iPad Flight: A week out with the new toy in Europe

Posted on by Mike Evans

At home with my iPad (and my iPhone since you can see the reflection as I take the photograph)

Author: Ralf Meier

No sooner had I collected the new iPad from my local Best Buy at Tenleytown, here in Washington DC, than I was heading to Dulles for a week in Europe. So I've been able to give the newcomer a thorough bashing in a variety of situations and in connection with a surprisingly large number of wi-fi networks.

At the outset, let me say that so far the iPad has fulfilled my expectations. My old Apple laptop was getting a bit long in the tooth and I had been looking for a replacement. I'm not a "power user" and the idea of the iPad as a roaming computer was quite appealing. Of course, I do have a new iMac at home, so I wouldn't be thinking of the iPad as a sole device. For a number of reasons the iPad doesn't fulfil this role and does need a mothership somewhere.

As I considered a new laptop, I was getting fed up with my Sony Digital Edition eBook reader, mainly because of constant freezes and the need for hard resets. Also, I have to say, Sony's "Reader Library" built-in software is less than a stellar piece of programming. I was therefore receptive to the idea of not having to lug around two different pieces of equipment, together with all their accessories. By the way, as Michael Evans reported two days ago, the 10w iPad charger can also be used for the iPhone so that's another accessory that can be left at home.

Wi-Fi no problem

The iPad was hardly out of the box before I was on my way to Lyon in France; a great opportunity to test my assumptions about it being a laptop replacement and, incidentally, a reading alternative. From the outset, I had no complaints about wi-fi reception and I was connected right away in United's lounge at the airport. Later, in the Lyon hotel, it connected with no problems and managed to stay connected even while moving from my room on the 6th floor to the 8th floor lounge. I also had no problems, at least no more than with the iPhone, when out and about during the day.

The screen and colour is amazing. Downloaded, good-quality photographs are vivid and bright. Movies also look nice and crisp, but I'm not crazy about the letterbox format with the black bars at top and bottom.

Book replacement

As an eBook reader iPad seems to work quite well. Personally, I find the "print" better than that on the Sony Digital Edition. I actually like the idea of backlighting and colour. I have read the various comments and discussions on the possibility of eye-strain with backlighting (as opposed to the supposed comfort of e-ink screens) and I don't agree with the critics. I probably read for over five hours on the eight-hour flight to France and did not experience any discomfort. I now much prefer it to the e-ink display on my Sony.

The virtual keyboard, however, does take some getting used to. In the landscape mode it is not too bad and I got used to it quite rapidly. Admittedly I am not a good typist but it seems to work for me. I was less enthusiastic about the keyboard when used in portrait mode--it's neither one thing (a thumbable iPad micro keyboard) nor a full-finger experience. I can see that writing a major work on the iPad, without one of the external keyboards, would be tiresome. 

Laptop replacement

Overall, I am very impressed and believe that for me, a non-power user, it could be my only portable device (other than my iPhone which I am addicted to). The ease of use, and the intuitive interface so predictable, that I believe many more people who have never really got used to a PC will find it suits them.

I do have a provisional wishlist for the 2G iPad. I'd like the video format changed to avoid those top and bottom black bars; and a camera and at least one USB port would be useful. Then it would be a perfect laptop replacement for me. 

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