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Even if you reject the iPad on an intestinal level—you know, because you don’t want to be associated with mock turtlenecks and man bags—then you should still view Apple’s device as a referendum on the looming wave of tablet computers. The bottom line is that the iPad is damn useful. The referendum has passed.
The LED-backlit display clocks 1024x768 pixels across 9.7 diagonal inches. Those are netbook-like specs in a physical formfactor that’s more attractive (both aesthetically and functionally) than any netbook. The best part about the screen is that it defines the iPad in toto—without the baggage of a hinged physical keyboard, track pad, or pointing stick, the iPad thrives when typing, web-surfing, or doing similarly simple tasks while lying on your back.
For couch-based computing, just prop the iPad in the angle of your lap. In landscape mode, the virtual keyboard stretches 7.75 inches edge-to-edge, providing easy typing targets. But it’s really the iPad’s touch navigation that makes the device so convenient when working in a prone position. Scrolling, panning, or just inserting a cursor is much easier when all you have to do is tap your finger. Simply put, touch-based navigation trumps every mousing alternative we’ve ever encountered on a netbook. And thanks to the iPad’s 1GHz ARM processor—a system-on-chip that also handles 3D, audio, power management, and bus traffic duties—the GUI is extremely fast with speedy screen redraws. The iPad eschews mechanical storage for flash, aiding app responsiveness and load times, as well as battery life (which consistently beat Apple’s 10-hour estimate for “normal use” scenarios).
When you’re ready to hit the road, the iPad provides a winning mixture of convenience and functionality. Compared to most any netbook, it’s lighter, slimmer, and more packable. It also boots faster—near instantaneously. For plane trips, you can watch HD movies in spectacular color and clarity, read ebooks, listen to iPod tunes, and play an ever-growing arsenal of addictive casual games. The touch interface is an Achilles’ heel when it comes to shooters and other action games, but pool, pinball, board games, card games, and various PopCap ports translate wonderfully to the touch screen.
When you hit your hotel room, you can web-surf and email without compromise, but you’ll finally hit some snags when you attempt more complex activity. The iPad runs the iPhone OS, which won’t support multitasking until later this year. But the real bugaboo is the closed system of the OS. Neither Windows nor Mac software is welcome to the party. For 90 percent of all computing activity, Apple’s App Store has an app for the job. But for the remaining 10 percent, you’re on your own.
In the coming months, a host of PC makers will be rolling out their iPad killers, and we can’t wait to see one that runs Windows apps, multitasks, supports Flash, and has a front-facing camera for video chat—all features the iPad currently lacks. HP’s Slate appeared to be the front-runner in the non-Apple tablet race, but speculation has the Slate running Palm’s webOS instead of the resource-hogging Windows 7.
Regardless of which OS they’re running, all the new tablet competitors should dominate both netbooks and old-school, stylus-controlled tablets. Touch interface is the key, and it doesn’t need to be Apple’s.
Want a second opinion? Go to Maclife.com, our sister site, to read their iPad review.
Speedy touch-based GUI; super-efficient SoC; killer display and virtual keyboard; tons of killer apps.
Can’t multitask; nonstandard OS; no Flash support; no camera; limited as a gaming platform.
|Footprint / Weight ||H/W/D: 9.5 x 7.5 x 0.5 inches; 1.5lbs |
|CPU ||1GHz Apple A4 (ARM-based SoC) |
|GPU||PowerVR SGX 535 |
|RAM ||256MB DRAM (integrated into SoC) |
|Storage ||Flash memory (16, 32, or 64GB) |
|Display ||9.7-inch, LED-backlit IPS LCD, 132ppi |
|Battery ||Non-user-replaceable, 6600mAh lithium ion polymer |
|Input / Output||30-pin dock connector, 3.5-inch headphone jack, built-in speaker and mic |