With all the hoopla surrounding the release of the Apple iPad, I wanted to reserve judgment on this latest “game-changing” device until I had a chance to try it myself. Is this a product you cannot live without? Will this be the death toll for e-book readers like the Kindle and the Nook? Are Tablet PCs going to die a quick death? Let’s take a closer look as we peel away the mystery and dive right into my review of this device.
On the exterior, Apple has again designed and marketed a new device magnificently. The iPad comes in a simple box containing the sleek device, a power adapter and very little documentation. The power adapter utilizes the standard Apple USB synching cable that also connects the iPod and iPhone to your computer. The device itself is half an inch thick and is a little smaller than a sheet of paper, with a 9.7-inch glass screen. It resembles an iPhone that has undergone a growth spurt. As with the iPhone, it features a home button in the bottom center that takes you to your main menu, where your apps are all displayed. New to this familiar interface is a dock at the bottom where you can house four of your apps for quick access. Otherwise, it operates just like an iPhone, which brings about my first criticism of the iPad: if you have an iPhone and a computer, you probably don’t need this device. While it is a cool little gadget, iPhone users won’t find a lot of ground-shaking new features.
Like the iPhone, the device feels like it needs some additional protection, so I picked up a screen protector and rubber case from Accessory World on McNeese Street, seemingly the only store in town that is carrying accessories for the iPad. iPhones are susceptible to their screens breaking, and I would guess that this device with it’s bigger screen will be more prone to damage. Luckily, Accessory World also fixes iPhones and now iPads, so we have a local source for repair services on these pricey handheld devices.
Using a device like the iPad is a bit different than using a laptop or an iPhone, in that the size makes it a little unwieldy. The iPad seems to be a bit too big for one hand to hold safely and comfortably. This leaves you with holding it in your lap or resting it on a surface, but then you’re looking straight down at it. Laptops win here, as they provide a more comfortable viewing angle while at the table or in your lap. Tablet PCs might have the same problem, but almost all convert into a laptop for a similar viewing scenario. iPhones are easier to hold comfortably in one hand, although for typing, the iPad is superior to the iPhone, a direct correlation to the larger screen size. In fact, I’m composing this article on my iPad now, which allows me to type with two hands almost as efficiently as a regular laptop keyboard… almost. I found it easy to have an errant finger stroke place the cursor elsewhere in the document, creating a bit of consternation, especially with no handy “undo” feature that all computers have. There does exist a peripheral for the iPad that provides a full keyboard with a docking port that stages the iPad at a more comfortable viewing angle, but that’s not exactly portable. The device does feature Bluetooth support, and should work with the Apple wireless keyboard, but again, that decreases the portability factor. Combined with the fact that there are no USB ports for external devices, score another point for a laptop when it comes to typing.
It seems that I’ve barely scratched the surface on my first impressions, so check back next issue for the second part of my hands-on review of the Apple iPad.