Executive version: I love it though it's not perfect.
I wasn't sure when the first iPad came out that it would work for me so I waited, watched and learned. I spent a lot of time actually thinking about what I use a computer for outside of work and found that it comes down to, in approximate order: surfing, reading ebooks, writing and playing board games (sudoku, reversi and solitaire card games mostly.) With that knowledge I narrowed down what I needed to consider when deciding if the iPad would work for me.
The one consistent complaint that I saw from others was about the lack of Flash support. I didn't know how pervasive Flash might be so I downloaded a Flash blocker for Firefox to see. No problems there - I very rarely found anything that didn't work for me.
I also wondered about printing, but after keeping track of how much, or little as the case may be, printing I do for personal reasons (as opposed to work related) for a year I decided that wasn't a real issue. I figured that If I desperately needed something printed I could do it from either my wife's computer or my work computer.
Beyond the Flash complaint most of the negative things that I've seen about the iPad proper were about it's reliance upon iTunes for syncing and Apple's control of the content. Neither of these were a problem for me. In particular I don't really care about Apple's control of the app store since all I want my computer to do these days is work - I used to do all sorts of customizations and tweaking but that was all in support of getting things working. I figured if the iPad worked out of the box then customizing it was pointless.
By the time I'd figured all of these things out and seen enough long term reviews of the iPad to show that people were not just continuing to use it but that they were using it more than they'd originally intended it was getting time to think about either waiting for the second version or looking at the new Android tablets.
Looked into the Android tablets. If they'd been complete - USB, SD card, etc... - and available in wifi only I'd have given them more credence. They weren't so they didn't even get a showing. The fact that they were more expensive didn't help their case.
After all of that the hard choice came down to color My wife and I debated it for a while and finally settled on white. Mostly I'm glad we did but I will say that it clashes with the Zaggmate that I'm using to type up this review.
Now that I've had it for a month I've found that it's actually more impressive than I expected. Glitches have been few and far between. It did have an issue with the screen orientation freezing in landscape but Apple's tech support walked me through fixing in a matter of minutes.
I knew before buying it that the onscreen keyboard wouldn't be my friend. I was right - it's a royal pain for me. On the other hand, I don't need a keyboard for the vast majority of what I use a personal computer for so it wasn't a major issue. I just needed to find a standalone keyboard that I could use with it for those times, like typing this review or doing actual writing, when I wanted to be able to just get things down. There were plenty of options but I'm happy with the one that I chose.
Not that there aren't issues that I'd like to see fixed or at least improved.
I'd love to see the notifications tweaked to allow more options for developers. In particular, one developer that I contacted with a suggestion for his app said that he'd love to add my suggestion but the notification scheme doesn't allow for three buttons on the popup and one of the two that it does allow just takes you to the app. Arghh!
I'd like to see an improved method of switching between open apps. I think that multitouch will do this when it's finally made a standard part of iOS so I'm not too put out about having to use the home button right now.
The onscreen keyboard would be much nicer if they used the accelerometer, as they do in Garage Band, to gauge how hard you hit the key. That would allow for resting your hand on the keyboard without generating a bunch of extra characters.
Beyond those complaints my two biggest wishes are for a competent word processor that handles Word's change tracking and for effective printing (I don't do much but it would be nice to do some) given my Epson wireless printer and XP computer.
The first of those wishes in the single biggest issue for me - given the number of requests I've seen for it on forums for various word processors I'm not sure why no one has stepped in to fill the void yet.
I know that there are printing options out there but I haven't decided which one will work best for me. I tried the AirPrint via Windows computer one but for whatever reason it didn't work on my computer. I may have to try it with my wife's computer as that would be the ideal situation (short of getting a different printer which I really don't want to do given the Epson is little more than a year old.)
It may seem that I've spent most of this review talking about problems but that's pretty much par for the course. The problems are what you notice. The things that work flawlessly, which with the iPad has been the huge majority of tasks I've tried it for, don't generally make as big an impression. Still, I thought I'd try to comment on some of the things that I like as well. Going back to what I anticipated using the iPad for:
Surfing. Fantastic. I've taken to using iCabMobile for my browser and I appreciate the tabbed interface but even Safari is a nice way of wandering around the internet.
Reading ebooks. Beyond fantastic. iBooks could be better (MRU list and adjustable margins are the big things that come to mind) but there are plenty of other good ereaders out there if you need them. I have Stanza but so far I'm sticking with iBooks since it just feels right.
Writing. I'm typing up this review in iA Writer using the Zaggmate keyboard. I'd rather write using this combination than Word on my Dell laptop any day. I haven't figured out what it is about this combination that works so well for me but whatever it is I'll take it
The games available, either free or for small sums, for the iPad have been very good. I'm not much into action games but I can imagine it would be even better suited to those.
What I've found that I didn't really count on is how easy it is to do some things with the dedicated apps out there. USAA has an app that makes dealing with our accounts there a snap. Target's app is much nicer than going through their website. Ditto Amazon's. Oh, and iPF is pretty slick too (though I wish it properly recognized the external keyboard and allowed for more of the message onscreen when the onscreen keyboard wasn't in use.)