Apple iPad Review: A Revolution in Computing or Unnecessary Luxury? You Decide.

Apple, like no other tech company on Earth, has an uncanny ability to
stir emotion with their products.  You might be lining up outside of an
Apple store, a veritable mecca for lovers of the fruit, patiently
camping out to be one of the first to lay finger on the newest shiny
object.  Perhaps you're passionately boycotting their products, refusing
to be one of the crowds mystified by their "magical" devices.

It doesn't matter.  Apple's newest creation, the iPad, has made a
splash, created controversy, and is poised to alter the computing
landscape.  Potentially forever.  However, is it really for you?  Should
you buy?  Or is it just an overpriced bauble?  Find out.

What the heck is an iPad?

Unless you don't follow the news or don't have access to the Internet or
television, chances are you at least know that Apple has released
something new.  That "something" is a tablet computer, much like an
oversized iPod Touch, sporting a similar look and feel.  (If you haven't
seen the device yet, you should check out Apple's
series of guided tours
- they give a nice overview.) The device is
controlled primarily via a massive, silky smooth touch screen.  iPad's
raison d'etre is to remove the complication from computing; to bring
some "feeling" into how you perform your daily tasks and media
consumption.  In my opinion, it succeeds greatly at this.  Here's a
breakdown of some of the things it can do.

Web Browsing

What's the first, the very first thing you're gonna want to do
with this thing when you get your paws on it?  Browse the web, of
course.  This is where the iPad really shines.  There's a lot of
skeptics out there who feel that browsing the web on a desktop or laptop
is just as good, but mind you, it isn't the same.  Gliding through
webpages on that 9.7" screen while kicking back in your easy chair is
much more intimate with this device than you might think.  Webpages load
incredibly fast, scrolling is lightning quick, and you can have several
sites open at once.

There are a few caveats, though.  First is
the distinct lack of support for Adobe's Flash technology, widely used
on some of the most popular websites around.  Second, no tabbed browsing is somewhat of a bummer, and doesn't seem to be coming in iPhone OS 4.0, so will likely be missing for some time.


Of course, I have no way of knowing what email client you prefer to use, but if you are familiar with Mac's or the iPhone, then you'll be right at home here.  The Mail application in iPad sports a familiar, efficient dual pane design and will allow you to blaze through your mailbox with ease.  I seriously love the email client in iPad, and could see using it for everything from a heavy work day to answering light personal emails.


Naturally, the iPad is a full-featured eBook reader that some have dubbed the "Kindle-killer," although I don't think that's quite true at this point.  Apple's own e-reader application, iBooks, is pretty slick and I have enjoyed using it.  It has an integrated dictionary and features a neat "page-flip" mechanism to try to give the feeling of actual reading.  It suffers from limited font and display options, but overall looks and performs with typical Apple style.  You can load any book in the ePub format (as long as it isn't DRM'd) and even convert books in other formats (such as PDF) to ePub and load them via iTunes.  Of course, if you aren't a big fan of iBooks, or have already purchased books from Amazon, there's an official Kindle application available as well.

Videos, Television, & Music

Another area where the iPad gives off a bit of a swagger is in the arena of video consumption.  Of course, you can rent or purchase movies from iTunes, as well as watch your own movies.  The built-in YouTube app is slick and virtually flawless, and support for third party sites abounds - such as Netflix (with an additional application download.)  The screen is simply gorgeous, with deep blacks and vibrant colors; it's perfect for watching movies.  Borrow a friend's iPad for a few hours (if they will let you) and watch a movie on it, you'll be hooked.

Of course, the iPad also contains a full-featured iPod for you to listen to music.

Reading the News

The iPad will change the way you catch up on the latest worldwide happenings, I promise - if not for the web browser, it will be for the third party news applications and RSS feed readers.

Most of the "big boys" have jumped on the App bandwagon, including NPR, The New York Times, USA Today, and several others.  These (mostly free) applications can be downloaded from the App Store for your enjoyment.

In addition, there are several nice options available for you to consume your RSS feeds - FeeddlerRSS provides a basic, free solution, while NetNewsWire offers a paid option.  Both of these products give you a delicious, full-screen view of your feeds.  I like Feeddler in particular; it's quick, easy to use, and will open links right within the program in its own browser.  Another iPad shining star is support for Instapaper - a fantastic application that allows you to read webpages you have "saved for later."

