Apple’s iPad is like trading up from VHS to Blu-ray. With five times more pixels than an iPhone, the iPad’s 9.7in, 1024x768-pixel screen is simply superb.

Multi-touch works a dream, the colours are vivid and even that 10-hour battery life doesn’t dent its brightness.

As a web tablet you’ll discover that the iPad sees pages burst onto the screen in microseconds and that 9.7in display takes the iPhone’s pinch-and-flick navigation to a whole new level. The lack of Flash takes its toll, however, and Google search results are on the small side.

The iPad’s super-shiny, so get ready for reflections, glare and a mess of fingerprints… All the more reason to skin up quickly, before this beauty slides out of your grasp.

E-book me

Ebooks move on from monochrome, with the classy iBooks app adding colour illustrations and slick page turns. Apple’s store looks bare (and pricey) compared with Amazon’s groaning e-shelves, although the Kindle iPad app lacks iBooks’ search and dictionary look-ups. The LCD is fine indoors, but no match for e-ink in bright light.

The iPad upgrades the casual and puzzle games that looked great on the iPhone and introduces a slew of hi-def, high-speed and 3D titles, while the sensitive accelerometer also allows Wii-style shenanigans.

Not such a resounding roar when it comes to the iPad as media player: the new-look iPod app is about as exciting as a Linux menu tree, there’s no cover-art jukebox to flick through, and we experienced several audio hiccups when listening to tunes in the background. However, video downloads from iTunes are one-touch simple, HD video playback is seamless and the built-in speakers actually aren’t that bad.

Up and App them

Apple’s custom gigahertz chip rips through even the most demanding apps without a stutter and hi-res maps, multi-megapixel photos and crowded web pages render in an instant.

Real Racing is a superb 3D racing sim that turns the iPad into a virtual steering wheel. The graphics aren’t quite PSP standard, but gameplay is addictive, especially with power-ups, skins, tunes and online championships.

ABC Player is a smart on-demand TV app letting you browse and watch the HD episodes of ABC’s biggest series (FlashFoward, Lost) for free. If iPlayer can match this, we’re never turning our TV on – ever again.

Not all rosy with apps, though – every time the screen re-orientates from landscape to portrait, the apps shuffle position, so it can be difficult to find the one you’re looking for. Of course, the iPhone 4 OS should help that situation by adding folders.

Read all about it

For news and sport, the USA Today app delivers America’s lightweight daily paper into the palm of your hand. There’s a gallery of news photos, interactive polls, a good weather app and live scores for the nation’s favourite sports. The eye-popping Wall Street Journal app is also worth a look, as is Popular Science.

For stattos and fans of fine figures, Elements is a UK-produced edutainment app, which provides an interactive multimedia blast of periodic table facts and features, plus live links to Wolfram Alpha.


Full-fat desire

Okay, so the soft keyboard is too big for use with thumbs, and there are no USB ports, and while email attachments open swiftly you can’t save them or search your inbox, but…

The iPad is still totally desirable. The screen is lush and detailed, and the new full-fat iPad apps absolutely rock. Wi-Fi browsing moves at a million miles per hour; and when sat next to a rival like the Archos 9 PCtablet running Windows 7, the French competitor becomes a sputtering Virgin F1 racer to Apple’s turbocharged Ferrari.

Stuff says... 

Apple iPad Wi-Fi review

Dizzying, dazzling and debonair, Apple’s must-have iPad is simply the best gadget you don’t really need