iPad: Initial Impressions

By Mike on 10:45 pm

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Everybody has to have one. Apple has already hit the 2 million mark on the iPad. They've been flying off the shelves but it's still possible to find one without giving up your first born on eBay.

I took a trip to Best Buy the other day to check them out on display. Surprisingly they weren't getting much attention so I got to spend a little time with the 64gb wifi model.

One of the first things I noticed about the iPad was just how heavy it is. It was more than I expected. The device is also a bit odd to hold. Apple didn't design it with ergonomics in mind. The device has a glass front with an anodized aluminum back. It looks similar to the screen half of a Macbook Pro, only thicker. The build quality is top notch as expected. It felt substantial in my hands. No flimsy plastic parts here.

The screen on the iPad is gorgeous. Though a wide display would be better, the iPad's 4:3 screen seems to suit it perfectly. It's every bit as good as the ones Apple incorporates on their laptops. Colours are rich and the screen is bright. It could easily be used out in the sun without too much trouble. Videos, web content, and photos look gorgeous on it. Like the iPhone, you can rotate the screen to either a portrait or landscape mode. It has a simple but vary useful feature that allows you to lock the screen so it doesn't rotate by accident.

Under the hood, the iPad sports an Apple A4 processor at 1ghz, with 256mb of RAM. The device is quite speedy. Transitions between pages are quick and smooth, unlike on the iPhone. Apps load fast, web pages load fast. Not much is going to tax it. This processor is perfect for it.

On the App side, I only got to try out a few. I already knew what gaming was like on it, so I skipped that. Those features are identical to the ones on the iPhone and iPod Touch, only super sized. Pages and iBook are what interested me the most.

Apple has provided a full office suite for the iPad. It works vary well though the virtual keyboard still leaves a lot to be desired. You can't type anything out on that. I'd definitely recommend splurging on the iPad keyboard peripheral if you're going to do a lot of writing on it.
iBooks worked vary well. It's probably one of the few LCD based eReaders that's actually usable. Apple is looking to do for books what iTunes did for music. Pages turning with the flick of your finger is a nice touch.

Web browsing hasn't changed much from the iPhone, only faster and on a bigger screen. This time the iPad can display full web pages just fine thanks to its 1024x768 resolution screen. Unfortunately, browsing is still the Achilles Heel in Apple's mobile line up. Most video services still use Adobe Flash, and will continue to use it for the foreseeable future. The iPad doesn't support Flash, which means you can't use it to view video sites other than YouTube. This is a huge problem. You can't use it to watch sites like Vimeo, or streaming TV from CBC or other networks. Despite Steve Jobs hatred for the venerable Flash, Apple desperately needs to add it in order to keep up.

Overall, I'm impressed with the iPad. I like it a lot. That said, I wouldn't buy it. Flash is still the killer app for me. I want to be able to use it to watch online TV. YouTube alone isn't enough and Canadian networks have yet to provide their own streaming apps. The device's CAD$550 price point for the 16gb base model also doesn't feel right. That's not enough storage for something like this. For that price point, I'd expect double that. It's an Apple product though so of course you're going to pay too much. However, they could have at least added expandable storage via an SD card slot.

So who is the iPad for? I think it's ideal for people who don't need a computer. In other words, people who may just want to email, type things up, or shop online. It's also ideal for travellers looking for something light and compact to take with them, but still offers some power.

My final verdict? Personally, I'd wait to see what other manufacturers are cooking up before taking the tablet plunge. I'm seeing promising things from devices running Android and Windows (Phone) 7.

Image courtesy Wikipedia.

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