iPad Review

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.

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.

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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