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Gadgets

iPad First Impression – The Condensed Version

Apple iPad ImageI wrote a rather long winded first impression of my new iPad. This is a condensed version written after a nights sleep.

  • With the screen hype I expected to turn on the iPad and exclaim “It’s Gorgeous!”. Instead I thought “It’s an iPad 2”. The screen is certainly nice, but as an daily iPad 2 user it was only noticeably better when I displayed them side-by-side. Someone who does a lot of video or photos would probably feel different about this.
  • Verizon LTE was faster and a better internet experience than I expected. I had tried an LTE phone a while back and was not impressed. See my twitter feed for some speed test screenshots.
  • The iPad does not feel faster. I had to find my most intensive app and do some side by side comparisons. Obviously the iPad is more powerful and has faster hardware (it needs it to push those pixels around), I’m just saying I have to stretch to find a performance difference for what I do today.

This is based on how good the iPad 2 is and the way I use it (little photo or video)

Buyer’s remorse? Not really. I’m a fanboy and it is better. I suspect Verizon LTE will be a regular subscription on my iPad rather than the twice a year event that AT&T was. That makes up for the overblown expectations I had with the screen.

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Gadgets

First Impressions: iPad

Apple iPad ImageMy new iPad arrived today. I already admitted I’m an iPad fanboy and pre-ordered it sight-unseen. So was it worth it? This is a completely self-centered recap of my first impressions. I’m not going to attempt a review, Google will provide links to plenty of those.

The Screen

The new screen was my primary reason for getting the upgrade. I’m not a pixel peeper so I really only care how it looks in day to day use.  The first thing I noticed is that the screen doesn’t seem as bright as the iPad 2. I mean this in a good way. It’s kind of like the vivid and movie mode presets on TV’s. Retailers have it set to vivid because people seem to like it better at first glance (so I’m told), but movie mode is better on the eyes actually watching TV. I never considered the iPad 2 as being too bright, but I immediately noticed the new iPad was more pleasing and seemed to have better color range. When I compared them side by side I saw the new iPad wasn’t as bright when set to the same brightness settings. I suspect this will make it better for long term viewing. I rarely read at length on the iPad. That may change now.

I mainly use productivity apps (not a lot of large pictures or video). When i run them on the new iPad they look nice enough but it wasn’t a noticeable difference, even for ones that were updated for the new iPad. But then I put old and new side by side and there is a noticeable difference in clarity. The new iPad just looks sharper. Instapaper looks better and I use it to read a lot, but this isn’t a fair comparison because the upgrade that included retina support also included new fonts.

I don’t have any HD video that can be played on the iPad so I looked at my existing video, both my own encodes and some from Apple. As expected there’s no significant difference since it’s the same video. I do think the new iPad seemed to have a little more clarity to the colors and everything looked better. Again, it’s more noticeable when played side-by-side.

I’m not a fan of iTunes video but I did find some free 1080p content to give a try. And this was clearly a better viewing experience. Still, I don’t see this as a big benefit. iTunes HD content has a relatively small file size but I dislike the DRM and other restrictions. If I’m going to pay HD prices I don’t want the restrictions. I can’t play the HD video on my Mac because the display doesn’t have HDCP which the content providers force Apple (and others) to require for HD playback. So it’s either iPad only viewing, standard def, or I buy and Apple TV. None are choices I like. It’ll be interesting to see if I mellow and give in over time and start getting some videos.

Photos are significantly better on the new iPad. But again, I didn’t typically have photos on my iPad 2 so it’s not a use case for me. But I did some comparisons and they are sharper and have more color depth. Interestingly I hadn’t sold my original iPad and I do use that one for photo more frequently. One thing I noticed is that the double-tap to zoom on a photo zoomed more. On the old iPad it seemed to double the size. On the new iPad it seems to quadruple the size.

The apps I use that I really would like to see get graphic improvements haven’t be updated for the new iPad – National geographic, a couple comic book apps and a couple games. So the jury is still out on how much I’ll benefit from the new screen, But it will only help.

Performance

There’s been a noticeable improvement in screen scrolling. Especially when I consider the screen display keeps up with all but the fastest scrolling.

Bento is the most resource intensive app I run on the iPad. There was a noticeable difference when I went from iPad 1 to iPad 2. Bento doesn’t seem any snappier on the new iPad than it was on the iPad 2. Maybe a little faster at times, but still a lag as I go from record to record. Searches also seem a tad faster. I don’t consider the difference significant and what I do see may be more wishful thinking than reality. I’m not saying it’s slow, just not faster than the iPad 2.

I’ve only been using it for a few hours so I may see more of a difference when I use it for real work and have more apps open. But so far app start-up and switching isn’t faster, at least that I notice.

The iPad 2 never got warm for me. The new iPad has gotten warm enough to notice. It’s not hot, but there was a temperture increase while watching video and after extended use. Never happened on the iPad 2.

Verizon

One of the reasons I upgraded to the iPad 2 was to get the 3G model. I picket AT&T at that time to get some variety in my telcos, my phone is AT&T. I’m no fan of any telco but AT&T has always been at the bottom of my list. I took this opportunity to switch to Verizon even though I didn’t have any particular problem with AT&T.

I like that the plan is pay as you go. There’s only a couple times a year when I use it, but I really like the convenience of being able to grab the iPad and be online, I do have the hotspot on my iPhone and use that with several devices. But the iPad’s hotspot may be a viable replacement, at least while Verizon keeps the hotspot option free. I do always have the phone with me but my laptop is typically the only other device I use the hotspot with And while I may not always have the iPad with me, I typically have it when I have the laptop on the road.

