First impressions of the Apple iPad

Apple's iPad is not the computing revolution some were predicting. It is, let's face it, an oversized iPod touch. But it's also the most desirable tab

Apple's iPad is not the computing revolution some were predicting. It is, let's face it, an oversized iPod touch. But it's also the most desirable tablet - or eReader - on the market.

And  the iPad is a netbook-slayer, too - because you can touch and interact with web pages, the browsing experience on the iPad is peerless. It's not just better than the iPhone - it's better than the iMac and every other computer out there. Email is equally brilliant

Of course, the iPad has some flaws - a bright LED screen is never going to be perfect for an eReader, and the lack of a grown-up operating system severely limits what you can do with file management.

But pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard and you have a gloriously tactile, wonderfully useful computing system that will be at home on the coffee tablet or tucked up in a manbag.

Future generations of the iPad will no doubt offer OLED screens, cameras, video streaming and more; for now, we have a beautifully made, affordable multimedia tablet with hundreds of thousands of pocket-money apps to improve its features.

Tablet computing finally has its hero. And any gadgeteer worth his silicon won't be able to resist buying one.

Look and feel.

The iPad looks like an overgrown iPod Touch - it's incredibly thin with a sheer glass front and a curved, anodised aluminium back. It demands to be held - and once you pick it up, you won't want to put it down. Until you have to type something - unlike the iPhone, you're not going to be able to hold the iPad and type with two thumbs.

Hardware

Despite all the rumours suggesting that the iPad would feature all sorts of new technology, from OLED screens to proximity sensors, there's actually little new - aside from the 1GHz, Apple-built brain that moves everything along at an incredible pace - and allows it to deliver 10 hours of video on a single charge. Apple clearly decided to produce something affordable rather than something truly innovative.

User interface

The iPad's user interface will be its biggest selling point. It has to be held to be believed. Like the iPhone, it's incredibly intuitive - but it's also remarkably resposinve to any motion, swipe or prod. The transition animations are brilliantly realised, too, particularly the way the iBook Store hurls books into your wood-panelled library.

iBooks

I'm not totally convinced of the iPad's eBook credentials - at least, not in its current form.  Certainly the iBooks app is beautiful, but the screen is so bright that reading will be much more strenuous than on the Kindle. I'd guess that future versions of the iPad will feature screens that can switch between easy-on-the-eye eInk and fast moving colour - but those screens are only in the prototype stage right now.

iWork

Apple's office suite is has been beautifully re-engineered for the iPad - Keynote, Pages and even Numbers are gloriously tactile, and easily worth the $9.99 pricetag for each app. But if you're serious about doing work, you'll definitely want to invest in either a keyboard dock or Bluetooth keyboard - touch typing on the virtual keyboard is impossible. Even thumb typing while holding it doesn't work. 

Gaming/apps.

The iPad will run pretty much any iPhone app at native resolution, or scaled up to fit the 1024 x780-pixel display. The upscaling doesn't add any extra detail, but it works fine - until a iPad-specific version of the app appears. The 1Ghz processor means that games fly, but the lack of physical controls could compromise the iPad's gaming potential.

Stuff says

The iPad is a truly gorgeous slice of technology that redefines the tablet - but it won't be a gadget essential until it has a purpuse. Which is why it will live or die by the quality of the apps that are developed for it. First up, we want video streaming and a universal remote control…

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