The Apple iPad: Hands-on Review

Hands-on review of the Apple iPad – know more about the capabilities as well as the limitations of Apple’s tablet.

February 01, 2011

ipadFedEx finally delivered me an iPad this weekend and, after spending some time with the device, here’s what I think about Apple’s latest gadget.

1. The iPad feels slightly heavy so you may want to grab a couch if you intend to use it for long. It’s something like holding a heavy dinner plate in a buffet – you can definitely eat while standing but it feels more comfortable if there’s a vacant chair around.

2. You need a Windows or Mac computer with iTunes to initialize the iPad – it comes fully charged but it won’t run “out of the box”.

3. If you are setting up iPad with a Windows 7 (or Vista) computer, you might see some unexpected errors like “Can’t sync iPad to itunes. Not enough access privileges.” This has something to do with “User Access Control” settings of Windows but you can fix them easily.

4. You’ll effectively get only 13-14 GB of storage space on a 16 GB iPad.

5. The iPad has plenty of storage space but, like the iPhone and iPod Touch, you don’t have access to the file system so you can’t directly transfer documents from the computer to the device over USB. That said, there are some third-party apps that let you copy files to the iPad through the iTunes interface or over the air (Wi-Fi).

6. If you are working on an iPad while standing, there’s always this feeling that the thing will slip out of your hands and break. You need to get a case for the iPad.

7. The touch-screen of the iPad is beautiful and extremely responsive. It’s also a magnet for fingerprints.

8. The iPad is NOT a giant iPod Touch. I have an iPod Touch (as review unit from Apple) for some time now and can easily say that these are just two absolutely different devices that can’t be compared.

9. The virtual on-screen keyboard of the iPad is brilliant and you can actually type pretty fast in landscape mode.

10. iPad doesn’t support multi-tasking and I actually find this “limitation” useful in certain situations. For instance, when you are reading books or writing a document, you get a “distraction free” environment.

11. Apple says that all existing iPhone apps can run on the iPad. While that’s technically correct, the iPhone-only apps (most of them) look ugly on the iPad so you may want to install only apps that are not just iPad-compatible but actually designed for the iPad. Examples include EverNote, Kindle, Wolfram Alpha, Twitterific (Twitter client), etc.

12. To capture a screenshot in iPad, you need to hold the “Home” button and then press the the “Sleep” key – it’s the same as your iPhone or iPod Touch.

13. iPad doesn’t have* a built-in PDF viewer and I don’t know if Adobe is planning to build a version of their Acrobat Reader for the iPad. Until then, you can download a copy of the very awesome Good Reader app from the iTunes store and read PDF eBooks on your iPad without having to convert them into ePub files.

[*] Update: You can now read PDFs on iPad.

14. Google has developed a beautiful version of Gmail for the iPad but not for other apps like Google Docs or Google Reader. The NetNewsWire App for the iPad is a decent alternative as it can sync with Google Reader as well and also supports authenticated feeds.

15. I don’t have any movies or TV shows on my iPad but video podcasts look great on the screen. The volume levels are a bit low and, unlike the iPod, Apple doesn’t ship headphone cords with the iPad.

16. Some popular iPad Apps are currently not available outside the US. For instance, you’ll be disappointed to know that you cannot install Zinio, iBooks, iWork, Adobe Ideas, Nuance Dictation, etc. on your iPad if your iTunes Account is linked to an non-US address. There are however workarounds to help you install apps from anywhere.

17. Unless you have a Mac and the iPhone OS SDK, it is impossible to record a video of your iPad screen (screencasts).

18. There are some nice “doodle” apps that let you write on the iPad “slate” but handwriting recognition, a popular feature of Windows based tablet PCs, is still missing from the iPad.

19. Apple has created some excellent videos to demonstrate the various features of the iPad. The expectation levels have already been set so high but once you get to use the device on your own, the experience will still blow you away.

20. Overall, I would say that the Apple iPad is a truly stunning and must-have device. And at $499, you will actually be getting some great value for your money.

Also see: Recommended Apps for Apple iPad