iPad Review: Is it worth it? You bet.

by Kara on May 29, 2010

For my birthday this year, I told Stephen I either wanted a boulder or an iPad. I wasn’t kidding about the boulder either – I really want a GIANT rock in our yard landscaping. And it’s cheaper than an iPad (though not as much as you would think). I guess Stephen decided we would get more for our money out of the iPad, so that is what he opted for. I decided on the 3G model because I felt that even if I started out just using the wi-fi, I would have the option to turn on the 3G when we were traveling and had iffy wi-fi access. I didn’t want to limit my options with the wi-fi only model. I activated the 3G for the first month, just to make sure everything worked properly. I didn’t want to wait until I needed it for a trip, then find out I had a defective iPad. I was able to use the 3G service in my brother’s barn out in the middle of nowhere in Iowa, so I was really pleased.

Everywhere I go, people go crazy over my iPad. A friend came over to see it the afternoon after it arrived and immediately went out and bought the same model. On a recent flight, I sat in the middle seat between two strangers and spent much of the trip providing an iPad demonstration and answering questions. The big thing people seem to want to know is whether they can replace their laptop with an iPad. It depends entirely on what you use your laptop for. I used mine mostly for word processing and watching videos. Word processing isn’t quite as good on the iPad when I am on a train or something and can’t easily use a real keyboard. But the video quality is outstanding. I also have a bad back, so I never liked to carry around my heavy MacBook, but I can toss my 1.5 pound iPad in my purse or backpack and barely notice it. We do need a laptop on vacation for photo processing and burning DVDs, but for that we will bring Stephen’s MacBook Pro.

READING

One of the main reasons I wanted the iPad was as an eReader. I had considered the Kindle, but it seemed kind of expensive for something that only did one thing. So when the iPad was announced, it was obviously the perfect device for me. It does the main thing I really wanted it to do, but it does a zillion other things too, and it completely integrates with the hardware and apps I already had. As an eReader, it is wonderful. I love that I can not only use iBooks and the integrated store, but also the Kindle app. Before my iPad came, I downloaded a ton of free classics on Amazon. I also experimented with downloading an ePub formatted book from Project Gutenberg and putting it in iTunes. It opens just fine in iBooks. I have the Kindle reader program on my iMac too, but I don’t anticipate using that nearly as much as I will my iPad Kindle app. In terms of reading, I have a slight preference for iBooks over the Kindle app, mainly because iBooks tells me how many pages I have left in a chapter, which I find incredibly useful when I have limited time to read.

It is a little harder to read books outside, but I use it the most on the train to and from work, and don’t have any problems. I only wish I could magically convert my hundreds of actual books to eBooks in an instant. I have many books that will never be available in an electronic format, and for the ones that are, I don’t want to pay for them a second time. Unfortunately, many of the eBooks are not much cheaper than hard copy books, at least compared to the discounted Amazon price. However, there is something to be said for both the portability and hopefully an eventual reduction in the killing of trees.

VIDEO

Another popular activity on the iPad is watching video. I don’t download movies, so I don’t have a lot of content, but I do download episodes of Glee and Castle in iTunes, so I have those. I also have a couple Blu-Ray movies that came with a computer download copy (Mamma Mia and Up), so I’ve got those on there too. Everything looks FANTASTIC on the video player. I couldn’t help but watch all of Mamma Mia the first weekend I had the iPad, just because it looked so good. Once I turn off the 3G after a month, I unfortunately won’t be able to watch streaming video on the train, which is perhaps better so I will keep up on my reading. The Netflix streaming app is great. I’ve never thought the picture quality of their streaming content was that great, but it is certainly no worse than it is on my iMac or my TV. Like the iPhone, the iPad has a built-in YouTube app. I haven’t played around with it too much, but what I’ve viewed looked good. ABC has a player, which I have heard raves about, but haven’t used too much. I download Castle in iTunes, and I don’t watch too many other ABC shows (or any other channel for that matter). I don’t have cable or even network reception, so any tv viewing has to be online or on DVD. I do use Hulu for several shows and I wish they had an app, but I am assuming their agreements with the various networks and content sources don’t allow that (but of course I can go to their website on Safari on my iPad). I wish that the iPad had come out about a month earlier, because I really could have used the streaming video while I was home recovering from surgery. In bed, I could only lie on my back, with my torso and my knees raised, so the iPad would have been great.

NEWS

The number and quality of the various news apps is good and will undoubtedly get better. Combined with viewing news sites in Safari on the larger iPad screen, it is a great device for keeping up with current events. I particularly like Reuters and BBC. The NPR and This American Life apps are great, although the TAL app can be a little crashy (as it is on the iPhone too).
There are a couple disappointments. The New York Times app is just a few articles of the editors’ choosing, so I would rather just use my NYT RSS news feed. The Time Magazine app just allows you to buy issues of the magazine ($4.99 each), and doesn’t include much in the way of sample content. Since I can read some of their content for free on their website, that’s what I’ll do. If I don’t subscribe to the hard copy of a magazine or newspaper, I’m not going to buy them online either.

