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.


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.


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 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 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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