The first thing you notice about the iPad is, well, you don’t really notice it. In many ways, there is just not much here — design wise — to comment on. The bulk of its surface is taken up by a 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768, capacitive, multitouch LED-backlit display surrounded by a glossy black bezel that some will say is too wide but, in practice, is an important design consideration that prevents the touchscreen from being inadvertently activated when handled. There’s only Apple’s signature “home” button to interact with, and the back of the device is a dutifully simple piece of curved aluminum. Like most Apple products, it’s a beauty to behold, but it’s not exactly notable for design flourishes; simply put, it’s good looking but not terribly exciting. But if the design of the iPad is an exercise in restraint, it only serves to reinforce how formidable this technology feels once it’s in your hands. The device has some heft, weighing in at 1.5 pounds, but is still comfortable to hang onto at most angles. Considering the computing power of the tablet, a thickness that tops out at half an inch is pretty impressive, too. But how does it feel in your hands? Well, that matte aluminum on the back surprisingly communicates warmth (though we don’t recommend resting this on any bare flesh on a cold morning), and the rest of the design gets out of the way and lets you concentrate on what is really most important: that screen. And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
The iPad does house a few other components you should be aware of: a volume rocker and screen position lock (which forces the device to remain in landscape or portrait mode) on the upper right hand side, a power / sleep button and headphone jack on either side of its top edge, and Apple’s famous 30-pin dock connector alongside a single thin speaker on the bottom of the unit. There is nothing outwardly notable about the buttons or layout on the iPad — if you’ve used an iPod touch or iPhone, you’ll find yourself right at home… and that’s exactly how Apple wants it.
As far as ergonomics are concerned, the standard seated-with-iPad-in-lap move is a completely comfortable experience, but there are definitely use cases where handling a flat slab becomes a pain. For instance, single finger typing becomes a bit of a game of hunt-and-peck, and that’s the situation you find yourself in if you’re ever standing with the iPad or holding the device with your other hand. We mentioned that iPad has some weight to it, and while it’s comfortable to hold, it is considerably more of a handful than an iPhone. You’ll feel that weight in your arms after extended period of keeping it aloft. Apple promo videos like to show their users happily grabbing the iPad and swinging their legs up onto a table — Fonz style — but if you’re like us, most of your heavy text entry is done while seated at a standard table or desk, which means that unless you have a dock you’re going to be typing on the iPad as a flat surface. The thing is, we actually found the flat-typing experience to be pretty good; it takes a little getting used to, but it’s not totally bizarre either. In fact, we’d say it’s a much more enjoyable experience than single-hand typing. Still, just as with the iPhone, there is a learning curve here that may diminish some hit-and-run shoppers’ interest.