Chromium’s iPad Review

Apple’s newest must have gadget the iPad has arrived, and me the gadget-holic was eagerly on board with my pre-order placed for the 64GB model as soon as it was available.  I have been stockpiling magazines in PDF form and comic books in CBR and CBZ forms for months now anticipating this.  The $699 price tag (plus tax) along with the $29 dock (times 2, one for work, one for home) was a steep price tag to swallow, but it’s promise was more than enough to justify it.  I’ve been living with it now for over a month and here is my review.

Mmmm Laura

Since the iPad is tied to my iTunes account, I was able to download all of the apps before I even had the iPad so that once I got it, all I had to do was sync it.  Backing up 64 GB of data makes for some really long sync times, so most of the time I just cancel the backup portion, but an option to not backup every time it syncs would be nice.

I have to mention also that this thing is a fingerprint magnet.  You should seriously carry around a towel or a microfiber cloth.  The iPhone came with one and I’m kind of disappointed that this did not.

There also is no dedicated file system in place here, so document sharing is almost nonexistent.  You have to load any files you want to use into the specific app you want to open it with (i.e. comics in the comic app, word docs into Pages, PDF’s into the PDF reader app.)  It’s kludgey and it is restrictive.  It also doesn’t natively support sub directories.  I’m hoping this will be addressed in the future.  Let me offset the negativity with a picture of me and my daughter reading a bedtime story.

Apple says that it doesn’t charge through most PC or Mac USB ports due to needing a 10 Watt power source, but I have found that it charges just fine through all of my USB ports, just at a slower rate.  The battery is rated at 10 hours, and I have never had an issue with low battery since using it.  I charge it every night and it’s more than enough to get me through a whole day’s worth of usage. That battery life is of course the reason why the iPad is as heavy as it is and you can definitely feel the heft in your hand as you hold it.  It’s heavier than my Kindle but the screen is much smaller on the Kindle.  It does not get hot, it’s usually cool to the touch.  A lot of that might be in the fact that it’s sitting in the dock, and also the fact that the entire back is an aluminum heat sink.

The idea that it’s a magic device and a paradigm shift has a lot of weight behind it when you start to use it for more than a few hours.  It really does disappear in your hands and just becomes a frame for whatever media you’re absorbing – comics, magazines and books are all a joy.  The screen is bright and sharp and depending on the material (comics highlight it the best) the visuals all pop even more than I have ever seen on an LCD monitor.  Here I have a magazine article and that same article as a web page.  You can see on the iPad there are no ads or excess clutter, no excess unused free space and even though the screen is smaller, larger images.

I’m currently using it with my home Wifi and my Verizon 3G MiFi when at work or on the road.  I didn’t want the 3G version, because I like having options for wireless.  Once my area gets 4G through Verizon, I’ll likely upgrade the MiFi, which will be long before AT&T has it available in this area.  Just FYI, the pricing on the 3G subscription plan at $14.99 for 250MB is laughable.  You’d never use just 250MB so I can only see the $30 unlimited plan being reasonable. The fact that there is no contract means it’s better than the standard data plan at $59 per month and no 2 year contract that most data plans rope you in for.  Keep in mind there’s also a $129 3G premium for those models.

By itself, it comes with Safari and iTunes, and not much else.  Of course it can play videos (4:3 not 16:9), but Apple went with a page sized screen because more traditional media is letter sized and not legal or widescreen.  Books, comics, magazines and even web pages are all perfect in portrait mode.  In comparison the JooJoo does widescreen and it’s not beneficial for anything other than movies.

I installed several PDF readers for magazine and book content and I’m currently using MyPDFs and GoodReader.  MyPDFs (pictured below) has an extremely simplistic interface,  you tap corners to turn pages and file selection is limited to whatever is dragged into it from iTunes.  It also has a cool cover browser.  In the third screenshot here, I took a pic of a recipe I liked and sent it to my wife to make in the future.

MyPDF Magazine Screenshot

GoodReader (pictured below) has some better organizational capabilities allowing you to make subdirectories and move files around into them but that’s only in-app, you still have to move everything into the root directory through iTunes and then move them from there.  It also support more than PDF with a variety of file formats including MS Office flavors.  These apps have both been getting regular updates making auto-sizing better and page turning more intuitive.  The standard for page turning is a touch on the bottom right corner for next page, and a touch up to or on the bottom left corner for previous page.

For comics I have only been using Comic Reader Mobi, a $14.99 app that’s worth every penny.  It supports CBR, CBZ and PDF, and you can load files through iTunes or the built in FTP server it creates if you tell it to.  Unfortunately it does not support sub directories (a limitation of iTunes perhaps as the PDF reader apps suffered the same problem) and it seems like it’s limited to holding 2GB of comics, but that may be addressed shortly with a few updates on both the iTunes and the app side.  Comic reading is beautiful though and you can also click on each speech bubble to automatically get a zoom in on text you might not be able to read. It’s close enough in size to the original comic books, that most of your text should be more than legible.  This makes all of my comic collection instantly portable and tangible.  I’ve gone through more comics in the last month than I have in years.

The Amazon Kindle app works great and if you’ve used it before you know exactly what you’re getting into here.  Everything I have bought for my Kindle is able to be transferred over and I’ve been able to give my wife the Kindle now so she can read the content I have as well.  The one thing to note, is that several books have color pictures in them already, and these display perfectly.  The Kindle obviously could not display these colors, which should give Apple an edge for at least a year.

