US media outlets Thursday gushed over the Apple iPad in early hands-on reviews ahead of its much-anticipated sales launch at the weekend.

"This beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop," said the Wall Street Journal, calling it a "game changer."

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs billed the iPad as "revolutionary" when he unveiled the device in San Francisco earlier this year, saying it will carve out a home between smartphones and laptop computers.

The USA Today newspaper agreed, like most other media branches: the "stunning" iPad is "rewriting the rulebook," it said.

"The iPad is not so much about what you can do - browse, do email, play games, read e-books and more - but how you can do it," said tech reporter Edward C. Baig.

"Apple's tablet is fun, simple, stunning to look at and blazingly fast," he added.

The touch-screen devices allow users to watch video, listen to music, play games, surf the Web or read electronic books.

It also runs most of the 150,000 applications made for the iPod music player and the iPhone.

The New York Times similarly praised the tablet for being "so fast and light," and the software "so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget."

The iPad model featuring Wi-Fi wireless connectivity will be available in Apple's US stores from Saturday and the model that offers both Wi-Fi and 3G cellular connectivity in late April.