iPad Review

By Brian Leahy, Apr 05, 2010 7:00pm PDT Apple's iPad is the company's new device: a multi-touch tablet, which currently runs iPhone OS 3.2, supporting all iPhone applications and its own iPad applications out of the box.

Critics, myself included, would have preferred a device that used a touch version of Apple's Mac OS X putting the iPad closer to a laptop than an iPhone. After using it, however, I'm no longer of this mind. Sure, multitasking support would be incredible (and is rumored to be in iPhone OS 4.0), but I can be patient.

I snagged a couple iPad games, installed many of my iPhone apps, and grabbed Apple's word processor Pages. Typing is actually fairly easy, but if you didn't like the lack of tactile feedback on the iPhone, you won't find this any different. The larger "keys" help a lot, but sometimes it's hard to hold the iPad and type with both hands at the same time.

Gaming is interesting because there is a trade-off between increased screen real estate and ease of control. No games exemplify this better than "dual analog stick" games like Capcom's Resident Evil 4 and Street Fighter IV.

Capcom's Resident Evil 4 iPad Edition and Street Fighter IV iPhone
The former, which has an enhanced iPad version, runs smoothly, but is a bit unwieldy. Holding the device, which is heavier than you would expect, and using both thumbs to manipulate virtual analog sticks and buttons near the bottom corners gets tiring. Street Fighter IV doesn't have an iPad version, but can be played through the iPhone visualization. At 2x zoom, it still looks great, but suffers from the same control issues.

Turn-based or touch-based games work exceptionally well. Notable examples are Warpgate HD and ngmoco's We Rule or GodFinger. Also, NetHack HD finally pairs a good user-interface with the classic roguelike game. Driving games are particularly enjoyable as the iPad is roughly the size of a steering wheel and the titles (Real Racing HD, Need for Speed: Shift) use accelerometer controls to steer.

PopCap's Plants vs. Zombies HD and Gameloft's N.O.V.A. HD
On the non-gaming side, the applications are still rolling out, but those that are already available showcase why the iPad is going to change the way people interact with computers. Safari is great, especially when people are linking to YouTube videos, which is supported natively. The YouTube app has gotten some major improvements over the iPhone counterpart, as well. iBooks (or Kindle) are great for eBooks.

Your success with working on an iPad will vary by what you do for a living. I tried writing a news story earlier today on my iPad, but ended up losing all of my work because Safari likes to refresh pages when using multiple windows. Suffice to say, I probably won't be working on this device unless it's the only option. If you do any design work, however, the various sketch apps will help you organize your thoughts in a quick way.

Part of the problem with reviewing something like this iPad is that you really have to use one to really appreciate why it is such a revolutionary device. If you're at all interested in this product, head on down to your local Apple Store or Best Buy and play around with it for a bit. If you've got the money, you might just be walking out with a brand-new iPad. It's exactly what happened to me.

A total of six iPad models are due in the United States across April. Available now are the three Wi-Fi models: 16GB ($499), 32GB ($599), 64GB ($699).

Models supporting both Wi-Fi and 3G data transfer--16GB 3G ($629), 32GB 3G ($729), 64GB 3G ($829)--will then follow in late April, with AT&T offering two contract-less 3G data plans in the United States: 250MB at $14.99 a month or unlimited at $29.99.

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  • I love my iPad. It has almost completely replaced my personal computer. For the things I do... Is is perfect! Much nicer than any CPU I have ever owned. All my other computers would do a lot of things I would never use it for, and do it painfully in the process (slow, buggy, etc.). When you get down to what you do most on you personal computer... the iPad does almost all of the things an average user needs, and with a much much nicer U/I. Easy of use, fast, and efficient. The other computer manufacturers could learn a thing or two from this, but even if they do... they will probably screw-up the one they come out with by adding all the crap back in again. Ugggggg!!!!

    I am sticking with my iPad. I think other will do the same once they try it and realize it is the perfect personal computer :-)
    And some of my collections: http://www.ifunia.com/ipad-column/index.html
    make the cool device more fun.

  • I played around with one for a bit and while it looks nice and runs smoothly (when apps aren't crashing), I just can't figure out why I'd want one... I think it could have amazing applications potentially in medicine and education, but neither of those really apply to me (at least for personal purchase) at the moment.

    And the lack of multi-tasking is really a deal-breaker for me right now. When my friend was using the iPad and I had a link I wanted to send him I thought "Hey, I'm going to send you a link... oh wait, I can't because you're browsing the web on an iPad". Yeah... that's pretty awkward. When I'm using my computer, even just for browsing or whatever, I stay on AIM/Gtalk, etc (Pidgin), so that I can still receive/send messages as quickly as necessary. This isn't really a big issue on the iPhone because you're typically just using it when you're just quickly checking something or on the go, but for something intended to be used for extended periods of time it seems like an overwhelming problem. Lack of Flash support also seems like a big issue to me, as there are still a ton of websites that use it (Shackvideo anyone?)

