Mini-review: iPad 2012

Yesterday morning, when I woke up, I fully intended to not buy the new iPad. Based on what I had gleaned from the tech news community, it was heavier and thicker than the iPad 2 (which I already owned) and, despite more powerful graphics, was effectively the same speed when it came to my most common use: browsing the web.

But… as I was standing in the lineup at Timmy’s to get my morning coffee — reading RSS feeds on my phone, as usual — I saw a post that said “most stores will be open at 8am for potential iPad buyers”, and I thought, “Gee (or something like that), it’s 8:20 and there’s a Future Shop between here and my work! I might as well go look at them at least.”

As you have probably surmised, I went, I saw, I purchased. I’ll warn you now, if you are vacillating over buying the new one, don’t look. Seriously, don’t look!

For me, tablets are defined by exactly two things: their responsiveness and the quality of their screens. In the iPad’s case, the responsiveness is as good as ever (and I still believe that the compromises that the Apple team made to get there were the right answer), but the screen is something else entirely. I can honestly say that this is the highest quality display I have ever seen. The iPhone 4 may have higher pixel density, but the small form factor doesn’t do it justice. Looking at the iPad screen you get the same sense that you are looking at a printed page that you get from e-ink screens, but with beautiful, vibrant color. [Yes, I know it has more glare and isn’t outdoor readable — everything has trade-offs]. Text is absolutely gorgeous and reading is a joy. Scanning through photos leaves you thinking you’re looking through a 10″ window.

As to the rest, I can’t say I’ve seen a significant performance improvement overall (either from the improved graphics processor or increased system memory). It may stutter a little less, but not so I’ve noticed.

I will say the “back” camera is much improved. I’d include a picture here, but I’d have to reduce it in size, which would defeat the purpose. The front-facing camera is just as crappy as it was in the previous generation; I actually find it to be so bad that I’m not even happy using it for FaceTime. Oh well.

We’re now a 3 iPad family. Deb has my old one; the 3G will come in handy for her business travel. Her first gen one is now in the hands of Dennis. I’ll let you know the result of that toughness “road test”. 😉

iPad 2 Wish List

Here’s what I’d like to see for the next iPad, along with any related, current rumours…

  1. Higher resolution display — the rumours say everything from “no change” (== 1024×768) to “retina display” (== 2048×1536). Retina display seems unlikely, but I would like something higher than we have now, at least when I’m reading books. Can we do 1280×1024 maybe?
  2. Cameras front and back — this is widely believed to be part of the story, but the current rumours are that the cameras will be low resolution (0.3Mp front; 1.0Mp rear). Honestly, if they put in something less than what’s in the iPhone, they’re idiots.
  3. Lighter — using the current iPad to read is equivalent to strength training. There are rumours of the next iPad having a carbon fibre back to reduce the weight. I’ll believe it when I see it.
  4. Faster — this would be both as a result of a faster processor, and because it would have more RAM. A big part of the experience for this device is browsing the web, but the iPad is not the best tablet for doing this any more; let’s fix that.

Of course I got an iPad

I’m sure no one is surprised that I did, indeed, go and pick up an iPad the first day that they were available in Ottawa. As I had been telling people, I didn’t pre-order one, since I wanted to use one first, to make sure that it was going to work well for my most important usecase (i.e. eBook reading) before I leapt onto the bandwagon.

So, Friday morning, I went down to Carbon Computing and spent some time playing with the ones they had on display.

[Aside: The iPad release to retail in Canada was odd. I have no inside information about this, but it’s pretty clear that the only outlet that was allowed to say they would have stock on the first day was the Apple Store. As a result, there were hundreds of people waiting in line when the Rideau Apple Store opened that morning, which is I guess the effect they were going for. By contrast, I just walked into Carbon Computing, wandered over to the display machines, played with one for a while, and then said “I’d like the 32Gig, non-3G model” — in and out in about 20 minutes. Having been in the line when the Rideau store opened a few months back, I can tell you that this was a much more pleasant experience.]

In any case, the iPad does make a perfectly acceptable e-reader. It does not have as high a pixel density as the Kindle, and the glossy screen might get tiring in some lighting conditions, but overall it’s excellent. The screen is bright, and the colors pop.

One clear win over the Kindle et al. is the availability of multiple book stores. Although Apple’s iBooks store currently only has the public domain books from Gutenberg Press in Canada, you can also get all of the books available for the Kindle, and all those for Kobo. This feature alone seems like it will doom the dedicated readers.

As of writing this, there are no iPad versions of the eReader or Stanza apps. I can tell you that using the iPod versions in “2x” mode is simply not a viable way to read, so hopefully they will come out with updates. Unfortunately, it may just be that these “old school” readers will fade away in the face of the new players. This would be a shame, in both cases; I have a lot of eReader content that I’d like to be able to re-read on the iPad, and Stanza has been also very useful for reading my current ePub formatted content.

Anyway, this is also the traditional “post done on the new device”. I used the WordPress app [Warning: iTunes link], which runs on both iPod and iPad. It’s an excellent way to manage your blog on either device, but the iPad layout is significantly better for entering new content.