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Yesterday I finally got to play with an iPad in an Apple Store in Florida. I hadn’t completely made my mind up on buying one at the point of walking into the store as I had a few reservations.

My first impression was that it seemed smaller than I’d imagined. Picking it up, it felt heavier than I’d imagined.  But within a few minutes I was completely in love.

Needless to say ten minutes later I was walking out of the store clutching my white draw-string bag of Apple joy. Curiously, taking it out of the box later it felt much bigger than it previously had in the shop, and lighter too. Mind tricks at work somewhere I guess.

A few hours of playing later and I soon realised this was the best computing experience I had ever had since first playing with an Apple IIe as a child in a Laskeys shop in Peterborough in the late 70’s.

As a sofa-surfing device, it’s perfect; quiet, cool, long battery life, and can be used in the full variety of sofa lounging positions. No more scolding my nether regions with my laptop. No more power supply entanglement. It just works for me.

One thing that doesn’t work for me is the App Store as I registered in iTunes with my UK-based account, so it now believes I’m in the UK.  Maybe there’s a workaround for this, but I’m sure I can wait a while until the UK launch.

I soon realised this was the best computing experience I had ever had…

I have to say, I even love the keyboard.  I’m pretty happy typing on the iPhone touch screen and find it much faster than any hardware keyboard phone keyboard I’ve used  so maybe the same could happen with the iPad keyboard. Found myself 2 finger typing on the keyboard in portrait, but using all fingers in landscape.

Everything looks great on the shiny touch screen, I trawled through a few Headscape sites and was generally pleased with how everything appeared.  The sensation was different to anything else I’ve experienced, like ‘holding’ a website, feeling it without the necessity of constant zooming in and out as with the iPhone.  I noticed a few positional problems with a couple of sites, and some very small links were a bit fiddly to touch, therefore these did require a bit of zoom.  But generally it was a complete joy to use and experience. Though it may not have the screen legibility of the Kindle etc,  it’s clear and bright and easy on the eye – I happily browsed through some PDF manuals with speed and found it a great way to read them.

Adding photos via iTunes, demonstrated just how good the screen looks.  A perfect size for flicking through photo albums, and I adore the ‘folder peek’ feature.  Multi-touch just feels so natural and intuitive on this device.

Youtube video was just as striking, and the volume levels high and clear with the tiny built-in speaker.

Of course it’s going to get better in newer incarnations, as will the technology of rival tablets.  As a consumption format, especially for someone who wants to lounge around horizontally and browse and read, the internet tablet rocks. But coupled with the Apple dev teams use of pleasing eye candy and interface magic, it’s a pure pleasure to experience.

My only regret; I wish it would physically metamorphose and shrink down to iPhone size so I can put it in my pocket, but I think that may be expecting a little too much magic for now.