The Apple iPad. The name is a killing word -- more than a product -- it's a statement, an idea, and potentially a prime mover in the world of consumer electronics. Before iPad it was called the Apple Tablet, the Slate, Canvas, and a handful of other guesses -- but what was little more than rumor and speculation for nearly ten years is now very much a reality. Announced on January 27th to a middling response, Apple has been readying itself for what could be the most significant product launch in its history; the making (or breaking) of an entirely new class of computer for the company (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ battery).
The iPad is something in between its monumental iPhone and wildly successful MacBook line -- a usurper to the netbook throne, and possibly a sign of things to come for the entire personal computer market... if Apple delivers on its promises. And those are some big promises; the company has been tossing around words like "magical" and "revolutionary" to describe what many have dismissed as nothing more than a larger version of its iPod touch. But is that all there is to this device? Is the hope that Apple promises for this new computing experience nothing more than marketing fluff and strategic hyperbole? Or is this a different beast altogether -- a true sign that change has come to the world of the PC? We have the definitive answers to those questions (and many more) right here, so read on for our full review of the Apple iPad (Sony VGP-BPS8 battery)!
The first thing you notice about the iPad is, well, you don't really notice it. In many ways, there is just not much here -- design wise -- to comment on. The bulk of its surface is taken up by a 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768, capacitive, multitouch LED-backlit display surrounded by a glossy black bezel that some will say is too wide but, in practice, is an important design consideration that prevents the touchscreen from being inadvertently activated when handled. There's only Apple's signature "home" button to interact with, and the back of the device is a dutifully simple piece of curved aluminum (Sony VGP-BPL9 battery).
Like most Apple products, it's a beauty to behold, but it's not exactly notable for design flourishes; simply put, it's good looking but not terribly exciting. But if the design of the iPad is an exercise in restraint, it only serves to reinforce how formidable this technology feels once it's in your hands. The device has some heft, weighing in at 1.5 pounds, but is still comfortable to hang onto at most angles. Considering the computing power of the tablet, a thickness that tops out at half an inch is pretty impressive, too. But how does it feel in your hands? Well, that matte aluminum on the back surprisingly communicates warmth (though we don't recommend resting this on any bare flesh on a cold morning), and the rest of the design gets out of the way and lets you concentrate on what is really most important: that screen. And that's kind of the point, isn't it (Sony VGP-BPL11 battery)?
The iPad does house a few other components you should be aware of: a volume rocker and screen position lock (which forces the device to remain in landscape or portrait mode) on the upper right hand side, a power / sleep button and headphone jack on either side of its top edge, and Apple's famous 30-pin dock connector alongside a single thin speaker on the bottom of the unit. There is nothing outwardly notable about the buttons or layout on the iPad -- if you've used an iPod touch or iPhone, you'll find yourself right at home... and that's exactly how Apple wants it (Sony VGP-BPL15 battery).
As far as ergonomics are concerned, the standard seated-with-iPad-in-lap move is a completely comfortable experience, but there are definitely use cases where handling a flat slab becomes a pain. For instance, single finger typing becomes a bit of a game of hunt-and-peck, and that's the situation you find yourself in if you're ever standing with the iPad or holding the device with your other hand. We mentioned that iPad has some weight to it, and while it's comfortable to hold, it is considerably more of a handful than an iPhone. You'll feel that weight in your arms after extended period of keeping it aloft (ASUS A3000 Battery).
Apple promo videos like to show their users happily grabbing the iPad and swinging their legs up onto a table -- Fonz style -- but if you're like us, most of your heavy text entry is done while seated at a standard table or desk, which means that unless you have a dock you're going to be typing on the iPad as a flat surface. The thing is, we actually found the flat-typing experience to be pretty good; it takes a little getting used to, but it's not totally bizarre either. In fact, we'd say it's a much more enjoyable experience than single-hand typing. Still, just as with the iPhone, there is a learning curve here that may diminish some hit-and-run shoppers' interest (ASUS Eee PC 1000HE Battery).
As you probably know by now, the iPad packs Apple's custom, PA Semi-designed 1GHz A4 system-on-a-chip -- a single Cortex A8 core coupled with a PowerVR SGX GPU. RAM on the iPad hasn't been revealed, but we suspect there's 512MB (at least) inside here -- we'll know more once iFixit or someone else puts the pad under the knife. Also onboard is 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, a digital compass, an accelerometer, microphone, and ambient light sensor. The 3G model that ships at the end of the month will add UMTS / HSDPA data along with an AGPS chip. You can purchase the device in capacities of 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB. We had the 64GB version for this review (Dell Inspiron 6400 battery).
