I’ve had the iPad for a few weeks now and played with it quite a lot. There’s a log of other reviews out about it, but here’s mine.

Why I bought it

I jumped into buying it at just about the last moment. I made up my mind to get one in the last few days leading up to the release of the device. By that point all of the pre-order units were sold out and the only way I was going to get one was to stay in line at the store. All of this begs the question of why I thought to get one in the first place if I wasn’t compelled to pre-order it.

As I was thinking about the last trip I went on up to Labrador I pondered how I used the netbook I brought along with me. I had an 10 running a pre-release version of Windows 7 to document my travels. It worked well, but left a few things to be desired. The biggest thing that I was missing was having real wireless connectivity. Of course I had WiFi, but that’s not nearly as good as just having ambient internet service.

The other thing I noticed was what applications I really wound up using. This really is the deciding point for me.

I used only three apps during the trip:

  • A web browser (Google Chrome in this case)
  • Microsoft Live Writer to post blog entries
  • Skype to talk to Ennie for free occasionally

Of everything I had with me, from a full Office suite and other productivity tools to a small install of DevStudio (just in case something major blew up back at home) I didn’t use a whole lot of software.

The battery life of the Asus was pretty much in line with what I needed — figure around nine hours of usage on a charge. All of that usage is on a 10.1″ screen with a mini keyboard for input. I wound up bringing along a tiny bluetooth mouse since Windows is fundamentally a mouse-based OS.

Overall I was happy with it, but the lack of internet access left me wanting.

Given how I wound up using it, I opted to give the iPad a try. I waited in line for the 32GB version. I quickly realized I’d be better off with the 64GB version and upgraded in short order.

So, what’s life like with the iPad compared to the netbook?

First off, it’s quite a bit lighter and less bulky. 1.394 kg vs .874 kg (3.07 lbs vs 1.93 lbs) measured with each of their protective cases. The iPad is noticeably thinner as well.

Both devices screens are glossy. The iPad has a glass screen while the Eee PC has a glossy plastic screen. The resolution of the screens are comparable, 1024×768 for the iPad and 1024×600 for the Eee PC. Neither of them are unpleasant to look at, but the iPad has a bit more “pop” to it. In broad daylight they’re both a bit hard to read with all the reflections.

From here out, I’ll just be talking about the iPad since that’s what this review is mainly about. I just wanted to give a bit of background on how I’m intending on using it and what filled that role before.

Usage

Having used the iPhone for the past two years, the iPad is very much like a huge iPhone. I was immediately familiar with how things worked. It’s very easy to use and very intuitive. A real benefit is when you’re using it in a non-computer place (like a restaurant) you look quite a bit less out-of-place compared to a laptop. It’s much more like reading a big book.

A key benefit of the iPhone that got carried over to the iPad is the finger-centric interface. For the typical use case — browsing the web — there’s no keyboard to get in the way. Neither a physical or virtual keyboard takes up any space. It’s easy to use on-the-go, holding it with one hand and flick-scrolling with the other. On the other hand any real data entry becomes a lot harder, though not harder than using the physical keyboard of the netbook.

“Keyboard”

A lot has been written about the virtual keyboard of the iPad. Interestingly, when I compared the key sizes between the netbook and the iPad the iPad had bigger keys. In fact it’s just about the exact same size and pitch as the real keyboard I’m typing on now.

The iPad has replaced my laptop when going to meetings at work too. (The fact that my crappy machine crashes when I dock or un-dock it gave me impetus to not bring my big laptop regularly) Using the keyboard for the past two weeks to take notes has gotten me used to the lack of feel from the keyboard. Overall I have the feeling that I’m typing at roughly 90% of my normal speed once everything has been taken into account.

Battery Life

Apple hasn’t been lying about the battery life. In a typical day’s usage, I’ve never scrubbed off more than 25% of the battery life. This typically entails around 2-3 hours usage with 3G at work and WiFi at home. Overall I’m impressed with how slowly the battery drains while using it. I’ve never had an instance where I could just watch the battery go down.

Apps

Here’s the apps I’m using on a day-to-day basis:

  • Evernote: Simple amazing note-taking with cloud storage
  • Dropbox: Cloud storage done awesome
  • Goodreader: Great little app to view all sorts of documents you have around
  • Kindle: Read my Kindle books when I don’t have my Kindle with me (a comparison for another day)
  • Instapaper: Save random web pages to read later. Works great to waste a bit of time if you need to
  • Weather Channel: Big and beautiful weather reports
  • Toodledo: Getting Things Done
  • Zinio: Read magazines without the paper
  • WordPress: Posting to this on the road

Travel considerations

The accouterments for this are pretty minimal and compact. The charger is tiny and you can use any dock cable you have with you. An added bonus is that many of the iPhone accessories work with the iPod as well. While not every charger works (or even computer USB port for that matter) the Belkin car charger seems to charge it without problems. As a bonus Ennie already has one in her car!

This is a bigger advantage than it might first appear. On my trip I had to kludge together a charger that can take 12V (from my bike) to charge the Asus. It’s not easy to come by. (eBay charger + an ill-fitting tip from Radio Shack + some electrical tape to hold it together) Having a full ecosystem of third parties supporting a device is a big plus!

I still need to get my hands on the camera connector. They’re in short supply but I’m not too concerned at this second.

Overall

I’m really liking this device! It’s not a laptop. It’s not a netbook. It’s not a phone. It’s something else. And I like it. It’s comfortable to carry around. Easy to use. Great battery life. Connectivity built in. Great for browsing the net and taking notes.

Overall I’m very happy with it!

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