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1st Gen iPad Verdict

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I’ve now owned the iPad since the 3G model launched April 30, 2010.  Here is a list of things the iPad does really well, and some things it doesn’t.

Positives

  1. Battery life is still amazing.  As a habit, I usually place my iPad on charge at night before I go to sleep; that said, it’s almost always north of 50% when I do, meaning I could usually get two days of life out of it.  Considering that I tend to use it a lot, this statistic is amazing.
  2. Web surfing is more natural and comfortable than a computer.  I don’t often run into any limitations with it being a “mobile” browser (i.e. no plugins, like Flash), though I’ve noticed it has a hard time rendering all of the pictures in a photo album on Facebook.  It’ll give up after about 30 and just show pictureless boxes.  I’m not sure if it’s a bug in the way that mobile Safari handles the code on this page, or if it’s actually a matter of memory (only 256MB of RAM, after all).
  3. It’s a perfect news aggregator for me.  I use NetNewsWire, which scrapes all of my RSS feeds to assemble only the news that matters to me.  I also check in with Flipboard and Pulse News, which are both lovely.
  4. Multitasking and folders really take the iPad up a couple of notches.  These features launch with iOS 4.2, which comes out in November, but I’ve been using a beta build and I couldn’t go back.
  5. The multitude of apps is a blessing (and a curse).  I’ve had to moderate myself on how many apps I purchase in a month to avoid going bankrupt.  The advantage of Apple’s curated store is that there seems to be a higher percentage of great apps for the iOS platform than others.

Negatives

  1. Video playback.  This is a tough one to criticize because there is a lot of great video content available for the iPad, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, iTunes, etc.  If, however, you get video that’s encoded in some other way besides H.264, at a resolution the iPad is comfortable with, then you’re going to have to run through the sometimes painful process of transcoding.  I can’t fully blame Apple for this: there is dedicated H.264 decoding hardware in this device, which is how you can get away with watching 10 hours of video before killing the battery.  If you were to play any other kind of video back somehow, it wouldn’t be hardware decoded, but rather software decoded.  Which would peg the processor and eat the battery alive.  This was kind of proven by the VLC app, which does just that when viewing HD files.
  2. It’s a bit heavy at times.  Not ridiculously so, and I rarely have a problem with it.  But this is one of the reasons why the iPad is only a good e-reader, not a great one.  Pick up a Kindle and you’ll see that it’s not only lighter and easy to hold in one hand, it also doesn’t get overwhelmed by sunlight.  And while it’s true that the backlighting on the iPad allows you to read in the dark, it can be eye-straining to do so.
  3. That beautiful aluminum and glass design is striking, but you need to protect it.  I do not use a screen shield, but I have placed a carbon-fiber sticker on the back to protect the anodized aluminum from scratching (because it will).
  4. The lack of a camera on the first-gen model seemed like a minor oversight to me.  Honestly, the idea of video chatting on the iPad seemed uncomfortable.  But now Apple has launched FaceTime on two marquee items (the iPhone and iPod touch, and even added the ability to Macs), so now it’s obvious the iPad will need it too.
  5. Data throughput speeds seem to be noticeable slower than a computer (by about 38%).  Oddly, this has no impact on Netflix, which continues to deliver good looking video despite this fact, but YouTube has its occasional problems.  (I’ve read that Google has a different set of servers for mobile content, and that they get overloaded.  I’m not sure how true this is.)
  6. The iPad requires iTunes to activate, and really, really wants to use iTunes to sync and backup its data.  I think this is an umbilical cord that needs to be cut someday soon, especially if Apple believes the iPad will be a kind of consumer appliance computer.

Overall, the iPad is a great device and one I highly recommend.  It won’t do heavy lifting for you, typically, but I have a hard time imaging a better Internet browsing device, especially one so portable.  And its media capabilities (namely video viewing) are unparalleled — the idea that you could view two feature length movies and still have several hours of web browsing ahead of you if truly amazing.

The one challenge I foresee if how it will compliment my future iPhone.  Since both devices do many of the same things, and indeed run the exact same software, I wonder if I’ll be compelled to not bring my iPad to work as often.  I will post my experiences in that regard in late January, once I have said iPhone.

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Written by Michael

5 November 2010 at 12:48 am

Posted in Reviews, Technology

Tagged with , ,

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