The Elements app is also amazing as a book in itself that transcends the eBook moniker with real time 3d rotatable objects in each element and a real time Wolfram Alpha breakdown on each element including the current value of each element.  At $13.99 it’s expensive, but as a textbook it’s quite reasonable.  Showing this more than anything else makes people understand the power of what it can do.

Alice and Toy Story are two additional eBooks which really stretch the idea of what an eBook can do.  Alice has real time physics applied to its’ illustrations and Toy Story has all sort of embeddable media and games built in.

The Netflix app is great and I’m glad to see it here first.  I’m sure since they could run native video resolution here is the main reason it debuted here first and not on the iPhone.  I imagine it will take a while for them to rerip everything into iPhone compatible resolutions.  You can edit your mailed queue and watch everything that’s available to stream instantly.  Performance over 3G is ok, though I find it a bit pokey to navigate.   The ABC app is also excellent and has limited commercials much like their website.   I’m expecting an NBC/Hulu app any day now.


Flash is of course not present and is the most controversial thing about it (lack of a webcam aside.)  Does it suffer for it?  That all depends on your flash usage.  Keep in mind there are already HTML5 versions of Youtube, so that content works just fine.  I mostly use google reader on it, and it does take a bit to get used to a touch browser as opposed to a mouse one (no click wheel).

In comparison, the JooJoo supports Flash as will the HP slate (although not sure now that they’re going to use Palm’s WebOS).  It decimates battery life though.  The testing showed a decline from 5 hours down to 2.  To me, that’s unacceptable and I can’t help but think that Flash was left out for just that very reason.  Everything about the iPad is deliberate and goes towards making it the best device it can be.

Gaming is getting more and more in depth every day.  The iPad seems best suited to casual games, as most hardcore gamers will already have a PC or a console, and I don’t see the iPad as a game changer when it comes to that.

Scrabble is interesting in that they have a free app that hooks up with your iPhone to display your tiles.  The technology is amazing and all other games that use this mechanic should use the same pay model.  The game play is somewhat limited by the built in dictionary, and thankfully the new rules for proper names have not been implemented.  There’s no cleanup and the tiles stay in place even though you can pass the whole board around.

Plants Versus Zombies is just about a direct port of the PC version and my only gripe with it is that it sucks away too much of my time.  Real Racing is fast and responsive and in my opinion has better graphics than Asphalt 5.  They are both driving games though and there’s not much to say about them other than my stepson thought they were cool.  Pocket Legends is an online RPG that you can play with up to 3 other people at a time.

Is it a laptop replacement?  Depends on what you need a laptop for.  For light word processing and web browsing it’s fine.  The onscreen keyboard is serviceable, but I would not want to use it for extended typing sessions.  I do find the fact that the onscreen keyboard won’t hold the shift key for me (like the iPhone does) to be slightly annoying and I wish there was an option for it.  The stand holds the iPad at a perfect viewing angle, and I applaud Apples’ minimalistic packaging for it (seriously small) but I do wish it came with at least an extra USB cable with it.

I have installed the Logmein app and tested it controlling both the PC & the Mac.  Again, it’s different using the touch interface versus the mouse, but it’s definitely workable.  It even displays my 3 monitor EyeFinity setup, albeit greatly scaled down.  For remote functionality it works beautifully.  The 1024×768 resolution shines here where a netbook with its’ limited 1024×600 is just short of the mark.

For those that need VPN and printing capability, you’re out of luck for the time being.  It is worthwhile to mention that OS 4.0 has been announced and is due in the fall for the iPad (sooner for the iPhone).  It should bring multitasking to the iPad as long as the app has been rewritten to take advantage of it.

Some hints and tips for those of you who already have one – you can store 6 icons on the home dock at the bottom of the screen instead of 4, just drag them down and place them where you want.  I’m currently using the slideshow feature to turn the iPad into a digital photo frame slide show.  Turn off facial recognition in settings though because it goes wonky otherwise.  The Magic Window app is also highly worth it as a picture frame substitute.  It shows different time lapse scenes from around the world.  Weather HD is also a great picture frame type app thats functional as well with seamless looping animations.

Also I have to mention Hip Handmaidens on Etsy who made me this funky iMaxi case in shocking Maxi-Pad White and Blood Red for maximum shock value.  The outer case is leather like vinyl I think and the inside is cloth.  It has a pocket behind the red that holds the iPad and the padding it provides is better than any that I saw for sale at the apple store.

Overall, the iPad is not without its’ flaws and its’ detractors, but it makes the tablet form factor work. It’s media consumption at its’ finest.  It has replaced my Kindle and my netbook.  It’s slim and just big enough for videos (music, movie or adult even) and the screen is large enough for sharing.  The browser is fast and responsive and the touch interface is extremely accurate.  The OS may be closed but if there’s something that you want to do with it, forgive the cliché, but there’s usually an app for that.  If not, just wait a while and someone will make that app (or let us know and we’ll make it for you!)  Apple has definitely spent it’s time polishing this one and it shows.  The app store continues to make sure there’s plenty of functionality, the same as it has for the iPhone.  I highly recommend it.

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