APRIL 12, 2010

Hands-On Review--Apple's iPad

I was traveling when the iPad came out April 3rd and didn't get a chance to actually get my hands on one until Saturday, April 10th. The local Apple Store in Fashion Valley was packed when I visited. I had to wait awhile to get my turn at the table where six iPads were on display. The body language of other waiting store patrons to not loiter too long was great so I relinquished the iPad after running it through only a few paces and holding it long enough to see if the heft of 1.5 pounds was reasonable to me.

The iPad is smaller in person than I had expected from photos or videos but its 9.7 inch screen is very bright and clear due to its 132 pixels per inch (ppi) resolution. By comparison, the iPhone has 163 ppi and the MacBook Air has 113 ppi.

Applications launched quickly on the iPad, subjectively much, much faster than my MacBook Air with its original hard drive. While I did not actually record the times, I think the differences are clear.

Reading the demo books and documents on the iPad was very easy on my eyes although I would have to read for a considerably longer period of time than I did to really understand the ease of doing so routinely or for long periods. It did seem easier than reading the screen of my MacBook Air, especially since I could more easily position the iPad's screen. I expect I could read for a longer period of time on an iPad than I now do on my MacBook Air. I really like the cool page-flipping animation. The iPad's weight of 1.5 pounds feels manageable for decent periods of time.

The Mail and iCal applications are much nicer aesthetically than those on the iPhone and my MacBook Air. Although they do not approach the functionality of their counterpart standard Mac OS X 10.6.3 applications, they are adequate to replace what I do with them on my MacBook Air. Fortunately, they do have the same Microsoft Exchange Server functionality as their iPhone counterparts which, again, is good enough for me and this alleviates my initial major concern.

Typing on the iPad was easy for me, much easier than on the iPhone, although I am a "hunt and peck" typist. Still, it was as easy as using Apple's wireless aluminum keyboard. A rapid touch typist may have different results.

If I am to buy an iPad, it will mostly need to replace my MacBook Air, if not completely. At least it would need to do so on an airplane or in a meeting to take notes and to read and edit documents in PDF, PowerPoint, Excel or Word format and, while out and about, to work on email and the Internet. The iPad's probable longer battery life, lighter weight and tablet vs clam-shell form is much better for those situations, especially on an airplane where I spend so much time.

There are iPad applications that claim they can do all of that, including Apple's Pages, Keynote and Numbers for iPad and third party applications like iAnnotate and GoodReader. However, there is still much work to do on those applications according to reviews in the iTunes App Store, especially in the ease and accuracy of importing and exporting documents.

I think these start-up problems will be resolved in time. So, I am getting the itch to buy a 3G-enabled iPad to see if it really is the major leap in computing portability that it promises to be. Of course, the iPad does not yet have a camera for iChat or a transparent file system. Also, it's hard to decide how much memory to buy--16GB, 32GB or 64GB? If my 32GB iPhone is any indicator, I'm using only 7GB, then the 16GB version of the iPad may be good enough if I stick to documents mostly and don't load many videos or movies.

Apple's iPad is available now with Wi-Fi for $499, $599 or $699 depending on its amount of flash memory (16GB, 32GB and 64GB) and, by the end of April, another $130 plus $15 or $30 per month to add 3G cell phone wireless networking. [Bill Fox]


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