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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  • Ammaross - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    "It has the fastest and best of nearly every component inside and out."

    Except the CPU is the same as in the iPad2, and by far not the "best" by any stretch of the imagination. Hey, what's the problem though? I have this nice shiny new tower, loads of RAM, bluray, SSD, and terabytes of hard drive space. Oh, don't mind that Pentium D processor, it's "good enough," or you must be using it wrong.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    What's better that's shipping today? Higher clocked A9s, or quad core ones like the T3? Either would mean less battery life, worse thermal issues, or higher costs. Krait isn't in a shipping product yet. Tegra 3's additional cores still have dubious benefit. These operating systems don't have true multitasking, you basically have one thing running at a time plus some background services like music, and even on desktops after YEARS few applications scale well past four cores outside of the professional space. The next iPad will be out before quad core on tablets becomes useful, that I assure you of. Reply
  • zorxd - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I'd gladly trade GPU power for CPU power.
    That GPU is power hungry too, probably more than two extra A9 cores, and the benefit is even more dubious unless you are a hardcore tablet gamer.
    Reply
  • TheJian - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    LOL, the problem is you'll have to buy that new ipad to take advantage because YOURS doesn't have those cores now. Once apps become available that utilize these cores (trust me their coming, anyone making an app today knows they'll have at least quad cpu and gpu in their phones their programming for next year, heck end of this year), the tegra 3 won't need to be thrown away to multitask. Google just has to put out the next rev of android and these tegra3's etc should become even better (I say etc because everyone else has quad coming at 28nm).

    The writing is on the wall for single/dual. The quad race on phones/tables is moving FAR faster than it did on PC's. After win8 these things will start playing a lot more nicely with our current desktops. Imagine an Intel x86 based quad (hopefully) with someone else's graphics running the same stuff as your desktop without making you cringe over the performance hit.

    I'm not quite sure how you get to Tegra3 costing more, having higher thermals (umm, ipad 3 is hot, not tegra3). The die is less than 1/2 the size of A5x. Seems they could easily slap double the gpus and come out about even with QUAD cpu too. IF NV double the gpus what would the die size be? 162mm or smaller I'd say. They should have went 1920x1200 which would have made it faster than ipad 2 no matter what game etc you ran. Unfortunately the retina screen makes it slower (which is why apple isn't pushing TEGRA ZONE quality graphics in their games for the most part...Just blade?). They could have made this comparison a no brainer if they would have went 1920x1200. I'm still waiting to see how long these last running HOT for a lot of people. I'm not a fan of roasted nuts :) Too bad they didn't put it off for 3 months and die shrink it to at least 32nm or even 40nm would have helped the heat issue, upclock the cpu a bit to make up for 2 core etc. More options to even things out. Translation everything at xmas or later will be better...Just wait if you can no matter what you want. I'm salivating over a galaxy S2 but it's just not quite powerful enough until the shrinks for s3 etc.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    I didn't say the Tegra 3 is more expensive or has higher thermals; I said the A5X, with higher clocked cores or more cores would be, and we all know Apple likes comfortable margins. Would I like a quad core A5X? Sure. Would I pay more for it? Nope. Would I switch for reduced battery life and an even hotter chip than what Apple already made? Nope. With the retina display, the choice to put more focus on the GPU made sense, with Android tablets resolution maybe Tegra 3 makes more sense, so you can stop attacking straw man arguments I never made. There are still only a handful of apps that won't run on the first iPad and that's two years old, "only" two cores won't hold you back for a while, plus iOS devs have less variation of specs to deal with so I'm sure compatibility with this iPad will be assured for at least two or three years. If I was buying one today, which I am not, I wouldn't be worried about that.

    Heck, even the 3GS runs most apps still and gets iOS updates.
    Reply
  • pickica - Monday, April 02, 2012 - link

    The New Ipad 2 is probably gonna have a dual A15, which means dual cores will stay. Reply
  • Peter_St - Monday, April 02, 2012 - link

    The problem here is that most people have no idea what they are talking about. It was just few years ago that we all used Dual Core CPUs on our Desktop Computers and we ran way more CPU load intensive applications, and now all of a sudden some marketing bonzo from HTC and Samsung is telling me that I need Quasd Core CPU for Tablets and mobile devices, and 2+ GB of RAM,
    If you really need that hardware to run your mobile OS, then I would recommend you to fire all your OS developers, get a new crew, and start from scratch...
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    If you were to run the same applications a tablet is designed to, then yes, your Pentium D would actually be overkill. Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    The point is made in the article is that it would be impossible provide the quad GPUs (necessary to handle that display) AND quad CPUs. Given you can only do one or the other, quad GPUs is the right choice. Reply
  • zorxd - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    was it also the right choice to NOT upgrade the GPU when going from the iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4? Reply

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