Apple iPad

The Apple iPad is the first affordable tablet computer worth owning, but it won't (yet) replace your laptop.


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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Australian review

CNET.com's Donald Bell has written a fantastic and comprehensive review of the Apple iPad that we first published shortly after the tablet's US release, and after using the iPad we absolutely agree with his analysis. The design is first rate and certainly worthy of our admiration, the screen is fantastically sharp, colourful and responsive, and the apps available(both preinstalled and third-party downloads) should cover off most of the functionality you'd expect to be able to perform — though not as well as you might expect to be able to perform it.

In fact, for an entirely new class of device, the iPad is surprisingly familiar. If you've imagined the iPad as an enormous iPod Touch then you're on the right track. Navigating the iPad and adjusting the settings is mostly the same experience, and the tablet's capabilities as a web browser and media player are identical to the iPod Touch and iPhone, which is made somewhat easier with the larger display.

Instead of repeating all of Donald Bell's hard work, we've taken a slightly different approach, focusing more on the iPad as it applies to different, common tasks. But the original US review remains in its entirety on the second page of this article.

As a computer

In our opinion, this is the major misunderstanding when it comes to the iPad, and to be fair, it isn't a misunderstanding perpetuated by Apple.

While Apple sells a handful of basic productivity tools for the iPad — iWorks, Keynote, Numbers — and though the on-screen keyboard is excellent, the iPad really won't replace your laptop or desktop PC. Word processing is now seen as such a small part of what most of us use computers for; we use it for peer-to-peer file sharing, advanced photo and video editing, and software creation to name but a few. All of these tasks require software designed specifically for the tasks that are not available for the iPad.

As a web browser

This would appear to be the iPad's greatest strength, and certainly the area of the iPad we liked best. The Safari browser looks fantastic, full-sized web pages render clearly and without fault, and navigation is a breeze. In saying that, the Safari browser is the only app to have completely frozen during our time with the iPad; once for an extended period, and another time when it wouldn't resurrect without a hardware reboot.

The browser also has all of the limitations of the iPhone Safari browser, many of which have been documented countless times before. No Adobe Flash player is on most of people's lips at the moment, but what bothered us most was the lack of a cached history. We understand the Safari browser does some caching, but this doesn't mitigate the fact that web pages have to reload from scratch when you hit the back button. We also think the browser could have been redesigned for the iPad, placing the taskbar and controls at the bottom of the screen where your hands are most likely to be.

As a media player

The iPad's 10-inch display is an absolute stunner; there isn't a single person we've shown it to who hasn't cooed with delight when they saw it light up. Matched with some rather decent external speakers, the iPad screen makes for a reasonable portable cinema display, capable of playing HD video content (720p).

But if this was the review of a dedicated portable media player, like an Archos tablet for example, the iPad would fall short of a passing grade from the CNET team of reviewers. While the hardware is first class and the internal storage is fine, the lack of an external memory slot would be considered a drawback. Worse still, the iPad's media file recognition is woeful, capable of only playing MP4 videos plus MP3 and AAC music files. If Archos released a player that only played one video codec it would get laughed all the way back to the drawing board.

Apple makes up for this shortcoming in two ways. Firstly, the iTunes store features a reasonable collection of videos to own and rent if you're willing to pay for them. However, if you're someone who has digitised their DVD collection into a common format like DivX or XviD you'll have to re-encode the videos using iTunes; a massive investment of time.

But our major complaint with the iPad as a media player is due to its size and weight. To test the iPad we crawled into bed with a video rental from iTunes, and finished two hours later with extremely sore wrists. At 725 grams, the 3G model is no bag of marshmallows, and without something to rest the iPad on we found it very uncomfortable for extended sessions.

As an ebook reader

While the screen may be great for web browsing and video playback, we're not convinced the iPad should be used as an ebook reader, in fact the iPad is the only reader to give this reviewer motion sickness while reading on a moving train (or it could have been a dodgy lunchtime burrito). The iBook app may look fantastic while you navigate the bookshelf for a classic title to read, once the words are on the screen we found eye fatigue set in quickly. This mightn't be so bad for people reading infrequently or in short spurts, but anyone who is in the market for an e-reader really should consider importing a Kindle. As Donald Bell notes in his review, the iPad suffers from poor visibility under sunlight, a problem you would not have with an E Ink display.