Social Networking

You don't need that silly Facebook iPhone app anymore.  Why not just load Facebook in iPad's Safari browser?  Does that need any more explanation?

There are also several beautiful Twitter clients available for the iPad, including TweetDeck and Twitterific, both of which take distinct advantage of the additional screen real estate.


Gaming on the iPad is similar to gaming on the iPhone, only many times the awesome.  Games look gorgeous on the larger screen and really pop out at you.  Several game companies have released iPad-only versions of popular games even in just the first week of its release.  iPhone games work as well and run extremely fast due to the upgraded performance of iPad, although when you scale them to the larger screen, they can appear grainy or become hard to control.

So, what's the catch?

Let me be very blunt on two points.  One, I am a fan of Apple products.  That should have been made obvious with my gushing about everything cool that it can do in the previous paragraphs.  Two, the iPad cannot do everything, and has plenty of faults - which will continue to exist even with the advent of iPhone OS 4.0 (which should hit iPad in the fall.)  Here's some of the most glaring omissions (feel free to comment if I have left anything out)


1.  The iPad cannot display Flash.

This is a problem if you are a fan of websites that use Flash heavily.  It is omnipresent in the web world and many will argue that it is here to stay.  Apple is determined to kill it, but may not succeed.  Even if you hate Flash, this is a limitation of the device that will affect how it is used today.

2.  The iPad cannot multitask... yet.

3.  The iPad has no camera... yet.

4.  The software based keyboard may take some getting used to.

Personally, I love the onscreen keyboard of the iPad, and can type quickly on it.  For others, especially those who aim to perform heavy work on it, a purchase of an external keyboard is necessary.  When you get to that point, why not just buy a laptop?

5.  You're locked into Apple's ecosystem.

Apple's "walled garden" approach to the App Store is both advantageous and detrimental to consumers, but make no mistake - it is 100% beneficial to Apple.  If you can live with that, then great - enjoy the giant library of quality, inexpensive software that is available.  If you want to sideload applications from anywhere, download porn apps, or do any hacky type stuff, however... you should be looking at another device.

6.  It's of limited use for enterprise.

True, the iPad, much like the iPhone, supports quite a few enterprise functions, most notably Microsoft Exchange.  However, unless the application you need is available on the App Store, you're out of luck.

So, is the iPad for me?

Maybe.  (Head on to page 2.)


The iPad has, definitively, changed the way I consume media, play games, and enjoy myself in the world of computing and the Internet.  However, you're not me.  

To get a better idea, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I ready to plunk down $500, minimum, for a device that is a luxury item I absolutely do not need?
  • Am I fed up with tinkering around with tons of crap like device drivers, viruses, spyware, etc. just to do basic stuff like listen to music or check email?
  • Do I consume a large amount of news, RSS feeds, and media on a daily basis?
  • Am I addicted to email?
  • Am I actively involved with social networking?
  • Am I a big fan of casual gaming?
  • Will I not be upset when, in six months, a vastly superior iPad 2.0 will be available for less money?
  • Do I plan on using it mostly for "fun" and not for "real work?"
  • Do I consider myself to be an "early adopter?"
  • Am I cool with dealing with a few bugs or waiting for features?

If you answered "Yes" to all the questions above, then maybe the iPad is for you.

Is the iPad a sign of things to come?

Absolutely.  Tablet computing is the talk of the town right now, with manufacturers such as HP, Dell, Microsoft, JooJoo, and others all stepping up to the plate with products and concepts of their own - all with various operating systems.  Once again, for better or for worse, I feel that Apple is blazing the trail into a whole new realm of computing devices.

One cannot deny the appeal of the scenery to be found on this new trail, though:

  • "Intimate," touch-controlled computing environments
  • No need to hassle with file management, viruses, defragmenting, and the host of issues you would experience on a more open platform
  • Fun, casual gaming
  • Simple and beautiful ways to consume videos, photos, and music
  • Storing information in the cloud rather than locally, so it is accessible from anywhere
  • Small, portable, and familiar form factor; making it easy to use either on a tabletop or in a recliner
  • Long battery life

Whether you agree with Apple's approach to the tablet computer or not, it's undeniable that this niche, focused on intimate, fun, and simple computing, will continue to grow and flourish.

To wrap it all up, my feeling is this: love the iPad for what it is, rather than hate it for what it is not (and not even trying to be.)


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