iPad Review

Posted on April 4, 2010

DISCLAIMER: I say “iPhone” when I technically should say “iPod Touch”. iPad has no mic and no phone. But, I say iPhone because thats the device most of us have and use for real applications. You know what I mean.

One of the perks of working for a jazzy startup like Joyent who’s had a good year: free iPad’s for all. Our Christmas bonus from Joyent. w00t. So I pre-ordered mine and got it today, as promised by Apple.

So, lets get down to brass tax: its an oversized iPhone. No more, no less. There is no expansion slot for storage, just the same buttons and I/O port as the iPhone. It looks the same, feels the same, works the same.

Now, bearing that in mind. There are some things that iPhone could do, but it was a bit ridiculous as iPhone size. My favorite example is the iSSH application which allows you to SSH to a server. Its a great app, but on an iPhone its so small its only a gimmicky sort of app that might be useful in a dire emergency but otherwise is just for show. VNC apps are the same. Even some financial apps with charts… they work on iPhone but its just too small. These are the apps that shine on iPad, provided there is an upgraded version which natively takes advantage of the screen real estate.

The same goes for video. Video on iPhone is fine, but its really tiny. Given the choice between viewing on iPhone or your laptop, you’ll choose your laptop every time. With iPad the size is perfect for viewing and the portability is great.

Again, this applies to books/pdf’s, etc. The iPhone was just too small. With iPad you have plenty of viewing area and its more comfortable because of the larger fonts and more text per page.

If you, like myself, have wanted a device to carry all your PDFs on, this is definately it. Download the “GoodReader” app. You can transfer PDFs to your iPad using a variety of methods and view them from a library. I’ve loaded all the Solaris, NIST, CIS, etc manuals and several PDF books I’ve downloaded from Safari to it and they look great.

There have been two big concerns about iPad, so lets dig into those.

The first is that its backlit. Meaning, its harsh on the eyes and therefore not a viable eBook reader. This is true as expected. The brightness is on par with the iPhone and while reading news and skimming books is fine, reading for hours on end will burn out your eyes just like a monitor.

The second is about the usability of the on-screen full size QWERTY keyboard. I was shocked! It works beautifully! When I typed my first sentence I expected to have gotten every other letter wrong, but to my surprise it was spot on the first time. The only trick is to not think about it… just touch type and don’t look, and you’ll be fine. I’m sure there is some magic in there doing minor corrections based on what you meant to press versus really did, but whatever they did it is brilliant. Absolutely positively no issues typing on it at full speed.

So, should you fork out $500 for one? IMHO, no. At least, not yet. When all the apps are iPad native, it’ll be great, but for now it needs more time. This is only day one, and they are converting quick, but give it time.

If you are an iPhone addict and use it for news, video and browsing a lot, then you absolutely will love the iPad. However, if you primarily use your iPhone as a phone, use the maps, and maybe use some apps for checking your bank account, then wait. That is to say… if you use your iPhone as though it weren’t a mobile device, then congrats, iPad is what you’ve wanted.

The biggest downer is that many of the apps are releasing “Tablet Versions”, where you have to buy the new app, typically at double the price. “Things” for iPad is a new purchase and is $20. Thats just a joke. iSSH, thankfully, was a free upgrade. Watch that space carefully. Also, more serious business apps are coming, such as OmniGraffle, but its a $50 app! That’s insane, imho. You’ll see the app wars really come alive in the next couple months.