Overall

The Apple iPad is a gorgeous piece of technology and is sure to wow your friends and make them instantly jealous all at once, but it is not something you need. The iPad is a luxury item, like a foot spa or a chocolate fountain, and while it's nice to use one, you can certainly live without it too. At its best the iPad is a portable media player and web browsing tool, and if you love to sit in front of the TV checking Twitter and sending emails then you'll love doing it with this tablet.

It isn't, however, a fully functional computer and we wouldn't recommend it as an ebook reader. Those who buy the iPad for these reasons will find themselves returning to their laptops and paperbacks before long. If you find you're still in the market for one after reading this review we suggest waiting a month and checking eBay — we have a sneaking suspicion there will be a flood of iPads for sale before long.

Click here for the full US review

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VaughanB Facebook
4
Rating
 

"cool yes stylish yes portable kinda useful hardly"

VaughanB posted a review   
Australia

The Good:movie playback, touch screen, physical appearence

The Bad:no widgets, no USB or HDMI out, not enough uses for price

great for people like me who are tired of lugging around either a laptop or portable DVD player but the advantages end there. the Ipad is deceptively heavy, im not saying its unwieldy but it certainly is not a single hand on the move device. on top of this try using it outside standing outside Melbourne Central shopping center first frustration the screen is not even viewable and i can't get a 3G connection with telstra!!! as well as that the lack of flash is a massive setback as so much web content simply becomes unavailable.

jayden
10
Rating
 

jayden posted a review   

The Good:the touch screen

The Bad:lack of usb port

hello this ipad is awesome
http://guber-tech.webs.com/index.htm

or just
www.guber-tech.webs.com
for more news on the latest gadget and tech news

Rod
9
Rating
 

Rod posted a review   

The Good:Fantastic screen, good apps, good browser, great battery life, the benefits of an iphone but bigger

The Bad:Slightly too heavy, docks only work in portrait, difficult to load external stuff onto

I think the iPad isn't for anyone who wants a computer. Rather, like the psp or the iphone, to a lesser extent, it is a multimedia device. I use mine for reading comics and books as well as games and movies. Chuck in the occasional email as well as facebook and it makes the perfect companion for travelling or just sitting at home when you can't be bothered grabbing your laptop. The fact that it is "always on" as well as the 10 hours of battery life with heavy use (more than most computers and even my phone) makes it handy.
However, it is a third device to compliment your phone and your computer. Not a replacement. The only thing it will replace is your psp.

 

STEVEJ0BS quote posted a comment   

"the problem is notebooks arent good at anything"

l0l
4
Rating
 

l0l posted a review   

it wont replace your laptop thats why apple revented the macbook air at a much high price to fool the consumers.

i mean seriously it is a large ipod touch with 3g that still runs the (ios) iphone operating system and very expensive and no removable battery.

its nearly as heavy as a laptop and more expensive as a laptop yet it cant do more than a laptop. and all the apps in the itunes store are expensive as well.

WHY DONT YOU JUST BUY A TOUCHSCREEN LAPTOP WITH 3G AND SOLID STATE DRIVE INSTEAD. IT WILL BE CHEAPER AND 10000X BETTER.


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User Reviews / Comments  Apple iPad

  • VaughanB

    VaughanB

    Rating4

    "great for people like me who are tired of lugging around either a laptop or portable DVD player but the advantages end there. the Ipad is deceptively heavy, im not saying its unwieldy but it certai..."

  • jayden

    jayden

    Rating10

    "hello this ipad is awesome
    http://guber-tech.webs.com/index.htm

    or just
    www.guber-tech.webs.com
    for more news on the latest gadget and tech news"

  • Rod

    Rod

    Rating9

    "I think the iPad isn't for anyone who wants a computer. Rather, like the psp or the iphone, to a lesser extent, it is a multimedia device. I use mine for reading comics and books as well as games a..."

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