In our testing, the A4 SOC seemed to deal with whatever we threw at it handily. From opening and rendering webpages to playing the most graphically intensive games (including scaled iPhone versions, of course), it didn't miss a beat. The photo app was particularly impressive, allowing for fast scrolling through high resolution pictures without a hiccup, and handling rotation and zooming with no resistance or hesitation. Applications themselves opened quickly -- not instantly (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ4000 Battery).
Of course, as many detractors have noted (Engadget included), there's no true multitasking here, so seeing a system with this much power perform admirably one app at a time wasn't a huge surprise, especially since we'd experienced the same thing on an earlier version at the January event (more on this in a moment). Still, it seems like the A4 has power to spare, and that's a good thing if the third party apps we used on the iPad were any indication of where things are headed -- more graphically intensive and packing far more functionality (Toshiba PA3399U-2BAS Battery).
The battery -- a 25-watt-hour lithium-polymer (non-removable of course) -- held up surprisingly well in our testing. More on that in the battery section down below (IBM ThinkPad T40 Battery).
As we mentioned at the start of the review, the iPad is all about its screen, and Apple's 9.7-inch LED backlit IPS display does not disappoint. Colors on the screen are vibrant and saturated, while blacks feel true and deep. The iPad can be cranked up to an almost painful brightness, but also handles lower settings well -- that's especially important for readers (they even include a brightness control inside of iBooks) (Dell Inspiron 6000 battery).
Because Apple employs IPS (in-plane switching) for the display, viewing angles are remarkably broad, though we can't honestly say the feature will come in handy for us -- we usually want to keep people's eyes off of our work. The screen is, as we mentioned, capacitive and multitouch, and handled input excellently -- if you're used to the iPhone, then you know how very good Apple's input technology is. To call it best in class would not be an overstatement; we've never used a more responsive screen (Dell INSPIRON 1420 Battery).
We know there's a lot of talk about reading with this type of display versus a Kindle or other E-Ink device, but we'll just be straight with you -- it didn't hurt our eyes to use this as a reading device. You're able to crank the brightness down a significant amount, but it's also just a matter of adjustment. After a few minutes we didn't see the device or the screen tech anymore -- we saw a book. We won't speculate on what prolonged use will feel like, but there is data out there that suggests the technology might not be as important as some people think it is when it comes to e-reader displays (Dell Inspiron E1505 Battery.
For the most part, there's not much else to say about the iPad when it comes to its physical attributes. The home button is your only point of hardware interaction with the software, though you have those volume controls and rotation lock switch. The speaker actually does a rather impressive job of outputting clean, well balanced sound given its size, but let's be honest -- you're not going to be using this as your party sound system. The 30-pin connector is standard issue for Apple's mobile products, but we have to take serious issue with the lack of a USB port or SD card reader (Dell Inspiron E1505 Battery.
The company offers both of these as an accessory as a means to transfer photos and video onto the device, but it seems like such a glaring oversight to not have built these in that it bears mentioning. If Apple wants to compete with the netbook market -- which it presumably does -- there should be some port options beyond its proprietary dock connector. This just feels like a money grab and a waste of potential for third-party peripherals (Fujitsu Lifebook S6120 battery).
One piece of hardware you won't find here is a webcam, which we already mourned the lack of when we first saw the device. It's a bit of a crime that the iPad won't allow you to carry on an iChat or Skype video conversation, because holding this in your hands while talking to a friend or family member not only seems like a match made in heaven, but the total realization of one of our sci-fi fantasies. We know Apple couldn't possibly cram every component Engadget editors might have hoped for, but this one seemed like a no-brainer, and its omission has left pretty much everyone scratching their heads (HP PAVILION DV2000 Battery).
And one other item of note -- Apple chose to place the headphone jack at the top of the device. We don't know about you, but we think the idea of draping our headphone cord across the screen or snaking it around back is a tremendously bad idea. And guess what? In practice, it kind of stinks. Why the company didn't opt for putting the plug in the logical place -- say, the bottom of the iPad, or the side even -- is a mystery that will undoubtedly haunt our every waking moment (HP PAVILION DV3000 Battery).