Monday, April 5, 2010

Paradigm Shift: An iPad Review

The day finally arrived. April 3, 2010 marked the release date of Apple's latest device, the iPad.  Yes, I ordered one, I was really excited at the prospect of a true touch-screen based computer with an interface truly designed for touch.  Yes, the iPad runs the same operating system as the iPhone and the iPod touch (with some enhancements).  But more on that soon.
To begin with, the pictures. At around 10:30 am I received my delivery from UPS.  I immediately cut open the packaging and low and behold:

My iPad lay nestled snugly inside a perfectly sized cardboard box.

Opening the shrinkwrap and taking the lid off of the box I was immediately presented with my first glimpse of a real iPad:

The device itself felt delicate coming out of the box.  A large slab of aluminum and glass, it does feel like holding a work of art.  The attention to detail, from the feel of the few buttons on the top and sides, to the glossy plastic Apple logo on the back (in order to allow wireless signal through the otherwise solid aluminum back), the look of the iPad mirrors that of the MacBook and MacBook Pros.

The complete contents of the box; a small power adapter, usb cord, and the iPad itself.

Let me say, the iPad is smaller than I expected, but feels very big in terms of its transparency while using it.  Here is the iPad next to my MSI Wind, the netbook computer I bought a little over a year ago.

As you can see, the screen of the iPad is just little smaller than my Wind's screen (disregard brightness as the Wind has it's screen turned all the way down). But what's amazing is that the iPad is only as thick as the lid portion of the netbook.  An entire computer crammed into the space that a notebook needs for just its screen.

What about usability?  I've been using the iPad for a couple of days now, and the first thing I have to say is that a full-size touchscreen interface is far and away more intuitive than I could have ever expected.  I enjoy using the keyboard on the device and while I can't crank out the 80 words or so per minute I can do on a regular keyboard, my typing is considerably faster than when I type on my iPhone's screen (touch typing actually works!).

The built in browser is fantastic.  As other reviews on the internet have mentioned, the nicest aspect of the iPad is that when you use it, the interface disappears.  Today was the first day in a very long time that I didn't jump on my desktop first thing in the morning.  Usually I check news sites and Twitter via my iPhone or my Mac Mini, but today I found myself literally sitting on a couch and just browsing to my daily websites.  Touching a web browser is quickly becoming my preferred method of browsing.  While I like my iPhone for quick information, I'm not jumping for joy at the prospect of true browsing (that job has been made easier by dedicated apps for my favorite websites).  On the iPad, the need for specific apps for the blogs I read all the time (i.e., Engadget, TUAW, Lifehacker, etc.) is completely eliminated because the browser is just full-size all the time.  Pages render beautifully and I find myself trying to think of new sites to go to just to see how they look.

Beyond the browser I'm finding myself playing around with dozens of apps and marveling at how great they all look on this screen.  Yes, many computer have a higher resolution screen than the iPad, but the richness and range of colors on this screen make it easily one of the nicest I've ever seen.  So far I've used the Netflix app the most.  The ability to hold this tiny tablet and watch movies and tv instantly in bed has been really great.  I have a nice size TV in my room and love watching video on it, but when I'm lying back it's really great to just have this tiny 1.5lb device resting on my legs, generating no heat, and with a great speaker (it has bass!).  Other notable apps so far have been TWiTPad for viewing This Week in Tech (a technology news show), Twitteriffic, Pages - Apple's full featured word processor, New York Times and USA Today both have great newspaper apps, Words with Friends HD (Scrabble clone), Harbor Master (Ship navigation game), and SketchBook Pro.  This last one is probably the most interesting one of them all because the feature-set matches that of a $200+ graphics program on a desktop, but was only $8 for my iPad.  I'm still waiting for the delivery of my Pogo Sketch stylus so that I can do some serious drawing on my iPad, but as you'll see below, with Starry Night by Van Gogh as my inspiration, a finger can have some pretty fun results. (I spent maybe 15 minutes or so doodling with it)

I've had the iPad for 2 days, and quite honestly I already am seeing this as a complete replacement for my netbook, which I only use for a couple of things anyway; browsing, taking a small amount of notes for a class, and watching some Netflix movies.
Oh, and the battery life has been phenomenal.  I used it from 9 am this morning until now almost nonstop and still have over 50% battery.
Apple has a great device here, and I'm thrilled.

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