Jason reviews the iPad for The Furnace

Greetings from someone who’s been ankle deep in Apple iPad mojo for a bit over two days. And now, it’s time to offer something of a review. Now, there are dozens of detailed technical reviews (Here’s one, and another, and still one more)  which also shower praise or offer caution. This review will focus on what the iPad brings to the table for Fanboys, media consumers and comic lovers. If you read comics, make comics, produce film or other forms of media that fanboys swallow like Jack in the Box tacos, then these next few paragraphs are for you.

To begin, some personal impressions on some of the iPad’s physical and technical tidbits:

  • It’s fast. Blazing fast, actually. It syncs quickly with my PC-based iTunes harbor. It moves files quickly. It opens and closes apps quickly. In short, the thing rivals Lance Bass’ solo singing career for just how quickly it goes.
  • It’s heavier than I expected. Plenty of reviews have noted this as an inconvenience when trying to read things. It’s not THAT heavy. It’s heavier than a kindle, but, really, not that much heavier than a thick hardbound book and certainly lighter than a thick college textbook.
  • It’s smaller than I expected. I thought it closer to the size of a sheet of American bond paper (8.5 inches by 11 inches). Instead, it’s smaller than that.
  • In every iPad oriented app, the touch process feels normal and fun. This is a new way to interact with content. Designers will go crazy with this opportunity.
  • Right now, the charge that it came with in the box is still going strong. That includes finishing a couple of marathon Scrabble games between my wife and me. I also watched an hour-long video and looked at almost every photo I loaded on.
  • Web browsing is indeed quick and fun.
  • Entering text with the keyboard is different but still easy. (Note: I would have written the review on the iPad, but the WordPress app decided to take a nap and I couldn’t connect to The Furnace through it yet)

Now, for some comic book reading and acquisition specifics. This is where the iPad absolutely shines. Reading comics is fun and renews the experience for me. Colors are vivid, text (though smaller ) is crisp and readable; artwork pops. Bottom line: if I bought this device for nothing else, reading comics on it is a win.

I’ve downloaded four apps for buying, reading and storing comics: Marvel, IDW, Comixology (all free) and Comic Zeal 4 ($7.99). I’ll offer a bit on each.

  • Marvel. About 500 titles available. Boing Boing did a thorough work-up on the Marvel app. So, I won’t go into the tech details any deeper than that. But it’s easy to use, and allows you to make quick purchases and start reading. I’m told that you can’t subscribe to titles and keep current issues (there are only about 500 comics available right now). I’d think that Marvel will figure out how to set up a subscription system for this soon.
  • Comixology. My favorite app so far because so many independent titles are available here. I’ve downloaded “We Kill Monsters” and plan to finish what I’ve missed tonight and tomorrow. Functions almost exactly like the Marvel app.
  • IDW. I downloaded this app and it crashed each time I used it. However, IDW says an update, which is currently awaiting approval,  is due out “any time.”  So, I’ll reserve judgment until after I can use a working copy.
  • Comic Zeal 4. The only one of the apps that allows you to load your own CBZ, ZIP, CBR and RAR files. Boing Boing reviews it here and I chose it over a much pricer Comic Reader Mobi, which also looked good and could read PDF files. Comic Zeal 4 will also read PDFs but needs to convert them first.

Now, let’s talk video. As advertised, it looks great. I’ve watched “Star Trek: the Motion Picture” and a Robert Schimmel comedy special and both looked great. I plan on moving a pile of other video I have onto it. The pictures are crisp. The sound is clear. In short, another win, especially if you consume more television than me. You can go pan-and-scan or choose letter box (my default). With my 16GB of space, I can probably cram five movies on it and still have space for music and other items.

For creatives, there are apps to make sketches, and actually draw things. Writers can use the iWork app “Pages” with a Bluetooth wireless keyboard. So, for makers, it could be a handy “tweener” tool, especially for those with some digital inclination. There’s also a reservoir of opportunity to be mined by Webcomic makers and other digital comics producers. Scott Kurtz backs me up on this. Seems like this would be a perfect platform for a digital artist to use as a canvas if an app can be made to help it function more like a Wacom Intuos tablet. And of course, for artists at shows or elsewhere, it can probably be turned into a point-of-sale platform to process Paypal and credit cards.

Further, I could see how an artist could use this to present work (as through a portfolio) either directly onto the iPad’s screen or by passing the signal through a projector or TV. The photo function works very well and the iPad can double as a $500 digital picture frame (with your music) when wanted. Meanwhile, I can’t give you enough intel about file exchange yet. Not enough time.

Finally, there’s reading. Aside from iBooks (Apple’s book store), you can also get the Amazon Kindle app for iPad (free) and use your Kindle collection. I won’t get into readability here as I haven’t done as much. However, others have, and you can catch one of those comparisons here and elsewhere on the Web. I had skepticism of reading with a back-lit screen to begin with. And while I have not done any lengthy reading on it yet, my skepticism still remains (and when e-ink goes color and crisp, it’s the best option by far).

This is the most fun I’ve had with a gadget in about 10 years. I have zero ‘buyers remorse,’ unless a better iPad hits by Christmas. 🙂 Then again, I’m still trying to define ‘better.’ The appliance is a winner and almost every piece of software I’ve added to it gets the same thumbs up (though I’m still waiting for Facebook and a few others on an iPad scale). In short, if you want one, get it. You’ll love it.

(Jason Tudor is a freelance author and illustrator. He blogs here, write humor at an Army of Ermas and on his own blog at http://www.JasonTudor.com)

4 Responses to “Jason reviews the iPad for The Furnace”

  1. Boston says:

    If I didn’t want one before – which I did – the possibilities for this aging comic geek have me positively giddy.

    Now if only Marvel could come up with some decent story-lines again. (Norman Osborne? Really??)

  2. Satoshi says:

    Hi, I am a developer of CloudReaders (free book/comic reader), which allows you to read PDF/ZIP/CBZ files (and CBR/RAR files from version 1.03, which are ‘in review’ by Apple right now). I’d appreciate if you could try it and give me feedback.

  3. Jason Tudor says:

    Satoshi-San I’ve downloaded your app and will give it a try.

  4. Sue says:

    Satoshi-san, how do I download saved RAR files from my PC to the iPad so I can read the books?


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