Talking tech since 2003

Here it is.  The iPad review.  The review you have been so anxiously waiting for.  I know you have most likely read a number of these reviews so far, so I’m going to make sure this one is the best.  The iPad is a tablet computer that weighs in at approximately 1.5lbs, with a 9.7″ (diagonal) display at 1024 x 768, and 1GHz Apple A4 custom-designed processor.  It comes in six models, three WiFi only versions and three WiFi + 3G versions.  Both models have storage capacity ranging from 16GB to 64GB.

If you have used an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can use the iPad with ease.  There isn’t a learning curve at all.  All of the same hand gestures work on the iPad.  Of course this mainly has to do with the fact the iPad runs the iPhone OS.  Certain applications (e.g. Mail) are a little different in terms of layout but that is because the iPad has new menu systems to take advantage of the larger screen.  You will notice these new menu’s in many of the iPad specific apps released.

The iPad has a number of strengths over the iPhone and iPod Touch and most of the strengths revolve around the larger display.  If the display were any smaller, the iPad would not be worth the money.  The 10″ display makes surfing the web, viewing email, and watching video content so much more pleasant.  It is absolutely a much better experience than that of the iPhone or iPod Touch.  The iPhone’s display when it first came out was unlike any other in the mobile device market – it was astounding and to this day it provides a decent web surfing experience.  That being said, once you use the iPad you can see what you were missing all these years when it comes to surfing the web on a mobile device.  Granted it wouldn’t be feasible for the iPhone to be so large, but it does put the iPad’s purpose in perspective.

Using the iPad

The keyboard has been designed fairly well for portrait orientation, I find it a little more difficult to use in landscape mode, however, I find myself getting used to it more and more every day.  Of course your experience may vary.

The iPad App Store provides a better experience (more like the iTunes version on the Mac or PC) then that of the iPhone or iPod Touch.  Again, this contributes to the larger display making it easier to browse through applications, view screen shots, read through comments, etc.

Surfing the web using Safari on the iPad is wonderful.  The redesigned browser for the iPad is just right.  The implementation of “tabbed/windowed” browsing has been executed very well.

Listening to music and watching videos/movies was a pleasant surprise, the audio quality is exceptionally good for a small device and the video quality is superb.  The audio does not become distorted at all at higher volumes and even though the display resolution is only 1024 x 768 watching movies and television still looks great.

iPad Apps are definitively what separate the iPad from the iPhone and iPod Touch.  This differentiation wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the larger display.  In a previous post, we challenged iPhone developers to create iPad specific apps as well.  It comes down to the overall user experience, when you have more space – use it.  I enjoy using iPad specific apps much more than iPhone apps.  Even the modified version of Mail for the iPad is more appealing and user-friendly.  Some other of my favorite iPad apps include iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote), The Wall Street Journal (requires a WSJ subscription), LogMeIn Ignition, SkyGrid, TweetDeck, Weather HD, and WolframAlpha.

iPad Accessories

When it comes to accessories and which to buy, I’d say the first thing you will definitely want to invest in is the keyboard dock.  Not only does it make it easy to use on an upright angle sitting on your desk, it will increase your productivity.  The use of a physical keyboard on the iPad can be a huge benefit depending on what you want to do.  For example, If you want to write a blog post using the WordPress app, the keyboard dock is a must-have.  I could never see myself writing a full length blog post or taking notes in class using Pages on the iPad without the keyboard dock accessory.

You may also want to consider buying a case for the iPad, however, I’d stay away from Apple’s.  While I personally haven’t tried it hands on, it doesn’t look very impressive and I have read a lot of poor reviews.

File Format Support

The bottom line is here is that the iPad will play and view just about every major file format, but for the sake of completeness, I have included the full list of file formats supported below.

Audio formats supported: HE-AAC (V1), AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4), Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV.

TV & Video formats supported: H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format

Viewable document types: .jpg, .tiff, .gif (images); .doc and .docx (Microsoft Word); .htm and .html (web pages); .key (Keynote); .numbers (Numbers); .pages (Pages); .pdf (Preview and Adobe Acrobat); .ppt and .pptx (Microsoft PowerPoint); .txt (text); .rtf (rich text format); .vcf (contact information); .xls and .xlsx (Microsoft Excel)

What’s the iPad good for?

A major question that people are still trying to answer is what exactly is the iPad good for?  The iPad is not meant to replace your computer, nor your cell phone.  It’s meant to be a media consumption device.  It’s meant to be used to read the newspaper, play games, read books, casually surf the web, watch TV or movies, or even write a blog post.  It can technically do most things the typical user would want to do.  All of those things I listed that it can do, the iPad can do very well.  The iPad will be defined by the applications that are built for it.  The better the operating system and applications, the better the iPad will become.

The Verdict

Is the iPad worth buying?  The answer: Yes.  Of course, even though it is worth buying doesn’t mean it is right for you.  Everyone has their own preferences and needs.  If none of the things I covered in this review made you have the urged to want an iPad then chances are you can live without one.  That being said, as I mentioned, the apps will define the iPad.  New apps are released often and new types of media will be made iPad-specific, so just because you don’t want one now don’t think you won’t want one later, because you may very well change your mind.  I still think this device has huge potential.

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