Apple will begin delivering its eagerly-anticipated iPad to US consumers in just two days, and to mark the occasion the first reviews are beginning to surface on the web.
Much has been made of Apple's iPad since its January unveiling, and the first verdicts are undeniably favourable, with the device being dubbed a potential "laptop killer" and "one of the best computers ever".
But it isn't quite a unanimous verdict. David Pogue, writing for The New York Times, is quick to point out that the iPad will be assessed differently by two categories of user; "techies" and "everyone else".
Techies, described as those who use BitTorrent, Linux and "more e-mail addresses than pants", are likely to be put off by the iPad's deficiencies, claims Pogue, who adds that "every fingerprint is grossly apparent", the e-book selection is "puny" and "typing on the on-screen keyboard is a horrible experience".
Summing up the device for a techy user, Pogue states simply that "you can get a laptop for much less money — with a full keyboard, DVD drive, U.S.B. jacks, camera-card slot, camera, the works".
The verdict for everyone else, however, is twisted on its head. Suggesting that the iPad is better suited to consumption as opposed to creation, Pogue describes the device as "infinitely more convenient" for consuming books, music, video, photos, web and email.
"The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget," he adds.
In keeping with that belief, The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg claims the iPad is "pretty close" to being a "laptop killer".
Having used the iPad for the best part of a week, Mossberg has already concluded that "it could be a game changer the way Apple’s iPhone has been".
Despite running into numerous little niggles - the iPad's browser doesn't support Flash video and its email client can't send mail to a group address - Mossberg found that "the iPad can indeed replace a laptop for most data communication, content consumption and even limited content creation, a lot of the time".
Commenting on battery life, both Pogue and Mossberg found the iPad offered better longevity than Apple's quoted 10 hours. With Wi-Fi enabled and the screen lit up bright, Mossberg was able to watch back-to-back movies for almost 11 hours and 30 minutes.
What's interesting is that The Wall Street Journal's technology columnist - a self-confessed fan of Amazon's Kindle - found the iPad to be a "superior" reading device thanks to its "larger colour screen". Mossberg encountered no eye strain, but adds that the iPad's initial failing could be its small e-book library - offering around 60,000 titles at launch, a small figure in comparison to Amazon's library of over 400,000.
Continuing the trend, PCMag's Tim Gideon adds that "there may be things it doesn't do, but what it does do, it does remarkably well." The publication also offers a quick five-minute video review which highlights the pros and cons, and shows off the iPad's easy-on-the-eye interface:
Although most verdicts are favourable, nobody appears to be as enamoured by the device as Andy Ihnatko, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times. Describing the iPad as "one of the best computers ever", Ihnatko claims the iPad is what "many people have been wanting for years".
"The most compelling sign that Apple got this right is the fact that despite the novelty of the iPad, the excitement slips away after about ten seconds and you’re completely focused on the task at hand ... whether it’s reading a book, writing a report, or working on clearing your Inbox. Second most compelling: in situation after situation, I find that the iPad is the best computer in my household and office menagerie. It’s not a replacement for my notebook, mind you. It feels more as if the iPad is filling a gap that’s existed for quite some time."
In addition to the positive early impressions, the vast majority of available reviews also point out that the device will improve dramatically with the introduction of iPad-specific apps. Close to 1,000 apps could be available when the iPad launches on Saturday, priced from $499. The device is scheduled to become available in the UK later this month.