    If they actually do release multi-tasking I'll take another look, though even then I'm still not quite sold on what I'd do with it. We already have multiple laptops and I don't have any issues using them around the house, so I'll have to just wait and see if there's some other "killer app" or justification for it in the future.

  • My wife decided to buy me one last night as an early b-day gift, after we dropped by the local Apple store to play around with them. I was going to wait until next year initially, let the bugs play themselves out, the hardware be revised, etc... In any case, I own one now, so here's my rundown from the couple hours I played with it last night:

    * It's fast. Rather incredibly so in comparison to my 3G. Everything is immediate. There's no waiting around for the interface to catch up, load times are minimal - Plants vs. Zombies easily takes 20-30s to load on my 3G, about 5-6 on the iPad. Not sure how this compares to the 3GS.

    * The screen is gorgeous. It's an IPS panel. 'Nuff said.

    * iPhone apps that aren't text-heavy, or use their own fonts scale up pretty well. Final Fantasy (which runs at full speed on the iPad, as opposed to being rather...sluggish...on my 3G) looks and plays great. Facebook, on the other hand, looks like crap. Luckily the website works fine.

    * Geometry Wars Touch is really well-done. The controls work, bringing up virtual thumbsticks wherever you put your thumbs. The bomb button is awkwardly in the middle, meaning you generally have to remove a hand from one side to hit it. This could have been positioned better. Otherwise, it's the same awesome game we've all played on XBLA. (And if somehow you haven't, you should!)

    * Plants Vs. Zombies HD is excellent. If you haven't played this on other platforms, get out from under your rock ;P

    * Dungeon Hunter HD is as close to Diablo/Torchlight as we're likely to get. I haven't played too far into it yet, but what I've played thusfar has been very well-done. The controls work, the game looks great. No complaints.

    * The various news apps are all over the place. Some are great (BBC, Reuters, NPR), others are going to be hobbled by incredibly expensive subscriptions (WSJ), and some are downright *odd* (AP). I think this is going to take a bit to shake out.

    * LatestChatty.app is awesome, as usual. I'm not sure I'm crazy about the thread list - may just take time to grow on me.

    * Adobe Ideas is fun to play with, and free. Not sure how it compares to Sketchbook Pro, but I had fun with it.

    * Netflix streaming works very well over my wifi at home. No complaints at all. The 4:3 screen isn't an issue - you get used to the letterboxing quickly. The glare on the glossy screen was more of an annoyance to me, but that will get fixed when PowerSupport comes out with their anti-glare film.

    * Fingerprints and general gunking is as much a problem as it was on the iPhone, maybe moreso due to the bigger screen. Nothing a quick wipe with a cloth doesn't fix. Again, PowerSupport's film will eventually fix this.

    * The Apple case is nice for propping the iPad up in landscape mode (about a 15 degree angle), but the design is rather annoying. There's this edge where they fused the two pieces together, that really feels like it shouldn't be there. Hard to describe accurately - but it's something you'll notice immediately if you handle one.

    * It's heavier than it looks. I was surprised that after 20 minutes or so my arm was getting tired. Resting it on your lap or a table will be necessary for extended use. For quick stuff it won't be noticeable at all.

  • I've had the argument/discussion on the iPad being dumb/sucking/not being revolutionary around the office several times over the last few weeks and there are two major points of contention.

    1. Do you hate Apple and their products?

    This is an important point to begin on. If you don't like Apple to start with (and there are a lot of you out there) then there's nothing the iPad could do to make you like it. They could include Flash support, usb ports, a slide-out keyboard, it wouldn't matter you'd still hate it. It's like asking a rabid linux user from Slashdot to review a Microsoft product. They will hate it on principle, and without much in the way of rational backing or reasoned argument. We have a guy in the office who hates anything with the word Apple attached, and thinks anything from Google is coated in gold. The iPad could give him $1,000 cash every 10min and he'd still hate it.

    2. Do you actually want a tablet device?

    Note that I don't say "Tablet PC". A Tablet PC is a completely different animal and is something that tries to replicate most major computer functionality and work it around a tablet interface. That's not what the iPad is. The iPad is a tablet device in that the tablet interface is first, and the functionality is built around that. It's designed for easy media consumption, not really for content creation. It's a device you have on the couch with you in the living room, or when in bed.

    If what you want is something that delivers your notebook/netbook experience with a touch interface, then the iPad really isn't the right device. Wait for Courier or something else. That's not the target here. So look at what you want in a tablet... is it a PC replacement, or a supplemental device for viewing content?

    Also, "revolutionary" doesn't always mean completely new technology. Often something is revolutionary that takes what already exists and puts it together in a new way, or takes it and makes it more accessible. The Model T Ford wasn't a revolutionary thing because the internal combustion engine was brand-new (it had been around since the 13th century), or that the Car was a new concept (an evolution of older ideas and technology). It was revolutionary because it made the car suddenly accessible to the masses.