We’ve taken our time to really get to know the iPad, let the hype die down and really use it as an everyday device. Now we’re ready to offer you our thoughts. Unlike other large-screened tabled devices like the Dell Streak, Apple’s iPad doesn’t offer any traditional mobile phone functions – no texting, calling, video calling, nada – but, as we found out, that’s ok; it offers you so much more.
What we like
Apple really nailed the size of the iPad – that screen is huge but the device itself is not. Yes, it’s too big for a pocket and too big to act as a mobile phone, but it’s by all means very portable. Slipping it into a handbag it was less cumbersome than most books we’d usually be reading on our commute.
Many people who’ve never used an iPad use the whole “It’s just a big iPhone” argument – lookswise, we can’t really fault them. It is just a big iPhone in terms of physical design; worse than that, it’s just a big iPhone 3G – Apple’s redesigned iPhone 4 which came out several months after the iPad has really dated the slate’s design. Despite that, it’s by no means an unattractive device.
The iPad’s 9.7-inch screen is a joy to use; although it isn’t on a par with the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, the LED-backlighting makes it adequately crisp and bright. The freedom of such a big screen saw us making unnecessary movements and using all our fingers to scroll between screens just because there was so much space! The experience of reading eBooks and websites on that display just doesn’t compare to any smartphone.
The multi-touch enabled touchscreen is also fabulously responsive. Often we’d find ourselves flicking between homescreens just for the pure joy of the action.
Setting up our iPad was easy as pie – if you’ve got or previously had an iPhone or iPod Touch then all your compatible apps can by synced quickly and easily. Email setup was also pretty painless and it’s nice to see your inbox at a glance while you read each email in landscape mode.
The onscreen Qwerty keyboard is nicely spaced, even in portrait mode, and typing doesn’t feel so much of a chore as it does on smaller touchscreens.
The battery is, quite frankly, amazing. You can get a good couple of days’ heavy use out of a single charge, and around a week of light use. Compared to the iPhone 3GS and even the iPhone 4, it’s incredible.
There’s not much to differentiate between the user interfaces of the iPad and iPhone; one nice new addition is that you can save up to six apps to the static dock on the homescreen (on the iPhone you can save up to four).
What we don’t like
Despite the nicely spaced keyboard, we still missed the pushability of physical buttons, and felt a bit of strain in the backs of our hands from the flat typing experience. If you’re going to be doing a lot of typing on the iPad you might want to invest in a physical keybord peripheral.
Of course, running iOS, the iPad does not support Flash so catch-up services like Channel 4’s 4OD and a fair bit of embedded interactive and video content online is inaccessible.
Until the slate is updated to iOS4, the iPad doesn’t support multitasking. It’s a feature we really found ourselves missing, particularly when using things like Spotify.
There’s no camera on the iPad. This isn’t the end of the world as it’s a little too large to really start pointing around and taking snaps with; but we would like an easier way to get our photos straight onto the iPad from our camera or handset. An SD card reader, for example, wouldn’t go amiss.
Our main issue with the iPad is that we just don’t need it. If you’ve got a smartphone and a laptop, it feels like a completely unnecessary addition to your gadget arsenal, offering nothing new other than portability. We’ve loved having one around, but if it came down to parting with cold hard cash for it, we’d probably decline and we’d certainly be loathe to signing up for yet another 3G contract on the 3G model.
Apple has done what Apple knows best; rethought a whole product segment. It’s been carried out very well – the iPad is a lovely device to use and we can’t fault that wonderfully large screen. If you’re in the market for a slate, then the iPad is definitely one of the best around. But if you already have an iPhone and a good quality laptop, you’d be wise to question whether it’s worth the minimum £400 you’ll have to spend on it.