The 32GB Wi-Fi enabled iPad comes in a small box that can easily be confused with a coffee table book. Inside the box is the iPad, of course, plus a few loose pages for instructions, a power brick and a USB cord. And that's it. Slim, slick, Spartan, stylin'.
Well, maybe a little too Spartan a package. Apple doesn't include headphones or even a microfiber cleaning cloth with the kit - and a cleaning cloth is a particular must, because the iPad attracts fingerprints like nobody's business. Oleophobic or not, the screen is a smudge magnet - and seems to like cat fur as well.
Still, the iPad itself is an incredibly sexy piece of technology. It elicits the same awe and wonder as the MacBook Air did when it first came out. You've seen tablet computers before, but you've never seen one like this.
The cool and solid aluminum back wraps and tapers around the vast expanse that is the 10 inch touchscreen. Said screen is surrounded by an inch-thick black bezel.
The iPad's operating system is part iPhone OS and part Mac OS, incorporating elements of both as new navigation functions demand, with subtleties that take a while to discover.
Thoughtfully, Apple ships the iPad fully charged, which is great since you might soon realize that the USB ports on older or underpowered computers don't deliver enough juice to charge the iPad, leaving the lonely wall plug as your only power option. Bummer.
But you do need USB to plug the iPad into iTunes and get it all set up. For testing, many apps, some movies and a few photos were moved from a previous iPod Touch backup over to the iPad. The process took roughly 20 minutes. Not bad.
The iPad will run most iPhone and Touch apps and games natively, but they appear at iPhone size, meaning small. While you can upscale them to 2x the size, the net effect is jagged and blurry - downright ridiculous, in fact.
That said, Bloomberg and Evernote slipstream free iPad versions of their apps when you first sync the device.
You can also access some iPad-specific apps, including games, utilities, online newspaper subscriptions, educational aids, etc.
Amazon's Kindle App, for example, is also readily available. While this might seem to indicate that Amazon has thrown in the towel for its proprietary e-book reader, it's really just a new way to sell books, a core business for which Amazon is rather renowned. At any rate, once you see Kindle books blown up to iPad resolution, the Kindle hardware looks wimpy and old.
Some of the better apps you'll see are from New York Times, BBC, Thomson-Reuters, Associated Press and USA Today. These content-heavy apps have been re-envisioned for this new medium. Collectively, they illustrate quite clearly the future of publishing, right here, right now, right before your eyes.
The iPad is very fast. Page loads, launching Apps... everything it does is markedly faster than the iPhone 3GS. Take into consideration the (much) larger screen real estate that needs to be visually populated and iPad's speediness all the more remarkable.
Then again, you can only run one thing at a time on iPad, so it's not like it takes a performance hit when multitasking. It just doesn't do multitasking. Apple seems to assume you don't, either. Just saying.
The iPad's touch screen-based keyboard is functional, though it would probably take a lot of practice if you wanted to write anything substantial with it. But for banging out 140 character tweets or quick emails, the software keyboard does just fine. Nothing to write home about... unless you write home using Twitter.
iPad's 1024x768, 9.7 inch LCD screen uses IPS (In-plane switching) technology to provide really wide viewing angles and substantial brightness while consuming less power. The result is phenomenal. A YouTube trailer for TRON: Legacy and episodes of the gory Spartacus: Blood and Sand were crisp and vivid even at the lowest brightness setting.
As a portable web surfing tool, you'll likely spend a lot of time with the Safari browser, which is fantastic. If there's an inherent game-changing feature in the iPad, it is how it relates web surfing to the form factor. The screen deftly manages to render entire web pages in such crisp and functional detail that it's simply stunning.
That said, the lack of Flash support is inexcusable. Flash being the ubiquitous internet video and animation format that it is, building an internet-capable device that doesn't support it seems daft. Many websites are scrambling to offer non-flash content specifically suited to iPhone and iPad, but you'd think resources would be better devoted to lobbying Apple to get its, uh, stem out of its core.
Battery life is really, really good. Even after extensive Internet use over six hours while listening to podcasts and music, the iPad had about 70 per cent battery left. The Wi-Fi version of the iPad reviewed here was truly an all-day device. However, it's likely that a Wi-Fi + 3G versions, with its additional radios for Cell and GPS, will likely eat through the battery much more quickly.
But as it stands, the Wi-Fi-only iPad is great for light computing, heavy surfing, routine email and gaming on the go. It is a capable eReader device and a superb video and music player, too.
Developers now have the challenge of carrying the device beyond fad gadget status into a true computing platform. So really, the iPad is exciting not just for what it is now - new, novel, and pretty darn spiffy - but for all the "magical" and "revolutionary" things it can still become.
Photos by Gadjo C. Sevilla. Images by Apple
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