Monday, March 19, 2012

iPad (initial impressions)

The new iPad was delivered on Friday.

I'm going to give you my impressions in a linear fashion, because it makes for more interesting reading. Trust me.

When I unbox the device, I notice two things immediately. One, it's impressive-looking. Two, it feels heavy. It's only about 13% heavier than the Galaxay Tab 10.1 we have, and you wouldn't think that would make much of a difference, but it does, at least subjectively.

I'm looking forward to seeing the new high-resolution screen, so I immediately turn it on, ready to get busy.

Oh, I can't. I have to "activate" the tablet first. I can't do anything else until then. WTF?

When I bought an Android tablet, I turned it on and used it. I might have needed a Google password--can't remember--and I did go through about 90 seconds of setup (language, time zone, etc.), but I didn't have to do anything else. Why, then, do I have to activate this device? Because Apple wants its hand three feet up my ass.

All right. Fine. At least this should be simple.

I need an Internet connection, and I'm waiting before signing up for a data plan, so I'm just going to connect to our wireless network. There are two ways to connect to the router--one is as a guest, with a password entered on a browser page that comes up when you try to use a browser, and the other is to put a router password into the connection settings.

I'm going to start off with the guest account, but I can't get there, because I can't pull up a browser page (Catch-22 alert) until I finish activating the tablet.

Annoying, but no problem.

Hmm. The iPad can't connect to my router directly. Eli's iPod has the same problem at times. Even if the Galaxy Tab and my cellphone are working fine with the router, there are times when he just can't connect. Mystifying.

Reset everything. Reboot the router. Check password one million times. Android tablet still connecting fine, iPad not connecting.

This is Apple's Revenge, although fortunately it involves fewer trips to the bathroom than the traditional revenge.

Gloria, in a stroke of brilliance, solves my problem. "Can't you set up a wi-fi hotspot with your phone?" Indeed I can, and this is how I eventually "activate" my iPad--with a wi-fi hotspot from my Android phone.

I do enjoy irony.

As a user experience, that process was an "F". A sub-F, really. However, I'm quite happy to report that things got better.

First off, the screen is indeed glorious. Holy shit, it's razor-sharp and absolutely amazing. Spectacular, really.

The Galaxy Tab has a beautiful screen, but the iPad screen is even much nicer than that.

The sound on the iPad is also terrific. Even without headphones, it's very solid, and with headphones, it's fantastic.

I did face one additional annoyance (that I'm sure can be fixed in settings somewhere) in that every time I go the App store, I have to put in my password to buy anything. That can be a bit annoying when you're buying ten apps over a period of a few hours.

With everything else, though, I've survived. Apple's interface is different, but not stupidly so. It doesn't seem better than the Android interface, but it doesn't seem worse, either. And Safari is a little different, but generally equivalent, to Dolphin HD as a browser.

I can't hold the iPad with one hand for an extended period, which is a bit of a bummer, but it's okay. And damn, this thing gets hot--far hotter than I expected.

Are any of these things dealbreakers? No. The screen more than makes up for all of this combined.

Also, games. The first thing I bought in the App store was King Of Dragon Pass, and I am very pleased to report that it looks and plays wonderfully. It's a terrific port of the PC version, just terrific, and I couldn't be happier to be able to play it again. It's such a complex and satisfying game, and in some ways it reminds me uncannily of Dwarf Fortress (even though in many other ways, it's a completely different game).

I also purchased the following:
Waking Mars
Space Miner HD
Sword and Sorcery EP
Neuroshima Hex
Air Mail

If you have other suggestions, fire away.

I wanted the iPad primarily as a gaming device, and it's already paid off big in that category. Basically, I'm able to play any handheld game that comes out now, since I have tablets for each major platform.

We're sharing two tablets between the three of us, which should be interesting. I did this on purpose so that Eli 10.7 will be in a sharing environment instead of a "this is mine" environment, even though the first thing he did was change the wallpaper on both the iPad and the Tab.

It reminded me of a cat peeing in a new house to mark its territory. I laugh every time I see the wallpaper now.

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