iPad Review

By Yashdeep Patil

Writing a review for an iPad is a very hard task, especially after the wonderful reviews put in by Stephen Fry and Walt Mossberg, but here’s my attempt:

It’s such a brilliant device that I can’t imagine how I lived without it till now.

It is the electronic device I have been waiting so long for someone to invent for me.

It is a truly personal device. You can curl up with it in bed, you can carry it along with you to boring meetings, you can relax on the sofa with it, you could even carry it to the loo (though I haven’t dared to till now).

I had to wait a long interminable week after it was launched to see it getting delivered to me in all it’s glory. The un-boxing ritual that you undergo with most Apple products was hurried and frantic (but well captured for posterity), as I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it’s luminous screen.

The moment I switched it on, I had fallen in love with it for the umpteenth time.

All those glowing reviews not withstanding, I had been apprehensive that the moment would come and go and I would be underwhelmed. But the iPad had other plans for me.

Let’s go over the few things I can talk about in a coherent manner:

* Browsing – Like Steve Jobs said – It’s the internet in your hands. Believe the guy. Nothing can prepare you for the moment that you take it out and start browsing the web with it. The entire world ceases to exist. You find yourself lost in the interweb. The device itself functions as if it was created to make the web more personal.
All the normal sites you visit have no need to re-skin themselves for tiny screens anymore. Your sites render in their full versions, and are very usable from the get-go. The iPhone paradigm of tap to focus/zoom works as expected, but you don’t have to use it as much with the bigger screen. Scrolling, changing orientation etc. is so smooth and fast, you wonder how the device can do it while sipping minimal power.
On the negative side – when using multiple windows, it does annoy the hell out of you to switch windows and then revisit your previous ones to see them getting reloaded again.

* Apps – In sheer numbers, the apps store is disappointing, but there are more apps coming up as I write.
A few personal favourites are -

  • iBooks (Free) is of course a no-brainer. The store-front and shopping experience is great, but the collection unfortunately isn’t. Apple says they are working on it. The reading experience is good (notice I did not say great). With the right levels of brightness, you can even read semi-comfortably at night with the lights off, though with the backlit iPad, it does strain your eyes a bit more than a Kindle would. This can easily be overcome, and I found myself enjoying the experience.
  • With the app supporting the open ePub format, you can get non-DRMed books from multiple places to read on it.
  • It also has some nice features like double tap to select, look up in dictionary, change the font, background light etc.
  • Kindle (Free) – The bookstore with the most books in it is a must-have. The wide collection of e-books in their (unfortunately) proprietary format gives you the option to leave your tomes behind. The app though, is quite pedestrian. The features included are not enough, and it doesn’t seem like they tried to go any further than the Kindle device itself can manage.
  • Amazon needs to rectify this fast. They have to realize the irony – the iPad is the best Kindle in the market. It is what the Kindle itself should have been.
  • Epicurious (Free) – Huge database of recipes with the right search functions. For people who love to cook, this is a must-have.
  • NYT Editor’s choice, WSJ, Bloomberg, NPR, USA Today (Free and paid upgrades) – Great news apps. Mostly US centric.
  • Sundry Notes(was School Notes Pro) (Free) – Nice utility to jot notes, draw stuff, record memos etc.
  • Tweetflow/Twitterific (Free) – For twitter fanatics, these should be good stream readers, as they allow for opening links in their own application, thus maintaining their state. I had tried Tweetdeck too, but found it too buggy in it’s initial versions.
  • Games – Harbor Master, Table Checkers, Labyrinth, Sudoku Tablet, Air Hockey Gold (Free and paid upgrades) – These are the ones that have been able to amuse me for a week.
  • Voice Memos for iPad – The essential recording utility which was surprisingly missing from the base OS.
  • Comic Zeal ($7.99) – For anyone who has a large collection of CBZ/CBR comics, this is an easy choice. With iTunes syncing you no longer need to view compressed images anymore. You can see your comics at their original level of detail and can zoom in to admire the artwork.
  • Marvel Comics (Free) – A way more better app than Comic Zeal in terms of the way it has been thought out. To be fair, they have the rights to all the original comics and can re-format them for any medium. So for the iPad, you have the never-before option of reading comics one panel at a time, to admire the artwork as well as preventing the misfortune of knowing the suspense as soon as you turn the page.
  • and a few other notable ones – Offline Pages, Cogs HD, Evernote, Dragon Dictation, Air Video and IMDB

* Form factor, feel – The iPad looks slim and sexy, as do all Apple products.

It also feels solidly built, with no flimsy parts.

The biggest drawback is of course the weight. It doesn’t strike you as an issue until you have held it for a while. Especially for night-time reading. I guess Apple ended up compromising on the weight to provide the superior battery life. The weight of the device is essentially that of the batteries.

* Battery Life – 10+ hours is an understatement if you set the screen to glaring brightness. I have managed to get more than 14 hours regularly.
Many users have reported 11-12 hours of battery life with it’s Wifi on, video playing the whole time, and a mid-level brightness setting.
Moreover, the opt-in battery replacement program that Apple runs for the iPad is truly innovative. They will replace your iPad when it cannot retain it’s charge anymore.

* Limitations -
Flash free -
The much ballyhooed issue with Flash not being supported is not much of an issue for me personally, but I can see it being a huge issue for people whose lives are incomplete without games like Farmville. Major game developers (including Farmville’s creator Zynga) have said they are looking at creating iPad compatible sites, but the wait could be a long one.
Most of the sites hosting videos (including YouTube) have created flash-free versions of their sites.

For me, Flash has mostly been associated with intrusive ads, and I am not too upset to see it banished from my screen.

Virtual Keyboard -
Lots of people have apprehensions about using a virtual keyboard for all sorts of input. Though I can imagine it being a limitation for a phone sized device like the iPhone; for the larger screen that the iPad provides, the keyboard is surprisingly usable.

In portrait mode, I could do a hunt and peck to type quite fast, and with practice, I believe I can soon touch-type in the landscape mode.

Multi-tasking -
know, I know – someone’s going to talk about the multi-tasking and how it’s a pain to have only one application running at any point of time (except for the music app which can run in the background).

iPhone OS 4.0 is on it’s way to fix multi-tasking, but believe me when I say – The experience is nowhere as annoying as it is on the iPhone. With the larger screen, Apple has come up with a few tricks of it’s own to make it a trivial matter while doing normal stuff like browsing multiple windows.

* Accessories -

Apple doesn’t ship any accessories with the iPad, not even headphones!
The iPad Case accessory is something everyone should get. My only complaint with it is that it hides the great looking aluminium back of the iPad. It is also cumbersome to get the iPad in and out of the case. But the case does have a few essential benefits:

  • It allows you to use the on-screen virtual keyboard in a comfortable fashion while sitting
  • You can watch videos on the iPad by making a stand from the case
  • Gives access to all essential buttons
  • and most importantly, it protects your iPad from accidental damage and careless storage

I haven’t tried out the other accessories, but the Keyboard Dock or Camera Connection Kit (which has just started shipping) did not enthuse me.

I have an Apple wireless keyboard, and it was child’s play to couple it with the iPad. Since that keyboard is usable both with my regular iMac as well as the iPad, it was an easy choice to stay away from the keyboard dock.

Conclusion - It truly is an awesome device, and I can see it taking over the role of a laptop for a large number of users who use their laptops primarily to consume media. It’s a great device to use on the commute, boring shopping trips, and going anywhere that involves waiting, twiddling your thumbs.

Tagged as: Apple, apps, browsing, Internet, iPad, iPhone OS 4.0

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