Earlier today, TweetDeck (for iPhone and iPod touch) received a huge update – something its developer called a “re-imagining.” The new version (2.0) is “rebuilt from the ground up,” and is undoubtedly much improved – but, is it good enough to challenge the likes of Tweetbot and the official Twitter app? Read on to find out our first impressions.

First off, like the Twitter app, TweetDeck is free. This is definitely a big positive: Tweetbot is currently priced at $1.99, and – while the official Twitter application is good (and currently my favorite of the three) – the fact that the Twitter app is developed by Twitter, Inc. does have its drawbacks (such as the infamous #dickbar incident, which has its roots in Twitter’s interest in advertising, and “promoted trends”).

When Tweetbot came along, we were really impressed – however, I for one skulked back into the open arms of the official Twitter app after little more than a day of using Tweetbot, for a number of reasons – namely, because it felt sluggish and just “not right.” Apparently, this “sluggishness” has been addressed in an update to Tweetbot (which was released today). But, for me, the sluggishness of Tweetbot drove me back to Twitter – and there I’ve stayed, until today.

TweetDeck‘s update has everyone excited again – mainly at the prospect of another alternative to the official Twitter application. Change is good, right? For this reason – and in order to write this article – I downloaded TweetDeck, synced my Twitter account with the app, and gave it a test drive. Here’s what you can expect:

Unlike the Twitter app, TweetDeck features a dark design. By default, the white font of tweets in your timeline sits against a dark gray backdrop (see above screenshot). When composing tweets, this dark gray backdrop switches over to white. Personally, I prefer the design of both Twitter and Tweetbot over TweetDeck in this respect: If I’m continually visiting and re-vising an app, I personally want the app to look light and airy – not dark and depressive. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be any way of changing the appearance of TweetDeck, which is annoying.

Here’s a comparison of Twitter, Tweetbot, and TweetDeck, each displaying my timeline. (Click to enlarge.)

Despite the appearance of TweetDeck, the app itself is very smooth – which is great. Scrolling down through your timeline is an effortless task on the iPhone 4, and in this respect TweetDeck definitely has command over Tweetbot, which was a very sluggish app when it premiered a couple of weeks ago.

Loading tweets can be done via the famous “pull to refresh” feature many apps already sport, although uploading images (which go to yfrog) took a while for me – 29 seconds, compared to Twitter‘s 14 seconds, and Tweetbot‘s eight seconds.

Swiping across the face of TweetDeck changes the “column” you’re viewing. By default, three columns are already set up in the app: Your timeline, @ mentions, and direct messages. However, it is possible to add columns to TweetDeck by touching the “+” button in the top left corner of the app. This is a handy feature.

Overall, I’m not going to be sticking with TweetDeck – simply because of its appearance. For me, Twitter is exactly what I need: It’s light, easy on the eyes, and relatively quick. However, it’s definitely good to have two alternatives standing by, just in case the #dickbar makes a re-appearance. If you have a favorite out of the three, feel free to post it in the comments. Alternatively, you can check out some more screenshots of the app below – click the thumbnails to enlarge the images.