Apple’s marketing machine created extensive hype around the “magical and revolutionary” new iPad, released on April 3, 2010. It’s proven by masses of people huddled around demonstration tables in Apple’s retail stores, the buzz on various tech blogs, and the amount of activity on Twitter. That is great for Apple, but it left me wondering whether the device lived up to the hype and whether it would fill a “void” that I was looking to fill. On April 10, while purchasing a new washer and dryer, an iPad fell into my hands, so I took it home.

The Void and Device Requirements

I love to learn and read, however I need to travel light due to a multi-modal transportation commute every day. This commute does not allow me to carry one or two books for classes, a self improvement book, and yet a “recreational reading” book. In fact, even if I didn’t have this type of commute, I would not want to carry that many books. To lighten the load, I have been looking at various e-readers.

One of my biggest hurdles is that, if I am going to spend that much on a device, I wanted it to do more than just display text. I wanted a device that could view websites, take notes, manage my calendar, and provide various ways to read publications of all kinds (books, PDF files, magazines, etc.). I also wanted to be able to keep all of my media with me, especially TV programming that I record with my EyeTV tuner.

The iPad

The iPad is available in WiFi and WiFi+3G models. Both are about 9.5 inches high, 7.5 inches wide, and 0.5 inches thick. The back is slightly curved. There are a couple of differences between the WiFi model and WiFi+3G models. The WiFi model weighs about 1.5 pounds, while the WiFi+3G model weighs about 1.6 pounds. The WiFi+3G model also has a MicroSD card tray, allowing increased storage and flexibility. For full technical specifications click here.

I selected the 64GB WiFi model because I wanted to make sure I had enough memory and did not see the need to have WiFi on board. My Android phone (and others) can be made into “WiFi hotspots,” so I have WiFi anywhere I need it.

My Experience

Device setup was easy, but you do need to connect the device to a computer with iTunes installed and a valid iTunes account. You must use the cable supplied with the iPad. The ones you have for your iPod or other device will not work. Once connected, iTunes immediately recognizes the iPad and begins the setup process, which doesn’t take long at all.

Once setup completed, I was able to add it to my wireless network and start exploring the dozens of applications out there. Installation of the applications was easy, and overall I was impressed with the ease of use and intuitiveness of the device. I was able to view websites, although ones containing a lot of Flash were not viewable. Reading eBooks on it was a wonderful experience as both the iBooks and Kindle applications had similar interfaces. The media applications provided a rich user experience with high quality audio and video, however you need a fast WiFi connection. The news applications provided enough information in a paper-like interface that impressed me. I also found that the Bible software was well designed, had great search functions, and allowed me to keep texts available for offline use. Finally, the weather software made it easy to view weather data for the whole Chicagoland area, which would make the iPad a great secondary display for severe weather spotting. I’ll get more in-depth in how I’m using the device in future posts.

I did finding myself wishing that the device had a PDF reader. This would work great because you could download transit schedules and other PDF documents for reading offline. It has some support, but you must put the PDF in an e-mail message, which is sort of a pain. I would also like to see the ergonomics improved. While the design is elegant, I found that holding it in one hand can be cumbersome at times, especially if you don’t balance the weight properly. Your mileage may vary depending on your dexterity and the shape/size of your hands.

The Verdict

I see great promise for tablet PCs in the areas of education, healthcare, and executives/managers who travel a lot. While I think the price of the iPad was a bit steep, it has met my needs so far. I have enjoyed having my books, media, and other information at my fingertips while keeping up on my news, and e-mail. If you are considering a purchase you should evaluate how you will be using the device and ensure that it has enough memory and connectivity options for you. The tablet “playing field” is going to explode this year and next, so your options will become endless.