Hands on with the Apple iPad

Computerworld's Seth Weintraub got a few minutes with the device just after its debut

SAN FRANCISCO -- For the next several weeks, a lot of Mac users are going to be eager to get their hands on Apple's new iPad.

I did get my hands on one yesterday -- briefly -- after Apple's iPad launch event here, where CEO Steve Jobs finally unveiled a device everyone's been expecting Apple to deliver for years.

The iPad is heavier than you'd think, especially if you've used a Kindle. Amazon's e-reader weighs less than 12 oz.; the iPad checks in at more than twice that weight: 1.5 lbs. You notice the heft as soon as you pick it up. It feels like you've ripped the top off a MacBook Pro and added some thickness to it.

Initially, I wondered why so much screen real estate was wasted on the black frame around the iPad's edge. Once you have it in your hands, the answer's obvious: If the touch screen went all the way to the edges, you'd set it off simply by holding it. With the border, you have a place to keep your fingers when you're not doing multitouch gestures or typing on the virtual keyboard.

I wasn't the only person who noticed the iPad's weight. As I was looking over the device with a lot of other media types after Jobs' speech, I heard the guy next to me tell an Apple representative: "If I throw this at someone's head, they are going down."

The source of a lot of that weight is the 25W/hour battery, which can power the device for 10 hours, according to Apple. (I was only able to try the iPad for a few minutes, so that claim remains to be proved in real-world use.) For reference, the MacBook Air has a 40W/hour battery that is billed as lasting seven hours. On stage, Jobs bragged that you could fly from San Francisco to Japan and watch movies on the iPad the whole way. Something tells me he might have tested that particular stat himself.

A lot of laptops promise similar battery life, but don't deliver. My own Asus Eee 100HE is supposed to last 9.5 hours, but I can't do much more than word processing without the battery draining quickly. Watching a two-hour movie will deplete it.

The Apple iPad docking keyboard

The iPad's $69 docking keyboard is one product some people wish they'd had for their iPhones years ago.

Click to view our iPad launch image gallery.

The iPad is built around a new chip, a custom-designed 1-GHz A4 processor that makes the tablet's apps very responsive. That's especially true for the ones that are already available on the iPhone. Maps, for instance, is incredible on the 1024-by-768-pixel screen -- especially using Street View. Moving the iPad around and having the street view move with you is actually quite cool.

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