It's substantial but surprisingly light. Easy to grip. Beautiful. Rigid. Starkly designed. The glass is a little rubbery but it could be my sweaty hands. And it's fasssstttt.
Apple didn't really sell this point, but it's the single biggest benefit of the iPad: speed. It feels at least a generation faster than the iPhone 3GS. Lags and waits are gone, and the OS and apps respond just as quickly as you'd hope. Rotating between portrait and landscape modes, especially, is where this new horsepower manifests in the OS.
Imagine, if you will, a super light unibody MacBook Pro that's smaller, thinner and way, way, way lighter. Or, from a slightly different perspective, think about a bigger iPhone that's been built with unibody construction. The iPad really does feel like some amalgamation of these two product lines from Apple. And, in the hands, it feels great—not too heavy at all.
The screen looked nice, and it's able to display even small text crisply. Touch responds like a dream.
But one point of the build seems odd. It's the Home button. In portrait mode, hitting the Home button is far less natural than on an iPhone because your thumbs naturally rest in the middle of each side of the case (not the bottom). A Kindle-like side Home button may not have been a horrible idea, even if it broke up the stoic minimalism of the case a bit.
It's an optical illusion, but just seeing the depth of pages makes the iBook app feel more like a book than a Kindle ever did for me. The text is sharp, and while the screen is bright, it doesn't seem to strains the eyes—but time will tell on that.
Typing in portrait is better than anticipated but still quite a stretch for our average-sized hands, which means that letters like F G and H will take a moderate conditioning for some. What about in landscape mode, sitting flat on the table? Well this is problematic too, as the iPad sort of wobbles. The back is not perfectly flat, meaning your typing surface is never perfectly flat, so the virtual keyboard becomes that much more difficult to use.
Pinch, zoom, whatever—like we said, it's fast—the photo app is faster than iPhoto performs on an aging Core2Duo laptop.
Apps can play in their native resolution, or be 2x uprezzed for the screen. How does it look? An ATV game we tried actually looked pretty good—limited more by its base polygon count than the scaling process itself. Bottom line: it's about as elegant solution as Apple could have offered, even if that graphics won't be razor sharp.
Over Wi-Fi, Gizmodo loaded quickly. The 9.7-inch screen is an excellent size for reading the site. You can pinch zoom, but you won't need to. Of course, on such a pretty web browsing experience, not having Flash makes the big, empty video boxes in the middle of a page is pretty disappointing. Put differently, the fatal flaw of Apple's mobile browser has never been more apparent.