I had the opportunity this past week to check out an iPad and use it as my own for a few days. The conclusion I’m walking away with is that I’m underwhelmed and grateful that it wasn’t my own money that I spent on the gadget. This may be one of the few critical iPad reviews out there but of course, it isn’t all negatives. There are a number of positive features on the device but still the overall conclusion that I walked away with was that the device was rather frustrating and didn’t quite have a fit in my habits. For the record, I’m testing the 16GB (no 3G) iPad.
The iPad is packaged well, like most Apple products, and includes a USB to the proprietary iPod/iPad (30-pin) connector and an AC to USB converter for charging from an outlet.When you lift out the iPad, you’ll notice it has some heft. It’s a pretty dense package and surprisingly heavy for its size. The screen looks bright and clear but also left me thinking in the back of my mind how smudged it was going to look after use and with fears of scratching the very exposed screen.
When you first plug the iPad into your computer, it will be installed as a new device and the driver should be recognized automatically. Once the iPad is plugged in, you’ll only see an image that shows the iPad’s USB cable and an arrow pointing up to the iTunes icon. You have to plug the device into a computer with iTunes installed. You don’t even have to launch iTunes. As somebody who didn’t have iTunes installed, I found this detail to be particularly annoying.
The other reason that this strikes me as such an inconvenience is that I could easily picture myself or many other people in a situation like this: You’re off on a trip somewhere and you get stranded at the airport. You didn’t bring your laptop because you didn’t plan on being gone for long. You stroll on down to the Airport shop and buy yourself an iPad because you need to get online to make up for your lost time. Unfortunately, it’s no good because it has to be plugged into a computer first.
Once you get the opportunity to plug the iPad into an iTunes-loaded computer, you’ll see this:
Pros & Cons
- The battery life is really good. It was still alive and kicking from the initial charge after messing around with it for several days.
- Video playback on the iPad looks really sharp.
- The ability to rotate the screen is very handy. Rotating a streaming video is very impressive.
- A screen lock switch to stop the screen rotating is thinking ahead since us humans aren’t always oriented upward.
- The iBook app is high quality all around.
- The iPad is a dense little gadget making it heavier than one would think.
- The screen still induces fear that it will get scratched way too easily so that a sleeve or case is a must-have.
- Along with a case, it almost seemed as necessary to have a stand. Nothing would prop the iPad up exactly as I wanted, but I didn’t want to hold it all the time either.
- The lack of Flash is noticeable and renders Hulu and some other sites completely useless.
- I experienced the browser, Safari, and a number of different iPad and iPad-compatible apps crashing on me without explanation.
- I took a lot of screenshots from the iPad. Unfortunately, the easiest way to get photos off of the iPad is to e-mail them to yourself, one image per e-mail.
- The iPad doesn’t seem to be a device made for the roadtrip as it seems pretty limited away from a wireless connection.
- The keyboard was really annoying for practical use. Entering a user name was annoying each time because you’d have to toggle between the letters and the number/symbol keyboard and heaven forbid you try to enter a secure password.
Here are those screenshots that were such a pain to get off of the iPad:
The home screen is easy to navigate, has three separate panes that you can navigate by flicking the screen to the side, and 4 icons at the bottom for your icons that you would access frequently.
The settings allow for quite a bit of configuration including restrictions you can place on what the iPad can do, perfect if you’re handing the iPad off to a child that you don’t want racking up a lot of charges in the App Store.
The YouTube app allows you to view YouTube videos despite the lack of Flash. It’s a pretty functional version of the website and allows you to display the videos full screen and rotated.
Netflix is another site turned into a free app that normally wouldn’t work with the lack of Flash support. With the app installed, you’ll notice little difference between the normal website.
The full-screen player is also pretty slick. Streaming the video down over wifi is impressive and then watching the video rotate as I rotate the iPad is even more impressive. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t do any good away from an AP but it could work well around the house.
The free iBooks app blew me away. Compared to the simple PDF-like reading of the Kindle, the iPad could easily be a very cool eReader. If that’s all they marketed it as, I’d buy it. Everything else seems to detract from the quality of the iBooks (which are ePub formatted ebooks). With the latest update, Steve Jobs has announced that the iBooks app can now act as a PDF reader and they’ve added the ability to add notes inside of books.
For an example, here’s the free Winnie-the-Pooh which is very colorful. iBooks allow you to change the brightness, the font size, and allows you to search the text.
Rotate the iPad from portrait (above) to landscape (below) and you’ll have a full book in your hands with the animation of a page flipping.
Kindle books can also be read on the iPad through the free Kindle app…
but compared to the iBooks, they just look a little sad.
Overall, the iPad seems to be mssing its niche. It’s a little heavy to be just an eReader but too limited to be a netbook, I guess this is defining the new role of the tablet/slate. As today’s revealing of the iPhone 4 showed, things get better with time. I would not recommend jumping on the iPad boat until we have another generation or so to refine all of the quirks, particularly with Apple’s tendency to quickly forget their previous products and leave those customers who don’t have the budget to keep up with the latest and greatest in the dust.