After years of obsessive speculation, the "magical" iPad (as Steve Jobs describes it) will finally become available to the general public Saturday, April 3, at 9 a.m. A few fortunate journalists have already gotten their discerning hands on one and offered their initial impressions. Here, the first reviews of the device that many Apple aficionados—and some notable tech writers—believe will "change everything":

Until now, I've been skeptical about the "unfortunately named" iPad, says Tim Gideon in PC Mag. But after some quality hands-on time, "I can tell you the device just makes sense." Apple wisely packaged a variety of essential tools, like e-mail, browser, and photo applications with the ability to download thousands of apps and games into a "gorgeous, slim slate." "Is the iPad cheap? No. Is it flawless? Not at all." But this is still "a very convincing debut."

"If you're mainly a Web surfer, note-taker, social-networker, and e-mailer, and a consumer of photos, videos, books, periodicals, and music," says Walter S. Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal, the iPad "could be for you." I did, however, encounter some "annoying limitations," including shortcomings in the e-mail program and the lack of GPS in the "Wi-Fi-only versions" of the device. But overall, "the iPad is an advance in making more-sophisticated computing possible via a simple touch interface on a slender, light device."

"The first iPad is a winner," says Edward C. Baig in USA Today. Not only does it serve "as a formidable electronic-reader rival for Amazon's Kindle," but it "gives portable game machines from Nintendo and Sony a run for their money" as well. And despite the fact that "many people will still need a more traditional computer" for more robust activities like writing or video editing, "the iPad is not so much about what you can do—browse, do e-mail, play games, read e-books, and more—but how you can do it."

"In 10 years of reviewing tech products ... I’ve never seen a product as polarizing" as the iPad, says David Pogue in The New York Times. But one thing has become clear, "the haters tend to be techies; the fans tend to be regular people." While techies focus on the lack of many key features, like a camera and multitasking, "everyone else" can enjoy the "deeply satisfying" and "completely new experience" the device delivers. "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."