The iPad Arrives – First Impressions

Apple iPad ImageI’ve had the iPad for just under a day and a half now, here are my impressions so far. Firs off, I never bought into Apple’s “a magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price” hype. That hasn’t changed, which isn’t a bad thing. I also think the surveys that ask “why did you, or will you, get an iPad” and list a bunch of line items miss the point, at least in my opinion. There’s probably a better choice, or will soon be a better choice, for each of those line items.

It was heavier than expected. Yea, I read the specs that said it was 1 1/2 pounds, but it feels heavier. It also feels solidly built but I’m not about to drop it to find out how solid. The screen also becomes a mess of fingerprints after a little. I mainly noticed this with the iPad off and the light hitting it just right. The fingerprints didn’t bother me while I was using it. Like the iPod Touch, the screen cleans right up. The one thing that did bother me was screen glare. At one point it was so bad I couldn’t watch the video. Most other times I just had to change the angle a bit.

I had a chance to watch several hours of video on the iPad this weekend although I don’t expect video to be a big usage for me. In this case it was video I’d ripped from DVD. Syncing to the iPad was painfully slow (so is syncing to my iPod Touch). It did tell me that there was some video that wasn’t synced because it couldn’t be played on the iPad. This was video that plays OK on my Apple TV. I haven’t had a chance to look into it yet. I also didn’t try the iTunes option to convert to an iPad compatible format.

Setting up wireless networking was straight forward, It connected to my Wireless N network which is an Apple Airport Extreme. It also connected just fine to a Verizon Wireless MiFi although I didn’t get to use the MiFi very long.

There are people who say the iPad will be a Kindle killer. Well, if the Kindle is a platform to sell books for Amazon, rather than a physical device, then the iPad is a Kindle helper. I spent more on Kindle books this weekend than I did for iPad apps. The Kindle’s e-ink just doesn’t cut it for books heavy on code samples, graphics or photos. At least the small one doesn’t cut it. Maybe the larger Kindle DX is better. While they’re readable on the PC or Mac with the Kindle App, I didn’t want to be tied to a computer screen. So I’ve added a few reference books to the Kindle library. It’ll be helpful to be able to pull up the computer reference books while on the computer and not have to flip back and forth between apps. I can read Kindle books on any computer, my Kindle (of course) and now my iPad. My iPod Touch can handle them too, but I won’t do a lot of reading on that small screen. (Still, nice to have the option.)

I did do about 20 minutes of reading on the iPad without feeling any eyestrain. Still, the screen is bright and if it’s inverted to white on black then the text is bright and most pictures look like negatives. For extended book reading I’ll probably stick to the Kindle, even though it requires external lighting.

It’ll be the Apps that make or break the Kindle for me. The extra screen real estate should come in handy. In addition to running the apps that ran on my iPod Touch I added the following iPad apps:

Book Apps: Marvel Comics – I’m not a comics reader, but this app could turn me into one. The app is free and there’s a couple comics available for free to try it out. Kindle – I already mentioned this one. iBook – I gave the sample book a spin. Nothing about it would make me leave the Kindle ecosystem. InstaPaper Pro – was a fixture on my Touch and now it’s universal and takes advantage of the iPad.

News Apps: USA Today – Their website drove me away long ago, but the app organizes the news nicely. It is USA Today so there’s not a lot of in depth reporting. NPR for iPad – This is an iPad specific version of their app. I liked the iPod Touch app but haven’t had much time with this one. BBC News – Integrates web articles, video and radio. AP News – nice looking app for AP news. These apps seemed to all cache articles when connected as I was able to read some without a wireless connection.

Productivity: Evernote – another fixture from my Touch that’s been updated for the iPad. Bento – A database app I avoided because it’s Mac specific. But I gave in since I had a couple uses. Nice app that’s implemented nicely on the iPad. It’s a low cost app so this may not be much of a downside, but if you want it for multiple platforms you pay for each version. I suspect the iPhone version would work on the iPad but that seems like it would be a waste of space using a small piece of the screen.

Games & Entertainment: Civilization Revolution for the iPad – I kicked my Civ addiction a long time ago but gave it and got it for the iPad. NetFlix – Netflix released an app to stream videos. I gave it a try and found it a bit buggy but usable. Somehow I got two videos streaming at the same time. Well, one picture, two sound tracks.

There’s been complaints that the screen isn’t is a widescreen aspect ratio. I didn’t find it very annoying. I think the 4:3 aspect ratio helps in portrait mode and gives the iPad better balance than if it was 16:9. The widescreen video looked OK, but yea, there are bars at the top and bottom. There’s also the option to fill the screen top to bottom and crop out the extra on each side.

Overall I’m happy with the iPad. I’ll be using it around the house mostly. It’ll replace my netbook in a lot of cases which says more about what I use the netbook for rather than what the iPad can do. It’ll be easy to grab the iPad and check something on the Internet, check my email or check something in one of the apps. I’ve yet to try any serious typing but I found the keyboard better than I expected. Since I’m not a touch typist I don’t miss the lack of physical keys as much as a touch typist would.Still, I expect to pull out the netbook if I plan to do a lot of typing.

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