NOTE: For the second-generation iPad, see my iPad 2 review.
When I did my First Look article about Apple's new iPad after its official announcement, I qualified the numerous gripes I had about the device with the iPad's promising potential to shape up into a very solid multimedia device.
Having spent an extended amount of time tinkering with the iPad following its launch, I find it interesting that I pretty much still feel the same way.
Still, there's no doubt that Apple's new slate tablet hits some key features straight out of the park. Read on for my review of the 16GB Apple iPad WiFi tablet.
It's a looker: For a device that features a pretty simple design, it's interesting how many "oohs" the iPad generates when shown to people. The iPad's minimalistic design takes a less-is-more approach, with a single home button on its face and just a few more on the edges for volume, screen orientation locking and power/sleep.
I admit that I thought the black screen bezel or border looked a bit big at first. But after spending plenty of time with the device, I think it strikes the right balance between showing enough screen real estate and making sure users don't inadvertently hit the touch screen.
Speaking of the screen, the 9.7-inch LED display looks nice and sharp indoors and is still surprisingly readable when taken outdoors on a sunny day. The rounded back also makes the device comfortable to hold, with the brushed aluminum making the iPad look much classier than, say, cheap-looking plastic.
Easy to use: The iPad doesn't come with a bulky manual and for good reason. I handed the device with no instructions to one of my not-so-tech savvy aunts and found her posting on Facebook and downloading eBooks a few minutes later.
Set up is quite easy and simply requires hooking the device to a computer with the latest version of iTunes. The interface is quite user-friendly, featuring simple tapping, swiping, pinch-to-zoom and auto screen rotation. The touchscreen keyboard also works a lot better than I expected.
It might take time for folks used to a Windows interface to get used to navigating through files, especially when there's a ton to sift through. But Apple did a good job overall on the iPad interface, including little touches like making eBook pages bend like real paper when you swipe to turn them.
Excellent battery life: As someone who has used many wireless-enabled gadgets, I'm used to Wi-Fi quickly sucking the life out of my portable devices. I'm also used to manufacturers padding their battery life claims. So imagine my surprise when the iPad I tested was still humming along after 10 hours of use. For folks who plan to frequently take their iPad on the go, that's definitely a plus.
Speedy performance: Impatient folks will love how quickly the iPad does tasks. Opening apps is lightning fast, for example, while scrolling through photos is pretty much instantaneous. Downloading apps is also quick good news for folks who like wading through Apple's app store. Speaking of apps...
There really is an app for that: You get apps like Maps, YouTube, iTunes, Mail and Safari right off the bat. Social networking addicts, er, lovers can also download Facebook and Skype for free. With the ability to run almost all of the Apple App Store's more than 150,000 apps including more than 1,000 new ones made for the iPad you can pass (or waste) countless hours just looking for apps to fiddle with.
Price: Given how overpriced some eReaders are, the iPad's entry price of $499 looks pretty attractive for folks who want a reader that can do much more than just read eBooks.
No Flash support: While browsing through Facebook with the iPad, my uncle excitedly clicked on a video of his little son overseas and it wouldn't play. Needless to say, he was bummed. Say what you will about Flash's drawbacks, but it's still a key part of the complete Web experience that Apple says its iPad is supposed to deliver. Even netbooks (gasp) at least let consumers play Flash video and games if they want to.
No real multitasking: Yes, you can listen to music via the iPod app while using Facebook. But if you want to use Facebook, Twitter and Skype, you better use them one at a time. That's because using multiple apps typically means switching between those multiple apps. On the plus side, the iPad switches between apps pretty quickly. But for serious multitaskers, it pretty much equates to a hit on productivity.*Edit: Apple has announced that it will have multitasking for 3rd-party apps on the iPad by Fall 2010.
No camera, standard slots: Even if taking pictures with an iPad doesn't exactly seem natural, it would at least be nice to have a camera to use for video chatting with Skype. No SD Card and USB slot also means fewer options as far as external memory or add-ons. Having an HDMI slot would at least be nice so you don't have to fork more extra dough to buy Apple's official connectors to link your iPad to an HDTV.
A bit hefty: Although the iPad is comfortable to hold and has a nice solid feel, it does start to feel heavy after a while. This especially becomes an issue when you're holding the device with one hand and entering text with the other.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't like the iPad. There's just something about its interface, its features and how the whole thing is put together that makes the device feel polished and fun to use.
At the same time, it also seems unfinished. It certainly has potential. But potential is only good, of course, if you fulfill it.
Maybe the fact that I'm a tech lover makes me a bit more demanding. Maybe Apple's track record for innovative products ratcheted up my expectations too high. I actually let three relatives play with the device the aforementioned aunt and two cousins in middle school and they just loved it. That right there, is the reason for Apple's success. More often than not, the company knows how to make devices that the typical consumer loves.
Just based on the reactions of typical consumers I've shown the device to (and I showed it to a LOT of people), there's no question the device has the "it" factor. And while I still can't give Apple a pass for the iPad's lack of certain features, I also think the company deserves credit for coming up with a solid device that brings new life to the once-tepid slate tablet market.
It's still not quite the laptop replacement for people who need to do a lot of work on the go. But for consumers who simply want a no-nonsense portable entertainment device that lets them surf the Web, read eBooks, listen to music, watch videos and use apps, the iPad is certainly worthy of consideration.More on the iPad
Apple iPad Specs
Apple iPad Pricing and Availability
Apple iPad Central page
A List of Non-Apple Tablets