In my opinion, the iPad has to be reviewed from two different perspectives, hardware and software.
As far as the device itself goes, it's quite a pretty piece of technological goodness. The screen is amazing. It's bright, crisp, and capable of high definition. Pictures and movies look great. For me, the big portable screen is probably the single biggest thing the iPad has going for it.
The device fits nicely in your hands and isn't as awkward to sit and use as I initially thought from looking at online videos. It is a little heavier than I expected. It weighs in at 1.5 lbs which is pretty hefty when compared to the Amazon Kindle.
I'm also very impressed by the speaker. It sounds really great and it certainly seems Apple put some thought into how the iPad sounds when you aren't using headphones.
The touch screen works as advertised as does the tilt sensitivity. The onscreen keypad is a little tight but I got used to it pretty fast and there are few tricks that help speed up the typing process.
Moving on to software, the iPad is out-of-the-box ready to surf the web. It uses the Safari browser which is perfectly suitable. I haven't run into a site that I can't access. It does have the drawback of not having Adobe Flash built in so you will encounter some media on the web that you can't access, such as embedded movies and games.
We were really excited about the email and calendar aspects and while they are pretty robust, both Natasha and I think there could be improvements. Our biggest problem is that the iPad is a slave to your computer or other email programs. It has to sync and update when it would have been nice to just have everything in the iPad.
The hardware is quite an achievement but the iPad is going to live or die by the applications that it runs. The big daddies at launch are iBooks, Netflix, ABC Media Player, and a couple of different newspapers.
iBooks is a graphical improvement over what the Kindle has to offer. After you download a book, it puts it into a nice bookshelf for you to look at and the cover is in full color. You can read books one page at a time or turn the iPad landscape and read two pages. There is also a nice swipe feature that mimics a page being turned. However, besides the prettiness factor that the iPad has over the Kindle, the iPad loses in about every category that matters to me in an e-reader.
It's back-lit which will put more strain on your eyes in long reading sessions. At the moment, the available library is miniscule compared to what the Kindle has built. Most disappointing, though, is the price difference between the two platforms. Kindle comes in around $9.99 for new books and iBooks is $13.99. I understand publishers are losing quite a bit at the $9.99 price point but this does suck for consumers who have become used to that price.
Let me leave the iBooks discussion with two positives which kind of make up for its negatives I pointed out above. It's run on ePub which opens up a huge library of books to download from the internet. That is the best way to circumvent the new $13.99 price. The second positive and the thing to take away is that the iPad is more than capable as an e-reader. If this is your tablet of choice and you haven't made the Kindle jump, I think you'll be perfectly happy with it as your e-reader as long as you don't read for multiple-hour stretches.
Anyone that has Netflix Watch Instantly on their computer or Xbox 360 knows that it is an amazing aspect of the Netflix service. It's just as smooth on the iPad and works flawlessly.
The ABC video player is a great way to catch up on shows you missed during the week with limited commercials.
I love the NPR app which has their news stories as well as the audio from their broadcasts. Natasha is getting a lot out of news applications. She's getting international news all in one spot instead of having to surf the web on her computer looking for stories.
This review has already gone beyond long so I'll just touch on a few more things. The iPad is amazing for kids and education. There are robust apps for drawing, playing music, learning animal sounds, interactive story books, and so much more. Our children's enjoyment with the iPad has been the nicest surprise about the purchase.
The iPad is the future of comic book and magazine reading. Comic books look amazing and I've downloaded a few comic reading apps that work great. I'm salivating for the day when new comics on the iPad are released day and date with their printed version. I will not hesitate to read all of my new comic books on the iPad and I'll never buy a printed single issue comic book again.
I haven't even touched on the iPad as a gaming device. I'm still waiting for a few killer games that are synonymous with the iPad like Mario is with Nintendo or Halo is with the Xbox. The best games utilize the touch screen and usually come in bite-sized portions of ten to fifteen minute playtimes but that doesn't mean that I will not love an epic game that I can pour hours and hours into.
The iPad is only going to get stronger as the apps get better. I'm sure I could re-review the iPad every six months and my reviews would become more and more enthusiastic. This was a huge purchase for us and a little scary to be dropping so much money on a brand new, unproven device. I'm happy to report that we think it was worth every cent and, if you'll now excuse me, I have to go lock Natasha in the bathroom so I can get in a little iPad time of my own.