First Impressions: Five minutes with the iPAD.

I went to the Apple Store today for the sole purpose of getting some hands-on time with an iPAD. I didn't really go with the intention of buying one, although I had it set in my mind that it was a foregone conclusion. But not today. Three large tables were set up inside the front of the store littered with iPADs, complete with Wi-Fi connections.  I thought I'd share my initial impressions here in a brief post.

My first thought? Small. It seemed much smaller than I'd imagined from watching weeks of demos and on-line ads. Maybe they used models with small hands. Maybe they inserted the iPADs in post. Who knows. Many of the large monitors in the store were playing iPAD demos as well. Upon closer inspection I noticed that as the iPAD jumped by on the screen in a variety of hands, the scale of it seemed quite varied. The most common appeared to make the iPAD look larger than it actually was. Hmm. Anyway, enough on the size...it just seemed a bit on the small side to me. Not what I expected.

The display, however, is gorgeous. Glary but gorgeous. Unfortunately to have a display look as sharp and rich as this, the glare seems to be a standard trade-off. Websites popped up quickly and, even with the lack of Flash, populated quickly and with a richness that made me say "Wow" out loud at the table. The interface was smooth, responding well with quick fingertip gestures. Links embedded in websites were easily chosen and opened, even if buried in a crowd of other links. The iPAD also reacted quickly to changes in orientation, switching from portrait to landscape mode without delay. I was amused by the omnipresent Apple employee whose full time job appeared to involve nothing but scurrying around to recently handled iPADs with a blue towel to wipe the smudges off the displays for the next customer.

Media played quickly although I think the controls seemed more natural since I've owned an iPhone for a couple of years now. For the non-iPhone/iPod Touch user, the UI of the iPAD may take a little more time to get the hang of. As far as photos go, you can do everything on the iPAD you can do on the iPhone or iPod Touch. This is clearly not a photo editing or processing device aside from the apps you're already used to on your other i-device. The iPAD appears to be more for displaying images than working with them, so far. I see the potential for a great portfolio presentation device in the iPAD however.

Games absolutely shine on this thing.  If you like playing games on your iPhone, you'll LOVE playing them on the iPAD.

One of the big reasons I was looking at the iPAD is for the mapping and weather apps (radar). Unfortunately, according to one Apple employee, the maps would not appear in the store models because of the "firewall". Fail. Also, if you're considering the iPAD for this purpose, keep in mind that if it's Flash-based, it ain't happening.

One thing I began to notice after a short time holding and manipulating the iPAD is its weight. Weighing in at only a pound and a half, it began to feel a bit heavy in the hand after only a couple minutes, crying out for the need to buy one of the many aftermarket stands/cases already available on the web.

One complaint I have is with the docking stations for the iPAD.  You have a choice of plugging it into a small table stand or one with an attached keyboard.  From what I've seen, however, you can only dock the iPAD in the portrait (vertical) orientation.  I strongly think Apple should add a second port on the long side of the iPAD so you can mount it in the landscape (horizontal) orientation also.  Most computer monitors these days are configured in the landscape orientation.  What if you want to watch a movie while the iPAD is in the dock?  You can't watch it in full screen/landscape mode from what I can tell.  Maybe I'm missing something but it seems like a no-brainer to me.

Conclusion: The iPAD is snappy, cool, neato and overall pretty darned fantastic. I'll be getting one, I just don't know exactly when. As impressed as I was, I left the store without feeling the burning desire to leave with one of my own. Not disappointed, not elated. Surprisingly, almost an "eh" feeling especially when looking at the $599 price tag on the model I was considering (32gig Wi-Fi). In a time when I'm often feeling a little too connected to the internet and my gadgets, I saw myself spending even more time indoors and fiddling with another gadget had I bought one so soon. I also didn't want to feel like I bought one, just because it was the latest toy from Apple. Like I said, I love the iPAD and I'll be getting one. Maybe the mood was wrong, maybe it was the thought that Apple will likely either reduce the price or announce the iPAD 2.0 before long. I'll keep you posted.