My iPad Review – 72 Hours In

I’ve had my new iPad for 72 hours now, and I’m ready to make the call–I give it a B+.  I’ve spent a lot of time with it in the past three days, so I thought I’d offer my three-cents’ worth (prices are going up) on my experience with the new toy in my iPod/iPad family.

First, some background.  I am a PC.  All my computers are Windows (XP or Vista).  However, I’ve been using Apple products for five or six years now.  I started with the iPod Nano and progressed through the Shuffle, Video, and 32GB Touch.  I say that so you know that I’m already familiar with Apples iTunes and the whole sync process.

My iPad is the 64GB, Wi-fi+3G model.  I ordered it online because they were out of stock in all the stores.  It was shipped from the manufacturer in China and arrived about a week after it was shipped.  Unpacking the iPad was almost a religious experience, what with all the hype and the anticipation surrounding its arrival.  It comes in a box with the ubiquitous iPod cable, plug-in charger, a little wire tool to use if you need to remove the SIM card, a warranty card, and a little card that serves as all the instructions you’re gonna get for getting started with this thing.  That’s where my prior experience with the “i” products came in.  I can’t imagine my Dad unpacking one of these and having the slightest idea of what he’s supposed to do with it (that’s not a slam against my Dad, by the way).

Anyway, the setup was very easy.  I have over 7,000 tunes in my collection, but I was in a hurry to test everything out, so I only synced about half of them using a couple of playlists that I have set up.  I loaded about 240 photos from our recent cruise to Baja California, as well as all the apps I already owned for my iPod Touch.  I spent time testing those applications, and then started downloading some new HD ones that were designed for the larger screen.  Since I’m going out of town this week, I also went to the iTunes store and downloaded a rental movie, “Invictus” to watch on my trip.

That was all in the first 24 hours with the new iPad.  The next day, I synced up the remainder of my music.  The following day, I added another 200+ photos from my collection so I could setup the slideshow.  Over this weekend, I have watched two movies streamed from Netflix, as well as several episodes of TV shows from ABC.  I’ve done all this over my home wireless network.  I’ve already opened my account for the AT&T 3G service so I can use it on my trip, but I haven’t yet tested it outside the house because I don’t yet have a case for the iPad, and it’s not leaving the house until I do.

So, what do I think so far?  Here’s what I don’t like:

  • No Flash.  Don’t give me all that BS about how Flash is dying and HTML5 is the wave of the future.  I understand that, but in the meantime I keeping running into websites that I can’t fully use or experience because they are Flash-based.  Steve Jobs is ruining my surfing experience with his arrogant refusal to support such a widely used, if declining, technology.
  • The Photos sync process requires you to have all your photos under one “parent” folder, from which you can then select multiple “child” folders from which to sync.  However, that’s as granular as you can get.  You can’t select specific files.  I have my photos stored in separate folders based on date and subject.  I wanted to only display my best ones from each of those folders, so I had to create a new folder and COPY the ones I wanted into that new folder (waste of drive space).  If you want to have the photos arranged in albums on your iPad, you have to have them in separate folders on your hard drive.  This device, with it’s gorgeous display, should have a more robust photo management interface that would allow you to organize your photos into albums on the device.
  • The on-screen keyboard is very tricky to use.  I’m not going to gripe too much about this one, since I think I’ll get better with practice, but you have to be super-aware of not letting your non-typing fingers accidentally touch the screen while you’re tapping the keys.  I had never noticed how my pinkie fingers always rest on the keyboard while I’m typing, but it quickly became obvious on the iPad that I need to remember my lessons from my old piano teachers–wrists UP and staccato.
  • While my old apps worked just fine on the iPad, they certainly didn’t look so great when enlarged to the full size of the screen.  You have the option to view them at their original size (1X) or blow them up the full size screen (2X), neither of which is aesthetically satisfying.  Therefore, I felt the need to replace my apps with the HD version wherever possible.  Of course, that meant spending more money (cha-ching!) for things like Angry Birds, and a new version of the Koi Pond (now called Pocket Pond, which rocks by the way).  I suppose it would be too much to expect Apple to cut a deal for their early adopters and credit us with the purchase price of the old app when we download the newer version…we can dream, I guess.
  • As I said, I do not yet have a case for my iPad.  I ordered the “official” case from Apple, but it’s back-ordered and won’t arrive until some time in June.  However, I’m traveling this week and need my case before I leave, so I wound up ordering an after-market case which is due to arrive early this week.  If I like it, I’ll just cancel the order for the Apple case.  Why would Apple so severely underestimate the demand for this product and drive their customers to after-market suppliers?  Seems like poor planning to me.

And that’s it.  Those are my only gripes.  Here are things that I really like:

  • I love being able to stream NetFlix videos to a device that I can walk around the house with.  I already had the NetFlix account, so it didn’t cost me any extra, but I’m already getting more value from my membership by having such a convenient way to watch movies and documentaries that Andy wouldn’t be interested in renting on DVD.
  • I’ve already mentioned it, but the display is gorgeous.  I’ve loaded some of my HDR photos and they look stunning on the display.  I like the slideshow option, and the shuffle function works much better than the HP digital picture frame that I own.
  • The battery life has been fantastic.  I’ve used it for 5 hours at a stretch, watching movies and videos, and the battery indicator never went below 70%.  I don’t think I’ll have any problem getting from Point A to Point B on my travels this week with battery power to spare.
  • I was pleased to find the Kindle app, since Andy and I both own Kindles and we’ve accumulated a sizable collection of Kindle titles.  The iPad Kindle app allows me to shop the Kindle store and also read the books that I’ve already purchased.  I also downloaded Apples iBooks app, and while I like the look of this app more than the Kindle app, the iBooks store does not have nearly the selection of titles available, and their prices are higher.  But I have to admit, their cookbooks look delicious with the color photos in them….can’t do that with the Kindle books (yet!).
  • The Safari web browser seems to work well, with the exception of the missing Flash functionality.  It’s nice to be able to see the regular version of the webpages instead of the mobile versions that I’ve gotten used to on my Blackberry and my iPod Touch.  Some of the links can be awfully close together, but you can always use the two-finger “spread” technique to enlarge the page temporarily so you can click the right spot.
  • I bought the docking station for the iPad and have it on my nightstand.  I set the iPad in the dock and turn on the Photo Slideshow, and it looks great while it charges.

I’ve already mentioned that the case that I ordered from Apple has been back-ordered.  Also back-ordered is the camera connector kit that I ordered along with the case.  It comes with two connectors that allow you to read an SD card as well as connect a USB device.  These should allow me to transfer photos from my camera directly to the iPad, but I’m anxious to see how that works given the lack of photo organization functionality on the iPad itself.

So, I am thoroughly enjoying getting acquainted with my new ZannZen (that’s its official name).  I’m anxious to hear from other iPad users to see what you think.  What are your favorite apps?  How do you use the iPad in your photography?



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