I’ve just stepped outside the Yerba Buena Centre after getting a brief hands-on with Apple’s new iPad.

First impressions – it’s amazing close up. The 9.7 inch (25cm) 1024 x 768 screen is bright, crisp and very easy to view. The whole unit feels quite robust, and the brushed aluminium backing lends a classy feel – it certainly doesn’t feel ‘plasticy’ or cheap.

I tried typing on the keyboard in landscape mode, using Apple’s Notes application. Typing on glass is kind of strange, and you don’t get the same tactile response that you would with a normal keyboard, but I found typing to be quite intuitive, and became proficient at it fairly quickly. Apple is launching an external keyboard that connects directly to the iPad, or you can use Apple’s existing Bluetooth keyboards if you prefer.

The overall responsiveness of the iPad is impressive – moving from landscape to portrait mode was quick and absent of any graphical stuttering. I opened the Map application – which looks amazing with the larger screen – and it was very easy to scroll around, and the standard Apple pinch, rotate and tap functions worked the same as they do on an iPhone.

There are volume buttons on the unit’s edge. Also, there are small speakers and what looks to be the same standard connector as regular iPods and iPhones. There’s also a central multi-function button beneath the screen, just like an iPhone. There is no removable battery panel, as you will need to charge the unit via a USB connector. The USB connection will also be used to sync and transfer data.

My only concern about the design is that the screen may be easy to scratch, but Apple has an iPad case as an accessory that will double as a stand for propping the unit up when watching video.