The iPad isn't a big iPod touch—an iPod touch is a miniature iPad that restricts the full multitouch experience in exchange for offering greater portability. With the iPad, in contrast, you get multitouch the way it was meant to be done.
That's one of our many take-aways after having submerged ourselves in iPad land since launch. The larger screen doesn't just offer more space to work with—it opens up a different and more immersive user experience. Because of this different experience, though, the closed nature of the platform can get under some users' skin in ways the iPhone and iPod touch do not.
Still, the iPad is likely to just be a starting point for Apple and for multitouch computing in general. There are obvious downsides to the device—we'll tell you what those are—but it's clear that it does sit in its own category that floats somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop, and it serves different purposes than either its smaller or bigger siblings. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
A large chunk of the Ars staff contributed to this review, either in the form of writing full sections or by offering feedback and insights based on their own experiences. Because the 3G + WiFi version is not yet on the market, we all tested a WiFi-only iPad. We think it's worth noting up front that the WiFi-only version is probably best if you only plan to use it at home or at Starbucks—you'll definitely miss not having an Internet connection while out and about, and the (non-contract) 3G data plans are not bad at all, so long as you can stomach the extra $130 you'll have to fork over for the privilege.
It's also the case that there are some parts of the iPad "experience" that we didn't get to cover here, but we think the next several pages will convey more about what using the iPad is like than you ever thought you wanted to know. So let's get on with it!