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Hands-on with the new Apple Watch

Apple's newly unveiled Apple Watch seems to have packed something for everyone into a couple of square inches. The powerful, elegant little device offers thousands of apps to help you connect to the world, communicate with your friends, pay your bills, track your health and control your smart home (not to mention tell time).

But will it live up to the hype -- and the price tag?

8 things you need to know about the Apple Watch
8 things you need to know about the Apple Watch

With an entry-level model starting at $349, mid-range stainless steel versions costing $549 to $1,049, and the 18-karat gold luxury edition topping out at $17,000, expectations deserve to be high.

Selected tech journalists finally got their hands on the Apple Watch at a demo session following Monday's big press event in San Francisco. They were able to put the device through its paces and see how it worked, felt and responded to commands.

Of course it remains to be seen how the watch will perform in real-world conditions or whether it can really live up to the promised 18 hours of battery life, but some first impressions were positive.

CNET senior editor Scott Stein was at the demo and believes the Apple Watch will radically reshape the wearables market. "I think everything will change now that Apple's entered it," he told CBS News.

But he recognized that would-be buyers face a dilemma: "You know Apple's going to want to upgrade this watch yearly, so what do you do? Do you buy this now? Do you wait a year?"

Stein has also tested many of its competitors in the smartwatch market. He shared these thoughts after his first hands-on experience with the Apple Watch:

Unlike the last time I saw Apple Watch [at its preview last fall], this time I could actually try its features myself. On my wrist, like before, the watch felt good: not too heavy, sleek, and a comfy band fit. You interact via tapping, swiping, and using the two side buttons: one's a sleek small button, the other's the Digital Crown, which is a button plus a scrolling wheel.

Tapping activates the display, while swiping up brings Glances, which are like mini-apps showing everything from weather to stock info to where your Uber car is. Like Google's Android Wear cards, these can be tapped to launch the full app. Click on an Instagram photo, and you get a mini Instagram app. Double clicking the smaller second button brings up Apple Pay, which works like the version on the iPhone minus the TouchID sensor. Sometimes it was hard to figure out whether to click the crown or bottom button, or whether to swipe or tap. But the interface in the demo room generally ran smooth.

Bringing up your "friend wheel" for communication is the most clever touch: if this watch can make instant chat easy, it'll leapfrog other smartwatches out there.

Apple Watch is available for preorder on April 10 and ships April 24. We'll bring you more details as the reviews come in.

Complete coverage of the Apple Watch on CNET.