pages and Numbers, two apps that came from apple for word processing and spreadsheets respectively, run fantastically and are nearly complete applications in comparison to their desktop counterparts.  There is no doubt in my mind that I could prepare whole documents, spreadsheets, and presentations right on the iPad without ever having to touch a “real” computer.

As for the iBooks app and the other 1st party Apple apps, I was stunned.  iBooks made my old Kindle seem like a piece of ancient technology.  Seriously.  It was like the difference between an old computer running off of 5 1/2″ floppies and a actual computer running Windows XP.  OK, maybe notthat bad, but there were a lot of differences.  The words are crisp and clear, the two panel like-a-book reading style (when in landscape) is excellent, the fully color touch screen made working with the book smooth, and the speed….  oh, my, it’s fast.  Page turns on my Kindle didn’t seem too bad until I used this.  I tap the screen and I’m on the next page in a instant.  With the Kindle, you have click and then wait a few seconds before the screen refreshes.  Not terrible, but when you consider how often you turn a page it adds up.

And for media, email, and the web, this is the best portable device I’ve ever used.  A full on laptop has the benefit of more media encoders (like flash, if needed), but with the iPad I can sit anywhere and use it without a mouse or keyboard.  That’s the real stunner about web surfing and such: you just use touches and gestures.  And because the iPad is fast I was finding that looking something up took just a few taps and I was there.  I could do that on a laptop, true, but the form factor and size and stuff means that I can use the iPad wherever or however I want.  It’s like using something out of Star Trek.

But as great as everything is, the iPad is not perfect.  The screen is subject to smudges; it’s true that while the iPad is on you won’t notice them unless they are really bad, but with it off you really wonder how all that gunk got on your hands.  The weight does make it feel nice, like holding a hardcover book, but like a hardcover book it will eventually get uncomfortable to hold and you’ll eventually have to rest it on your lap or a table or something.  That’s not really a terrible thing, but the iPad does feel “heavy”.

With regards to the e-reader functionality, the Kindle does have one advantage:  battery life.  I could read for a week on my Kindle because the e-ink display used so little power.  The iPad, however, can only last about 10 hours under constant use.  I don’t consider this to be that bad, though, because even when I sit down to read I normally am only reading for a hour or two.  And given the iPad’s other functionality, I’m going to be recharging it on a regular basis anyway.

As for the 3rd party apps, Apple’s desire for secrecy and stuff rather hurt them.  The iPad was announced only a couple months ago, giving developers little time to really design and test new iPad apps.  As mentioned above, a lot of apps are currently available.  Unfortunately, a lot of them are missing features or have bugs.  This is due in part to the short amount of development time, but it’s mainly due to the fact that the majority of developers didn’t have a actual iPad to test their applications with/on.  A few of the big shot companies had one, but for the most part the developers could only test on a emulator, and all of them will tell you testing on a emulator is nothing like actually testing on the iPad itself.

Space is currently an issue, but that’s my own fault for getting the 16GB version.  HD takes up a chunk of space, but to be truthful I don’t have to put shows in HD on there.  ::shrug::   Also, as pointed out elsewhere, the iPad actually makes my old iPhone apps look old and dated.  You can use most all of the old iPhone apps on the iPad, but I find myself avoiding them whenever I can and hoping for a iPad compatible update.

And finally, there are a few things missing that I would have liked, such as multitasking.  True multitasking I don’t need, but I do wish it would save the state of my installed app, i.e. if I’m writing something in Pages and I want to look up something in Safari, Pages has to be completely closed while I’m looking the stuff up and then subsequently completely reopened.  While not actually terrible, it could be a bit annoying when working on a document or spreadsheet.

Also, while I completely agree with not having a physical keyboard (I don’t know what people are griping about; the physical keyboards on netbooks and smaller devices are a absolute nightmare to use and just take up space, and the iPad’s on-screen keyboard works well for what it is), I wish purchasing a external keyboard for the iPad weren’t so expensive.  There are only two choices right now:  you either purchase the keyboard dock for $70 which will limit you to portrait-style typing only, or you can purchase a Bluetooth keyboard from Apple, which will cost also cost you about $70.  The plus side to a Bluetooth keyboard is that you can at least use it with another device if you like, as well as being able to use the iPad in landscape or portrait while typing.  Technically you could get a Bluetooth keyboard from another manufacturer, but Apple is currently the only one that I know of with special buttons designed just for Apple products.

All-in-all, though, the iPad is a excellent device.  While it doesn’t have the power or functionality of a full laptop or computer, it’s not supposed to.  The iPad is what it is, a bridge between small devices like the iPhone and a full blown computer/laptop.  It can do a lot of things, and do them excellently.  As a e-book reader, none can compare.  For media, email, web, news, social stuff (Twitter/Facebook/etc.), gaming, basic tasks and etc., it’s fantastic.  I can even administer my servers from it.  Can it do everything my computer can?  No.  But for 90% of what I do on a computer outside of work, the iPad will do it, and do it well.