Vivek's Impressions

Over the last two-plus years, I’ve had an interesting relationship with the the iPad. I never intended to buy the original iPad, but I ended up getting one simply because the "oooh shiny" factor was too much to resist. It was a little buggy, a little slow, and mostly useless. In a footnote that may or may not be related, I returned it 12 days later.

After my experience with the original iPad, I was keen on revisiting the experience a year later with the iPad 2. I appreciated the industrial design and performance boost, along with the thriving iPad-specific application ecosystem, though I noted that the XGA display wasn't aging well. I said I wanted to give it a shot at being a real productivity device, and bet that I wouldn't end up returning it. Thankfully, I'm not a betting man, because if I was, I would have lost my money. I used it a lot the month I got it, as well as the month leading up to my iOS 5 review, but other than that, it ended up sitting around my house until I sold it in December. It just didn't function properly in my usage model, nothing about a tablet fit into my workflow.

And it wasn't just the iPad; I had more than a dozen other tablets go through my hands over the last 12 months. iOS, Honeycomb, webOS (R.I.P.)...it didn’t really seem to matter, I just couldn’t get a tablet to feel like anything other than an accessory that made my computing setup that much less streamlined. I've heard Anand and Brian convey similar thoughts multiple times over the last couple of years. We're writers; as devices without keyboards, tablets work for us as laptop replacements roughly as well as wheel-less bicycles would do as car replacements.

Regardless of that minor concern, I ended up at an Apple Store on the launch day of the new iPad for the third year in a row (at 6AM, no less). And for the third year in a row, I ended up purchasing the latest and greatest in Apple slate computing. It's relatively rare to see Apple compromise form factor in favor of more screen, more GPU, and more battery, but Apple breaking from the tradition (philosophy?) of sacrificing anything and everything at the alter of thinness has resulted in a device that's actually very interesting. 

I liked the iPad 2 hardware. It was a better tablet experience than the original, and the new iPad builds on that. Adding the Retina Display and LTE gives the form factor a breath of fresh air, but there’s another 16,000 words describing how and why. The main points: it’s new and it’s great to use, but the question is (also asked by Anand), will I be using this in six months? The answer for the original iPad was a resounding no; for the iPad 2, the answer was still no, but getting there. The new iPad? We’ll see.

The new iPad comes into my life at an interesting point—I got rid of my MacBook Pro because I felt like changing things up, and since then I’ve been bouncing from notebook to notebook (mostly review units) for the last eight weeks. With my mobile computing situation in flux until the next MacBook Pro launch, what better time to see if the iPad can really fit into my life?

To find out, I picked up a Logitech keyboard case for it, one that turns the iPad into something approximating the world's greatest netbook. Early returns are promising, I've gotten more written on the iPad in the last two days than I did in the entirety of the 9 months I owned the iPad 2. Shocking, that having a keyboard would make it easier to write, but in all seriousness, it allows me to be as productive on the iPad as I might be on a netbook. Probably more so, in fact. Also helping the case: dumping Google Docs Mobile (mostly terrible) for Evernote (less terrible). Multitouch gestures make switching between tasks less of a pain and the screen is finally crisp enough for the iPad to be a viable ebook reader. The new usability enhancements and the keyboard have significantly changed the usage model for me, now to the point where it has a daily role as a primary mobile computing device. 

I don’t know how long it’ll last, but finally, the iPad is actually playing a meaningful part in my life. 

What's Next: 6th gen iPhone, Haswell & Windows 8 Final Words
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  • antef - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Yes it's nice, no one will argue that. But I don't see it as the huge advancement the authors indicate. Using it in the store it seemed fine, but honestly just walking right up to it, I wasn't even sure if I was using the new or old iPad. I had to go over to the iPad 2 to recognize the difference. And even then, after being back at the new iPad for a couple minutes, I completely forgot about it. If you are looking for pixels, sure, you'll notice. If you're just using your device and thinking about other things, probably not so much. Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Eh, I think it depends on what application you use the iPad for. Web browsing and Tweeting? You're probably right, you wouldn't notice the difference in displays. But if you use it to view images I could see it being a big deal. Reply
  • zorxd - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I am pretty sure extra resolution is more noticeable when reading text than when looking at images Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I didn't mean "notice" as in you couldn't tell the difference, just that the difference wouldn't be something that you would constantly be aware of if you were simply web browsing.

    If you were reading an e-book? Absolutely, but if that's your only use case I'd get a Kindle and save the money.

    Regularly viewing quality images is something that can't be done on an e-ink reader, but for which the improved display would make a huge difference.
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    I would say this is a perfect example of why it's better to use "I"" statements than say "YOU won't notice, YOU won't care, there isn't that much difference" - those kinds of statements. "I didn't notice much of a difference, it wasn't a big change in MY experience. . .)

    Displays can very very personal in experience, and things that bug the heck out of me may not be a problem to someone else. For example, a pixel pitch of around .270mm is just too big for me, in a monitor, and it bugs me. Always.

    Frame rates are a good example of something I'm not consciously aware of all the time, but I can sure tell the difference on some level, and some displays are more effected than others. There are extra factors in LCD screens that can make the problem worse for some of us - others don't notice so much, or it's just not a problem for them.

    One thing I believe, is that as more people use really better screens, they'll understand more why some of us call for them every chance we get.

    ;)
    Reply
  • darkcrayon - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I can *immediately* notice the difference in web browsing, which is primarily focused on reading text... Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I found it a noticeable difference, just not neuron melting like some reviews led me to think. For 100 or more less I'd still be plenty happy with an iPad 2, especially given the CPU and battery life performance are about the same. Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    Unfortunately the iPad 2's camera is a disgrace. It should've had the iPhone 4 camera, which was already out by that time. Reply
  • repoman27 - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    The iPad 2 was also thinner than the iPhone 4. Now that it is the same width, it has the same camera. It's not really Apple's style to add thickness to a device just to support one feature that isn't heavily used anyway (tablets are not a very good form factor for a camera.) Reply
  • zanon - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Human vision varies significantly from person to person, as do use patterns for machines. Someone who is more near sighted or simply has better vision in general, and/or uses their system at a closer distance, may see a truly dramatic change. To take my personal example, I have excellent color vision and am also near sighted, and tend to hold my devices relatively close (or use glasses at my machine). I can see the pixels on the iPhone 4 screens (326 ppi) if I focus a bit, and for the older screens (or old iPads) they're massively pixelated to me (not that that made them useless). The High DPI screens are a night/day difference personally, making all types of reading in particular (be it on a terminal session, the web, PDF manuals, ebooks, or whatever) massively more functional (and everything else more beautiful).

    But that's just me, and is that awesome? No, it's kind of meh, I'd love it if I didn't need glasses to use my desktop without being hunched over the keyboard to drive. But understand that you'll see raves about the screen that are completely justified, just not for you. 20/20 vision puts the critical distance around 13" I think, but in the end everyone will need to take a look for themselves.
    Reply

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