I did buy a data plan for a month to try it out. My “Personal Hotpot” selection didn’t appear on the main settings page. After waiting a bit I went into General -> Network -> Personal Hotpot and was able to activate it there. Then it appeared on the main settings page. I found the default password to be a little too boilerplate. Seemed like only the last 4 numbers would change. I usually change defaults anyway but would recommend it especially in this case.

I did get a LTE connection. I’m on the edge of a coverage area and the last time I tried an LTE phone at my house it didn’t get an LTE connection. Maybe things got better, maybe that phone sucked, maybe the iPad is better. The speedtest.net app tell be I get 37.09Mbps down and 6.96 Mbps up. The download speed is fairly consistent. The upload speed has been as low as 0.43 Mbps but was usually above 6 Mbps. Over my home wireless (and Comcast ISP) it tells e I get 30.07 Mbps up and 5.82 Mbps down. By comparison a 3G connection tests at 2.12 Mbps up and 0.88 Mbps down. All these tests were done within a 30 minute period.

I did some real world downloads. I don’t want to burn through my data allowance so I picked a 89 MB file from download.com using my MacBook Air. Using my wireless connection and Comcast I get a fairly consistent 1.3MB/sec. Use the LTE hotspot I got as high as 1.5MB/sec in one test but the rest of the downloads (out of 4) were about 450KB/sec. Browsing and video were fluid over the LTE hotspot.

Wrapping Up

Was it worth it? I’m not returning it and that is still an option. I’ll wait a couple days before sending the iPad 2 to Gazelle but I’m 95% sure I’ll keep it. But it’s not a slam dunk upgrade form an iPad 2. Hopefully Verizon will keep the hotspot free for several months, but even so the data plans are considerably more than the cost of using my iPhone as a hotspot. At least with my typical data usage I can get by with a plan that keeps my cost about level.

The much lauded screen is nice, no doubt. Whether or not it’s worth the cost of an upgrade is subjective. Time will tell if I start reading or watching video on the new iPad more. Forget the specs, things look better on the screen, even text and standard def video. The colors just look better and text looks crisper.

Whether or not it was worth the cost probably depends on whether or not I use it more. Will I read more with the better screen? Getting me off a Kindle e-ink reader for extended sessions of plain text reading will be tough. Will I watch more video? The iPad 2 was better for video display than the Kindle Fire yet I gravitated to the Kindle for video, so probably not. If I was into the iTunes ecosystem for video this would be a big benefit, but a better screen won’t draw me into iTunes video.

Over half the cost was covered by selling my iPad 2, so that helps. I’m hoping I have the willpower to skip the next iPad. I’m hard pressed to think of a feature I would want in a year.

Bottom line – I’m happy, not thrilled with the upgrade.

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Gadgets

Confessions of a iPad Fanboy

Apple iPad ImageI’ve come to the realization that I’m an iPad fanboy since I managed to talk myself into buying the latest one even before it was announced. I do have a defense, even if it is lame.

A couple days before the iPad announcement I checked its value on Gazelle.com and found that I’d get 50% of what I paid for it. I since I expected Apple to keep pricing the same I’d cover 50% of the latest model. So in order to avoid the rush (and anticipated price drop) I went ahead and sold it to Gazelle, locking in the price for 30 days. While I would be able to get more by selling it myself, the “lack of hassle” factor is important to me. I figured worst case I could simply let the offer expire. I figured Apple would be shipping a week after the announcement, two at most so the 30 days would be enough.

So what was I expecting? Basically, faster and better. Nothing “revolutionary”. I figured a better display, probably called retina for the marketing advantage, and a faster CPU. More storage for the money would have been nice. I was sure the rumors of a new dock connector were wrong and I hoped the form factor would be close enough to use my few accessories and cases. Apple ended up announcing almost exactly what I was expecting. To be fair, I did expect Siri but didn’t care about it.

I could make an argument that I’ve minimizing the cost by maximizing the trade-in price. But the reality is keeping what I already have makes the most economic sense. But I have little will power. While I did get an iPad 2 it wasn’t right away. Eventually I decided it was worth the cost to get more storage along with wireless (or the telecom variety). So I just gave into the inevitable and ordered the replacement up front. It’s not like the price will go down, baring special promotions and preparation for the next version.

The new iPad was announced and I had the option of just letting my Gazelle offer expire but I went ahead and ordered the replacement. I admit I lacked enthusiasm and waited over a day before ordering, getting my order in just before the delivery dates started to slip. Lacking enthusiasm doesn’t mean I’m looking forward to the upgrade. I read someplace that if you use the iPad 2 more than 10 hours a week the it was worth upgrading. I’m not sure that number is valid, but I certainly use the iPad much more than that and expect to benefit from the better screen.

The iPad sits on my desk as I work and I refer to it a lot for reference(books/notes/pdf) and task management. I also use it to RDP into my home network and servers at times. I’m hoping the improved screen makes it easier on the eyes (but not simply make the type smaller). I’ve begun to play my own videos on it a bit too, although the videos won’t match the screen resolution. I never really liked Apple as a video source source or library so won’t be viewing their HD video after the inevitable test.

I considered downsizing to the 32GB model since my current usage is just a tad under 32GB. But space requirements only seem to expand so I kept the 64GB. So my iPad has shipped (according to the email) and sitting at Fedex waiting for them to delivery it Friday. Friday will be the moment of truth to see if this fanboy is still happy. Oh wait, a true fanboy won’t care wait arrived.