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iPad – first impressions

Yesterday I went ahead and picked up an iPad. A lot of people are wondering if it makes sense as a device. Here are my impressions.

I’ve only used it for a few hours now and I have to say I’m impressed. Its use as a big iPod is flawless. It’s an excellent at-home-with-kids machine, as I was able to plant it as an impromptu tv while I cooked breakfast. I can imagine it being a great “follow recipe” experience. Using the iPhone for that was a bit awkward. As a computer, it’s not so good, but does fill that hole in between nicely.

It was painful to wait for the first time sync which took about two hours on my device (I have a lot of stuff). It’s much faster now.

The keyboard is not as bad as the iPhone (I’m typing this on the iPad) but it is no walk in the park to type on either. I bought the apple case for it that makes it incline and I couldn’t imagine being able to type fast without it. However the angle it produced forced me to put a small book underneath to avoid carpal tunnel by bringing it closer to my fingers. Although now you can type long texts (the software keyboard is basically a full-travel size, with wider than normal spacing between keys), it’s probably a good idea to pick up an external keyboard if you’re going to find yourself typing a whole bunch, particularly due to the complete lack of cursor keys. The keyboard is meant to be used with the iPad on a surface though, it’s hard to type while also holding the device.

Netflix is simply awesome on it. Release night had some performance problems but they seemed to have been fixed by this morning (everyone trying it out probably).

So far I have browsed the web with it, played some games, read books using Kindle’s app and watched netflix. It works fantastically well (speakers are better than on the iPod but not as good as a notebook, headphones are still required in loud environments).

I did get the only ssh app available directly for the iPad to see if I could do work in a pinch. It works but it’s still painful (my brain seems to crave the tactile feedback once I get into a command line). I will try it later with a bluetooth keyboard and if that works I’ll be getting one to keep in my bag.

I picked up the iWork suite but not having anything pressing that requires it I have only followed tutorials so far. I can already tell the experience of having to sync files through iTunes is not going to cut it though as I have two computers, work and home. I really need to be able to get to any file in my MobileMe at least. Not having the option to do so is, well, disappointing. I wish I had a real finder, even if it did only client AFP.

I also tried the books app, and was able to easily sync epubs I dragged to my library but oddly no PDFs. Sad because I have a lot of those I want to keep as reference. Luckily my iPhone apps (stanza) all work so I can still use the dropbox/stanza trick, though 2x pixellated stanza won’t do for the longer term.

All in all, it’s an ambitious device and it does take the place of my Kindle in my bag permanently. I will still use the kindle in super-sunny environments and while relaxing in the backyard over the summer, but there is really no reason for it in other circumstances when given the choice. I still love my amazon eBooks though, so I was happy to see that amazon has smartly added the buy option on the iPad version of their app. As I see it most of the flaws are smaller and in the software, so I’m pretty happy and looking forward to those firmware updates.