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Thoughts On the New iPad

I upgraded my first-gen iPad to a third-gen just over a week ago now and by and large I’m happy with the result. There are a couple of things that I don’t like so far, though, and I think it’s worth pointing them out. If you have a use-case for the iPad that is similar to mine, then this information might be especially helpful.

With that, here are some things to note about my iPad usage.

  • I use it almost exclusively in bed, lying on my back.
  • I use it in landscape mode almost exclusively, at least when I’m in bed.
  • Given that I use it largely at home, I go with the WiFi-only 16GB models.
  • I generally use it to browse the web, read, watch movies, or play games.
  • I have a Compass stand that I use if I’m going to be typing on it for longer periods of time. (Obviously not in bed.)
  • I do not take photos, be it with an iPad, iPhone, camera, or otherwise. Ever. I am just not into photos.

Keeping in mind my usage patterns of the iPad first-gen, and the fact that I have explicitly avoided touching the iPad 2 too much because I didn’t want to be too tempted to upgrade (this is a serious problem for me) and thus am comparing almost exclusively against the iPad 1, here’s what I’ve noticed:

Weight

It’s a bit lighter. I knew this going in, and indeed it was a selling point, though not a major one. Unfortunately this lighter weight is countermanded by some other problems that I’ll cover in more detail below.

Smart Cover

So, so clever. I’ve been in love with this since I first saw the ad, but I frankly should have thought through my usage patterns a a bit more thoroughly when I added it to my shopping cart last week. While the new iPad is perceptibly lighter than the original, having the smart cover clipped on largely negates that weight win. The cover itself is pretty heavy.

But the bigger problem is that it only clips on one side – the wrong side, at least for me. This means I have to orient the iPad the opposite way than I usually do, with the Home button on the left instead of the right1. This is frustrating on two levels. After two years of nearly daily usage, I’m simply accustomed to the home button being on the right. I’m right handed; using the left hand to putz around with the home button just feels wrong.

But really, the bigger problem I think is one of weight distribution. It took me some time to reach this conclusion. Something felt off about the feel of the device in my hands while using it in bed, but I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. I took off the smart cover, but continued to use it oriented the ‘new’ way, with the Home button on the left, in an attempt to force myself to adjust (and gauge just how badly it would confuse my muscle memory – spoiler: a lot). But my left hand was getting tired. This confused me since the device is clearly lighter than the first generation but still seemed to be causing more fatigue than the first generation did.

My conclusion thus far is that the weight distribution, at least in landscape orientation, is not balanced. I wouldn’t expect it to be, frankly, because fitting everything into the chassis and still having it be perfectly balanced would be nearly impossible. But I do think this causes some fatigue for me because I am so used to the other weight distribution. I am not 100% certain this is the cause of the fatigue; I’m obviously going to keep using it so we’ll see if it was just a fluke, but I have decided to just forgo the smart cover for now. I’ll use it when I travel or something.

One other note: with the smart cover on, the iPad fits snugly into the Waterfield Suede Jacket I used (and love) with my iPad 1. Yay! It’s a little more difficult to get out of the case, but it’s not a terribly big problem.

Shape

I really liked the shape if the first-gen iPad. A lot. So I was, and am, a little disappointed with the tapered design in the second and third-gen. But aesthetics are in some ways preference-based, and I don’t deny that the new design is very very nice, so I’m fine with it. But there are some actual problems that the design causes for me.

First, the tapered edge kind of digs into my hands. The flat edge of the first gen is actually preferable to me in this case, because the edge on the original iPad is actually pretty substantial and despite its greater weight, it distributes that weight over a slightly larger surface area on my hands so it just feels a bit nicer.

The second problem is with the volume/power buttons and the cable jack. Because of the tapered design, these things don’t sit flush with the edge. With the value and power buttons that just means they feel a little weird to me since they’re oriented ever-so-slightly differently than they used to be. No big deal – just an adjustment.

But with the cable jack I always feel like it’s either in at the wrong angle or not completely in at all, because it doesn’t sit completely flush. Again, this is probably something that I’ll just get over when I’ve used it for more than few days.

Display

Nothing. Else. Matters. It’s beautiful, gorgeous, stunning – whatever word you can think of probably isn’t going to really do it justice. If you have or have seen an iPhone 4 or 4S, then you know what it looks like. And yes, it’s that good. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a display nut – it is the single-most important thing about an electronic device to me. But Jeff Atwood makes a really good point about the importance of the display, especially for something like an iPad:

iPad 3 reviews that complain “all they did was improve the display” are clueless bordering on stupidity. Tablets are pretty much by definition all display; nothing is more fundamental to the tablet experience than the quality of the display.

There just isn’t much to say about this – it’s exactly what I expected, it’s well worth the upgrade, and I now wish for no other display types anywhere. If there is a 27-inch retina cinema display coming, you’d better believe I’ll get it (along with the two new video cards it’d probably take to drive the thing).

Speed and Memory

Snappy as expected. The memory bump solves a very real annoyance I have with mobile Safari and having to reload tabs. Though the increased speed means that reloading tabs isn’t as much of a slowdown as it was on the first-gen anyway. I realize the speed is not much of a boost for someone who’s accustomed to an iPad 2, but for me, it’s very noticeable.

Overall, I’m very pleased, despite the minor issues above. With any device, real usage is what defines whether or not it works for you, and time will tell if the minor problems turn into major problems in the long term or not. I’m not too worried about that, but we’ll see.


  1. I am aware that I could simply turn the iPad around so that the Smart Cover hinge was on the bottom and everything would be oriented the way I am accustomed to. However, the Smart Cover just doesn’t seem to play well when held that way – everything just feels awkward. 

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