The iPad doesn't arrive in stores until Saturday, and most tech reviewers, like civilians, will need to wait until then to get their hands on one. As usual, though, Apple provided early review units to journalists from a few major newspapers and other media outlets.
The big surprise in these reviews is...well, there aren't any big surprises. Everyone's impressed. Everybody brings up both pros (the interface, the form factor, the general level of polish) and cons (lack of Flash, no camera, inability to replace a laptop in every circumstance) that we already knew about. The most significant new positive factoid: Apple's battery-life claim of ten hours seems to be conservative. And there are a few new quibbles (did we know that the iPod app doesn't do Cover Flow)? Bottom line: It's the extremely slick first-generation device we thought it was.
After the jump, summaries of the reviews that have hit the Web so far. You might want to read ‘em all, but if you can only read one, see Tim Gideon's piece at PCMag.com -- it's by far the most detailed look at the gizmo. And come back here on Saturday: I'll be up bright and early to report on the insanity (if any) at my local Apple Store, pick up my iPad, and start the conversation here. (Looks like plenty of you will have iPads on Saturday -- and I look forward to hearing what you think of ‘em.)
Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal, "Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close"
Star rating equivalent (on a 1-5 star scale): ****
The good: "So I've been using my test iPad heavily day and night, instead of my trusty laptops most of the time. As I got deeper into it, I found the iPad a pleasure to use, and had less and less interest in cracking open my heavier ThinkPad or MacBook."
The bad: "If you need to create or edit giant spreadsheets or long documents, or you have elaborate systems for organizing email, or need to perform video chats, the iPad isn't going to cut it as your go-to device."
Battery life: "For my battery test, I played movies, TV shows and other videos back-to-back until the iPad died. This stressed the device's most power-hogging feature, its screen. The iPad lasted 11 hours and 28 minutes, about 15% more than Apple claimed."
The last paragraph: "All in all, however, the iPad is an advance in making more-sophisticated computing possible via a simple touch interface on a slender, light device. Only time will tell if it's a real challenger to the laptop and netbook."
David Pogue, The New York Times: " Looking at the iPad From Two Angles "
Star rating equivalent: ****
The good: "The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget. Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they're absolutely right."
The bad: "When the iPad is upright, typing on the on-screen keyboard is a horrible experience; when the iPad is turned 90 degrees, the keyboard is just barely usable (because it's bigger). A $70 keyboard dock will be available in April, but then you're carting around two pieces."
Battery life: "Speaking of video: Apple asserts that the iPad runs 10 hours on a charge of its nonremovable battery - but we all know you can't trust the manufacturer. And sure enough, in my own test, the iPad played movies continuously from 7:30 a.m. to 7:53 p.m. -- more than 12 hours. That's four times as long as a typical laptop or portable DVD player."
The last paragraph (okay, the last two paragraphs): "The bottom line is that the iPad has been designed and built by a bunch of perfectionists. If you like the concept, you'll love the machine. The only question is: Do you like the concept?"
Ed Baig, USA Today: " Verdict is in on Apple iPad: It's a Winner "
Star rating equivalent: **** 1/2
The good: "The first iPad is a winner. It stacks up as a formidable electronic-reader rival forAmazon's Kindle. It gives portable game machines from Nintendo and Sony a run for their money. At the very least, the iPad will likely drum up mass-market interest in tablet computing in ways that longtime tablet visionary and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates could only dream of."
The bad: "Another quibble: Controls to start a flick from the beginning or to resume where you left off are buried in settings rather than presented when you launch the videos app."
Battery life: "At 10 hours or so, the iPad battery life, while impressive, falls far short of the two weeks you might get off a Kindle charge."
The last paragraph: "Apple has pretty much nailed it with this first iPad, though there's certainly room for improvement. Nearly three years after making a splash with the iPhone, Apple has delivered another impressive product that largely lives up to the hype."