ENTERTAINMENT

I have downloaded ONE free game for the iPad, Clickomania. It is just a matching game, so it gets old fairly fast. I didn’t bother putting games from my iPhone on my iPad, just because they are so small and don’t look good when expanded. I prefer the free games (like most people), but a lot of the “lite” versions of games are just ads for the full version, so I’d like to avoid those. I may download a couple paid games once I find some I am sure I will get a lot of use out of. I also downloaded Civilization Revolution for Stephen, and he is already addicted. They did a really nice job with the iPad version.
I’m going to put Entertainment Weekly’s Must List app under entertainment rather than news, but I quite like it. The Must List is just one page in each issue of EW, but they’ve made so much more out of it for the app. If they mention some video you should check out, then they include a link so you can immediately go watch it.

THE APP STORE

I know lots of people complain about Apple strictly controlling the content available for their mobile devices. But the fact is it works. The variety and quantity of apps available on iTunes is amazing. Sure, some of it is crap, but there are more than enough fantastic apps to keep most people satisfied, even if you just stick to the free ones. One coming improvement that I am extremely excited about is the ability to put apps in folders. It is just too darn hard to find things among pages and pages of apps. Even with some past improvements (originally made for the iPhone and iPod Touch), organizing them is still a pain. I long for folders and I can’t wait until fall, when iPhone OS 4 is supposed to be available for the iPad.

THE CONS

There are definitely some legitimate complaints about the things the iPad doesn’t have, although I have previously written about how silly I think all the vitriol has been. There are plenty of people who hate Apple simply because it’s Apple, so you kind of have to sift through all the nonsense to find the actual problems. A camera seems like a must for the next generation. Although for now, I can just take a picture with my iPhone and email it to my iPad.

A USB port wasn’t necessary for the iPhone or the iPod touch, but it would dramatically increase the ways in which one can use the iPad. I would love to be able to hook it up to an external hard drive or a printer. There are ways around this limitation, but I am generally too lazy to do anything but wait for a future generation of the device.

One drawback that will hopefully lessen over time is the dearth of cases for the iPad. There are a few available, but the most popular ones are incredibly difficult to obtain. After a couple fruitless trips to my local Apple store, I finally gave up and ordered Apple’s iPad case online. I am hoping it arrives this century, but the website currently says “Ships 3-4 weeks”. I’d like to at least get it before we go on vacation in July or August.

The fingerprint issues are the same as with the iPhone. I just carry a couple of those cloths for cleaning glasses in my purse.

The absolute worst thing about the iPad is that we only have one. I dread getting on a flight with my husband and battling to see who gets to use it. I’ve been entering contests to try and win an iPad for him, but the odds are long.

FLASH?

This is the one complaint about the iPad that doesn’t bother me. Some folks may really miss Flash, but I don’t care in the least. The effect that it has on my web surfing is minor at most. I am not saying it isn’t legitimate for some folks to want Flash, but for me it is a non-issue. I’ve seen various figures tossed around, such as 75% of websites use Flash, but so far I haven’t had a single problem viewing websites on my iPad.

IS THE iPAD WORTH IT?

For me, the answer is a resounding yes. Because I take the train to work every day, having the iPad has been wonderful. It does all the things I need it to do and more. It’s not the mobile solution for everyone, but I dare you to spend five minutes with one and not want it – even if you don’t NEED it. It looks great, it works great and it is fun to use. I never thought I could love an inanimate object more than my iPhone, but it turns out I can.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Stephen May 31, 2010 at 1:27 pm

My friend just got an Asus netbook (it’s a little cheaper than the ipad) with Windows 7. I played with it for a bit and came to the conclusion that the iPad provides a way better net experience. Here’s some of the things I like better about the iPad:

(1) The iPad turns on instantly on and reacts without delay to anything you do. In contrast, on the netbook you have to wait to turn it on and even something simple like bringing up the web browser means more waiting as the program loads.

(2) I can use the iPad in the vertical orientation which I prefer for web browsing. Using the netbook limits me to just a short amount of vertical space and I have to constantly scroll.

(3) The trackpad on the netbook sucks. It’s not very responsive, the motions for scrolling are very jerky and not smooth at all.

(4) The iPad is way lighter at 1.5lbs compared with the netbook at 3lbs. For some people weight isn’t an issue, but it’s important for me.

(5) The screen is gorgeous and displays colors with much more vibrance than a netbook (and its even better than my MacBook Pro). I’m a photographer and process all of my images digitally so I’m very sensitive to the screen quality. The difference is like night and day.

Of course the netbook is a more general purpose computer and it can obviously do things not possible on the iPad (keyboard, drive USB peripherals, run desktop software). But I think apple hit a homerun here on creating a nice package that meets the needs of many people.

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