The New iPad: Second Look [UPDATED]

Just a few more observations after a few more days with my shiny new toy.

The heat issue is a non-issue. Not only have I not noticed it, but Wired conducted its own tests and concluded:

So that’s the new iPad — it spiked at a temperature that’s warm but not unseemly. And its heat generation isn’t even all that notable when compared against the pack. Now check out the heat generated by other tablets after 30 minutes of Dead Space action (degrees in Fahrenheit, from warmest to coolest):

Not only was the new iPad merely tepid in terms of heat generation, it was also one of the cooler-running tablets in our test. But let’s take Consumer Reports’ 116 degree reading at face value. It may cause sweaty hands, but is it any danger to consumers?

Consumer Reports abandoned its former mission in favor of sensationalism a while back. Keep that in mind whenever you read that they’ve found some horrible flaw in the hot product of the moment. I should add that those hotter tablets are all running slower graphics chips and much-lower density screens. What will happen to those Android tabs when they try adding Retina Displays?

The charging issue is another non-issue:

“That circuitry is designed so you can keep your device plugged in as long as you would like,” Tchao said. “It’s a great feature that’s always been in iOS.”

It appears to have gone largely unnoticed until this latest generation iPad, when DisplayMate analyst Ray Soneira noted that his testing showed the iPad not fully charged when it displayed 100 percent.

No matter where in that cycle a battery is, Tchao said, owners of the new iPad can expect the 10 hours of battery life that Apple has promised.

The decision not to keep changing the battery status was designed so as not to distract or confuse users.

Still, it’s best to unplug any device before it reaches 100% charge. Even a trickle charge, like the one just described, is probably harder on your battery than you want to be.

So now that we’ve dismissed Batterygate and Heatgate, how is the thing to use?

Very nice, and in a couple unexpected ways.

I never much used my Original iPad for reading books. The screen just wasn’t comfortable enough for long periods of focused attention. When I wanted to read books, I reached for my Kindle. But without making a conscious decision, sometime last week I made the new iPad into my primary e-reader. The screen renders text so comfortably, that the Kindle is what I use outdoors, where LCDs become impossible to see. Amazon’s WhisperSync still works just fine, no matter which device I have in my hand.

And I confess I’ve fallen in love with LTE. Here in southern Colorado, the speed on my Verizon unit is almost indistinguishable from a household WiFi network. It’s that fast. I’m paying $50 a month for the 5GB plan, and I’ll let you know how hard I push against that data limit. After nine days, I’m safely at 10MB sent and 111MB received — but I haven’t had to do any traveling. Hell, I’ve barely gone anywhere without WiFi. Come BlogCon next month, that could change and in a big way.

My only complaint so far is, the case I want isn’t available yet. So I’m stuck either carrying it around unprotected, or putting it into what looks and feels like an ill-fitting suit. And since that’s the worst thing I have to say about the new iPad, it’s a sure thing I’ll be getting two or three years of great use out of it.

ONE MORE THING: Forgot to mention this last detail before clicking the Publish button, but the nice thing about blogging is, you can always tack on updates.

Apparently, one of the ways Apple gets the iPad’s battery life up to ten hours, is with aggressive use of the Auto-Brightness feature. In bright light, the iPad kicks up the screen’s brightness to compensate. In dark rooms, it dials it down. Both directions use your personal brightness setting as a kind of center point.

For my tastes, however, Auto-Brightness dials it down too low for watching HD video. I curled up in bed last night with my earbuds and The Borgias, and wondered what in the hell had happened to all those glorious Vatican sets and fancy costumes. So I dialed the brightness up a tad and all was well again. When it was time to stop watching TV and go back to reading Atlas Shrugged for the nth time, I turned the brightness back down. Actually, I turned it way, way down — because that’s much easier on the eyes when reading in the dark.

You may turn Auto-Brightness off, if you choose. But I don’t recommend it. I tried that today just to see how much good it really does, and I can tell you: It does a lot of good. My battery is ticking down noticeably faster, and that’s under light processor and WiFi-only loads.

In any case, Apple has made the manual brightness control easy enough to reach. Double-tap your home button to get to the multi-tasking dock, then flick to the right. You’ll find right it alongside the music and screen lock controls.

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