Andy Ihnatko, Chicago Sun-Times: "iPad is Pure Innovation -- One of the Best Computers Ever"
Star rating equivalent: *****
The good: "It's a computer that many people have been wanting for years: a slim, ten-hour computer that can hold every document, book, movie, CD, email, picture, or other scrap of data they're ever likely to want to have at hand; with a huge library of apps that will ultimately allow it to fulfill nearly any function; and which nonetheless covers the dull compulsories of computing (Mail, the web, and Microsoft Office-style apps) so well that there will be many situations in which this 1.5-pound slate can handily take the place of a laptop bag filled with hardware and accessories."
The bad: "When compared with a netbook on the netbook's terms, the iPad is a mixed bag. Even the cheapest $499 model is close to twice the cost of a decent netbook. The iPad has a terrific library of software, but a netbook can run most of the same software you're running on your Windows desktop. And its open file system is reassuring."
Battery life: "...the iPad has a solid, real-world 10-hour battery..."
The last paragraph (after telling story of turning down chance to be movie critic for a different paper a decade ago): "Hardware like the iPad confirms that I made the right choice."
Tim Gideon, PCMag.com: " Apple iPad (Wi-Fi) "
Star rating (not an equivalent!): **** 1/2
The good: "Content from the iTunes Store looks predictably awesome on the iPad's big, bright display. It's no substitute for a big-screen HDTV, but on a cross-country flight, I can't imagine a better way to watch a movie."
The bad: "Inexplicably missing [from the iPod app] is the visually pleasing Cover Flow array of sweepable album covers and titles. Instead, a grid arrangement of albums, artists, and genius mixes utilizes the same tap-the-cover-to-flip function that shows song titles and other information."
Battery life: "Our own rundown test of the rechargeable lithium-polymer battery netted a respectably close battery life of 9 hours and 25 minutes."
The last paragraph: "Is the iPad a perfect product? No. And the omissions will give the anti-Apple crowd plenty of ammo. Why do I need this extra device that's not a full-fledged laptop? Where's the camera? What about Flash? Um, how about multitasking? These are all valid complaints, but one thing I can say about most Apple products, and certainly the iPad: There may be things it doesn't do, but what it does do, it does remarkably well. Aside from the aforementioned limitations, there isn't a lot else to gripe about. And to my great surprise, you can actually get real work done with the iPad. There aren't a lot of directly comparable products in this nascent category. We haven't had enough quality time with the competing Fusion Garage JooJoo, but it will be a huge coup if it can match the utility and grace of Apple's first tablet. I'm curious to see who actually buys the iPad, apart from Apple enthusiasts. But I can tell you that when my laptop eventually dies, I'll be getting one."
Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing: " Apple's iPad is a Touch of Genius "
Star rating equivalent: ****
The good: "...the iPad hits a completely new pleasure spot. The display is large enough to make the experience of apps and games on smaller screens stale. Typography is crisp, images gem-like, and the speed brisk thanks to Apple's A4 chip and solid state storage. As I browse early release iPad apps, web pages, and flip through the iBook store and books, the thought hits that this is a greater leap into a new user experience than the sum of its parts suggests."
The bad: "Each app for iPad can't be more than 2 gigs in compressed archive form (a limitation imposed by the zip compression standard at work here, not something of Apple's own design). Data-dense applications like The Elements buck right up against that limit, but future iterations (this and others that go live Saturday were developed with great haste) will likely take advantage of the ability to do background downloading to supplement data."
Battery life: "Manic, nonstop use revealed a number of things: battery life is better than I anticipated. I got a full day of constant internet-connected use (it did not leave my hands) on one charge. More than 12 hours, with heavy video and gaming, and screen cranked up to full brightness."
The last paragraph: "I like it a lot. But it's the things I never knew it made possible - to be revealed or not in the coming months - that will determine whether I love it."
This story, "Apple's iPad: The First Reviews Are In" was originally published by Technologizer.