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In-depth review: Apple's IPad and iPhone OS 3.2

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The Wrap Up

The verdict on the iPad: you probably don't need it (considering that the category was just invented out of thin air), but you may want one enough that its fairly moderate price may not prove to be an obstacle.

It's fun to use. It suggests great potential as a general way to create documents (most of the graphics for this review were created in Keynote on the iPad, and the text was entered using Pages. It works.

It's a captivating games machine. I like playing iPhone games casually, so having an even more immersive experience with more sophistication is all that much better.

It's a great movie and TV player. And because it isn't a TV, the networks don't have any problem putting their programs up for free (they can't do that for Apple TV because they'd be bypassing their cable partners).

It's solid and attractive, and doesn't feel very fragile, at least for being a state of the art tablet computer with a face of glass. You can casually throw it in your backpack or at the couch without worrying that you're going to dislodge something, things you wouldn't want to do with a notebook and its fragile optical disc and magnetic hard drive.

It's not tied to AT&T or some other provider, but the 3G version gives you an always on WWAN option that's nice to have. If you have the luxury of WiFi most places that you work and relax, iPad will keep you wonderfully connected.

The downside: you might have a hard time convincing yourself that you need something between your iPhone or iPod touch and your notebook or desktop computer. IPad is a lot easier to use outdoors. It's less fragile, it's very hands on and feels super natural as you work on it.

If you pair it with a keyboard, it's far more useful for writing or doing heavy email. But regardless, you can probably still get more work done with a full powered notebook, at least until its battery runs out in a 2-3 hours. The best thing about iPad is that it keeps working for a really long time.

If you travel a lot, if you have time to relax, if you enjoy new technology, and if you're open to unlearning old ways of doing things, you'll probably really enjoy it. You'll enjoy it even more as it blossoms with new iPad apps and the upcoming iPhone 4.0.

If you're hoping to use it as a replacement for your MacBook, or if you really want it to be something other than what it is, or if you'd be happier paying a bit less for a more conventional netbook loaded with lots of USB ports and the ability to run Flash, then you'll likely hate the iPad. But you knew that before you started reading this review.


4 Stars

Strong, clean, attractive design
Natural touch interface is simple and elegant to use
Lots of great apps already available, more coming
Familiar features of the iPhone, enhanced to use its bigger screen
Bluetooth keyboard makes a great pairing for getting work done
Makes a great mobile tool that works with your computer
Fast 802.11n wireless networking
Reasonably priced hardware and 3G service with no contracts
Great potential as a gaming machine

Early adopters will wade through several software updates
Focus on HTML5 makes Flash a temporary issue for those who need it
Some familiar features missing or require relearning how to do things
Not equipped to do video conferencing