If you’ve been following me on Twitter this week, you’ll know that I recently picked up a shiny new iPad. I decided not to write a review of the iPad right away, but instead spend a week using it and report back with my findings. It’s really easy to jump to conclusions (good or bad) when you first begin using something. I’ve been using it for a few hours every day, and I think I’m starting to see how it will fit into my life. And let me just say, it’s finding it’s niche very nicely. There have been MANY iPad reviews released this week, so I’ll try not to get too wordy…

Apps

Applications are easily the most important aspect of the iPad. After you’ve been using the thing for awhile, the physical hardware slips your mind and it’s all about engaging with the apps. The quality of the application really shapes your experience. Apps with a great user experience, where the developer has clearly spent time perfecting the details, are a treat to use. Many people are saying the iPad is just “a big iPod Touch”. If you are looking at it purely from a hardware angle, then sure you could argue that. However, I think these people are clearly missing the point. The iPad is about the software, which is drastically improved on the larger screen with these new iPad-only apps.

There are already 3,500+ iPad apps in the App Store already and we’re still in Week 1. Most of the apps I’ve used so far have been completely redesigned for the iPad. Some of my favorites are Instapaper Pro, USA Today, AIM, and Twitterriffic. Oh, and the ability to run and scale up iPhone apps is basically useless. If you NEED to run an iPhone app on your iPad, it works fine. But the user experience is crap and it’s really not worth it. I don’t think I have any iPhone-only apps on my iPad. I’m really looking forward to a Reeder iPad app for Google Reader sync. I spend A LOT of time in Google Reader and their website is not ideal for the iPad.

Twitterrific on the iPad

Performance

The iPad is SO fast! I was prepared for it to be speedy after hearing from people who were able to play with it during the keynote in January. But, it was way faster than even my highest expectations. I’d almost go as far as saying it’s the fastest computer I’ve ever used. However, I think it’d be more accurate to say it is the “most responsive”. Maybe it’s because the touch screen gives you the feeling that you are actually interacting with physical objects. There’s not that level of separation you get when you use a laptop or a desktop computer. Interacting with the iPad is immediate and completely intuitive. Also, I have not heard a single noise from the iPad. It’s dead silent. I haven’t noticed any change in temperature either, even after using it for hours streaming video. It’ll be interesting to see if this performance continues after multitasking applications are introduced this Fall.

Hardware

The hardware is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Apple. The industrial design is elegant and the machine feels rock solid. Apple did a great job with the weight distribution so the iPad feels perfectly balanced. Many people have been complaining that it’s too heavy to comfortably hold with one hand for an extended period of time. I’d have to agree, although I don’t think this is a real issue. I’ve found that I can comfortably rest it on my lap or the couch while watching videos or reading. I really like the ability to lock the screen rotation. I’ve been using this a lot and it’s really handy for reading when you’re laying down or moving around.

The iPad battery is incredible! It has been lasting between 10-12 hours for us with normal use. We have been charging it every couple days.  Another thing worth noting is that I’ve  found myself trying to use OS X touch gestures on the iPad. I’ve been trying to 3-finger-swipe in Safari to move backwards and forwards on numerous occasions. Currently the iPad does not support these gestures, but hopefully they will be added in a future update.

Virtual Keyboard

A lot of people have been asking me about the virtual keyboard. This seems to be a big concern for many people. I’d say that the keyboard is basically what I expected. It’s sufficient for web browsing, writing emails, Twitter, and even instant messaging. The main thing to remember is that the iPad is more about consuming content rather than creating it. I’ve still been using my MacBook for heavy typing tasks, such as writing this blog. I’ve gotten better at typing on the iPad as the week progressed, but I still need more practice. It’s important to have the iPad in a stable position in order to type efficiently. I’m really bad at typing when I’m laying down on the couch, but can do a lot better if i’m sitting up or at my desk. My biggest issue so far has been missing the spacebar between words. Luckily, the iPad autocorrect is incredible and usually adds the space for me. It seems to be much more powerful (and accurate) than the autocorrect in iPhone 3.1.

Daily Use

I’ve spent most of my iPad hours this week reading blog posts and surfing the web. I read A LOT of articles/posts each day and the iPad has almost completely taken over this role. I can easily stumble across interesting posts on my Mac, save them with Instapaper, and then read them with my iPad on the couch. It’s much nicer to sit on the couch with the iPad than my warm laptop which is full of distractions. I found that I prefer to use the iPad in landscape mode. This is a stark contrast to my iPhone, which I almost exclusively use in portrait mode.

Web video on the iPad has performed better than expected. Most of my favorite sites provide slick HTML 5 video for their content. The YouTube app is great and Vimeo.com provides HTML 5 support for their videos. I’ve streamed some HD content from Vimeo and it looks and runs great. There are, however, a good amount of videos that simply do not work. I find that almost all embedded videos (with the exception of YouTube) do not work. Annoyingly, the iPad doesn’t display anything useful to tell you that they do not work. Instead, they just display as a big white “hole” in the page. It’s kinda like the iPad is tricking you into not noticing that the video is missing. I’d prefer to see an icon or a “Video could not be loaded” message in it’s place.

Conclusion

The iPad is easily the most exciting computer I’ve ever used. It’s incredible how such a rich experience could be packed into a sleek and tiny device. If you haven’t had a chance to play with one yet, head to your local Apple store and check it out. There is no amount of reviews or videos you can watch to get a full grasp of the device. I still agree that the iPad is a “luxury device” and it’s unlikely to be replacing laptops in the immediate future. However, I think it provides a compelling alternative to netbooks and has the potential to drastically shake up the market for secondary computers. I’m definitely happy that I purchased the iPad and I think I will use it even more once additional apps get released.


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