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If you are reading this iPad review, you are probably still wondering if you should spend $499 or more on an iPad, and you are looking for answers. In this post, I will try to tell you what the iPad does (or does not), and how good (I think) it really is. Many aspects of the iPad are covered: design, display, books, videos, cool apps, productivity, gaming, web, battery life… you name it. After reading this, you should have a good idea of whether or not the iPad is for you and what it will really bring on the table. If not, well… you can leave a comment! Let’s dive in…
We all perceive the usefulness of these devices differently depending on our lifestyle, so let me tell you where I come from. I spend most of my time using a powerful desktop computer (a PC) with a very large display. If I need to get some real work done outside of the office, I use a laptop (Sony Vaio, or Macbook Pro + Win7). On the go, I keep track of emails with a smartphone, but I tend to reply only moderately from a cellphone because typing long emails is painful (even more so on a touchscreen phone). I check news websites a lot, and I often use a laptop in my couch. Now you know…
External design (Beautiful)
I won’t spend a whole lot of time describing what the device looks like (check our iPad unboxing photo gallery). There are a few highlights:
The build quality is excellent. The aluminium back feels great under the finger and nothing feels cheap. There is an audio jack connector for headphones, and a microphone for apps that need it. The speaker is on the bottom of the device where the “Home” button is. The audio quality is so-so and the maximum speaker volume is too soft for my taste. My advice: use headphones whenever possible. The volume button is accessible and active whenever the iPad is playing something.
Other than the standard 3.5mm audio jack, the only external connector is the proprietary Apple connector, which seems similar to the one found on the iPhone.A number of accessories can be connected to that, and this is the only wired way to connect to the outside world. Update: I’ve spotted an iPad to VGA connector at the Apple Store.
The iPad is heavier than most people expect: at 1.5lbs to 1.6lbs (3G), it is heavy enough so that my wrist would get tired after less than 30mn of firmly holding it. $499 is a good amount of money, but making something with this build quality at that price is not easy.
The display deserves its own section: with a resolution of 1024×768, it has a seemingly low pixel density compared to select high-end smartphones. That said, everything looks sharp and colorful. The contrast and colors are very nice (dare I say “Amazing”?). Plus, the brightness distribution is very stable regardless of the viewing angle.
In direct sunlight, you will get a good amount of reflections, but overall, the iPad display does OK, especially if you are looking at an image with bright colors. If you are watching a dark movie, only a trans-reflective display could help you in that situation. Note that the iPhone 3GS display is slightly better in direct sunlight.
I’ve heard many complaints about the thick bezel around the screen. There’s no question that thinner is better, but the bezel is currently needed because your thumb or another finger will land on it while firmly holding the device. If it wasn’t for the bezel, your fingers would be on an active touch surface and that would interfere with the user interface (UI).
Eye strain: some fear that reading from an LCD display would cause headaches and eyestrain. I can only speak for myself, but I have not experienced any eyestrain, and you can imagine that I’ve been spending a lot of time on the device to write this review. However, remember that I’m looking at a computer LCD most of the time anyway…
User Interface (Easy)
For those who have used an iPhone or an iPod touch, there is no learning curve whatsoever. It’s the same look (with many additions) and feel and you’ll be productive right away. If you are not familiar with it, this is arguably one of the best touch interface out there, and I expect most people to be able to ramp up fairly quickly.
There is a lot of: “grand parents would love it”. May be so, but this is largely unproven. I think that most people who believe this have never actually tested it on their tech-averse relatives. If you have, feel free to drop a comment at the end of the review. Anyway, if you are thinking about getting one for an elderly person, just keep in mind that: 1/ it might not be as easy as you think it is. 2/ A computer is still required to register and setup the device. As a side note, Gartner forcasts that by 2015, the majority of computer purchased for kids under 15 will have a touch screen.