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iPad Review 750

This weekend saw the delivery of iPads into hundreds of thousands of filthy hands. I managed to get my hands on a 32GB unit and put it through its paces for a battery charge and a half, and wanted to take a few minutes to share some notes with you. But if you don't care to read the whole review, let me give you a hint: I am typing this review on my laptop.

The packaging is minimal and sleek. Almost nothing comes inside the box: just a cable, power cube and some minuscule documentation that nobody will read. The iPad itself arrived fully charged. It is usable out of the box without any syncing, but I chose almost immediately to pair it with my laptop just to get all my apps and data on it. This syncing process took forever. It's kind of amazing how long it takes to sync 20 or so gigs of movies and mp3s. This isn't unique to the iPad of course, but I never really noticed it on the phone since I don't sync video there.

The UI and functionality is pretty much as expected: It's a big iPhone. There are some minor differences (like being able to drag different numbers of items to the sticky footer menu). The new calendar application is nice. But the star is the mail client. Reading mail on my iPhone has been the "Last Resort," but the speed and clean layout and usability of the iPad mail app makes me prefer it to my desktop. I need a faster way to mark spam, but that's not necessarily the end of the world. Writing mail on the iPad is a different story. More on that below.

The new photo app is decent, but if you have a large number of albums and events it gets tough to find specific stuff quickly. I can't figure out why the iPhone and now the iPad don't make use of folders. Their mac equivalents both let you create nicely nested hierarchies of albums or playlists, but those both get lost on their little cousins where screen real estate is even MORE important. The video app seems to do strange things with thumbnails: it seemed to want to give videos the same thumbnail icon if they share an "Album." This means navigating my home movies category is lame because all 15 or so videos have the same thumbnail. It shouldn't be that way.

My iPad has no 3G, therefore it has no GPS. But applications were constantly asking me for permission to use my location. This seems like an oversight: if you don't have a location sensor, don't ask! Even the built-in Map app asked me for information that it could not possibly have.

Finally, time to test Safari: I tested out Slashdot first, and it renders pretty well. There are a couple of minor layout glitches and a few trickier functionality problems. The problems are mostly the same as the iPhone, but having the larger screen makes it a lot more obvious. I'll probably get some tickets into the system this week to clean up these bugs.

When I started browsing the net at large I noticed a few interesting problems: The first is that a lot of websites are serving iPhone pages to the iPad. So you get a number of ridiculously minimalistic pages on the big bright screen. It's laughably annoying to see these teeny tiny menus. Most sites seem fine, but I was surprised at the number of mainstream sites that thought I needed this. The lack of Flash is MUCH more noticeable than I thought it would be. The good news is that YouTube seems to embed cleanly and in-place, so a lot of video oriented websites still work fine. But the lack of Flash hurts. Apple has made their position known on the subject, so I'm not expecting anything to change. The lack of a real scroll bar make sites that make use of frames for navigation not really work properly. At the end of the day, I was surprised at the number of sites that actually had SOME problem with them. Most worked fine, but when something fails, I noticed more than I do on the iPhone. I think this is simply a user expectation thing: on my phone I expect things NOT to work and am happy when they do. On the iPad I expect things to work as well as they do in Safari in my desktop, and am irritated when they don't.

I tried out a good number of apps. The NetFlix app is really nice, but it doesn't let me rate selections using their little star system. Since I'm OCD about that, this bugs me. Epicurious is a fantastically elegant little recipe system that really shines on the system. ABCs app works but meh. The Weather Channel has a nice little app, and several of my old favorites have ports that make at least some use of the big screen. I suspect it'll be a few months before we really see what the unit has to offer since many of the most popular apps haven't been ported yet. I'm thinking Facebook and even the Apple Remote are very overdue. But hey, the old versions work, they just look like crap.

Let me talk about User Accounts. An iPhone doesn't have them, which is fine because one phone sits in one person's pocket. But your laptop is passed around, and the user account system on a Mac is necessary in any place where you want multiple people sharing a computer with any regularity. The iPad needs it: since this machine wants to be seen in a public place and be handed around, my wife shouldn't have to keep logging out of Gmail and Facebook. And I shouldn't have to leave my iPad on the coffee table signed into my mail. And I shouldn't have to sign out every time I put it down, leaving a brick on the table unusable by guests.

Finally let me talk about the device itself. It's heavy. I mean, surprisingly heavy. The specs say that it is 1.5lbs, which sounded very light on paper. For the first few minutes, I liked the heft; I felt that I was holding a solid, well-crafted item in my hands. But then I started trying to figuring out ways to type. I wrote a number of emails of moderate length and slowly realized that I just don't like typing on this thing. It's fine for URLs and names and passwords and a sentence here and there. But to actually sit down and write a thousand-word review well, there's just no way. I tried many different angles, but in order to hold it in your lap and type, you sorta need to prop it against your belly. Holding it up one handed made my arm kinda tired fairly quickly: unless I'm willing to squish my thumb against the center of the screen. When I do this, the center of gravity shifts and it's much more comfortable to hold, but there's a giant thumb blocking my screen, making it impossible to type. You can cradle it in your arm and type one-handed. That seems like the only way to use it while standing. But I just don't see myself writing anything lengthy. After a day of heavy usage, I felt a little sore. The size and shape is nearly perfect. But all that screen and battery sure feels heavy when it's spread out like this.

But I'll tell you what I like: Having a casual PC at arm's length for a quick lookup of something. Working within the screen size of the iPhone often makes simple internet tasks unwieldy, but provided whatever you need doesn't use Flash, this is a great little web browser. Fast and pretty.

Since the announcement of the iPad, I've wondered what its role could be. My first big question was whether it be a complete replacement PC for "Grandma." Like many of you, I'm occasionally called upon to do little tech support tasks on PCs that do very little, and I was hoping that this might be the solution. After just one day I know this is not going to work for them. The difficulty of using the keyboard. The missing Flash. And the lack of video camera for chatting with the grandkids make this device simply not ready for them.

My other big question is how much of a replacement PC it could be for a power user. Now I can work around Flash and rarely need a camera, but what is clear to me is that a huge percentage of my screen time is spent staring at iChat. While I don't usually need a camera or microphone, my iChat is connected to 4 different networks, and I simply can't do my job without the steady stream of co-worker notes and bot notifications that I rely on. I've yet to find an app that lives in the background and is capable of connecting to the 4 distinct networks that I use. (AIM, SSL'd Jabber and Non-SSL'd Jabber)

I'm not expecting a WoW client or anything, but Chat? Seriously, Apple: You're on iPhone 3.something-or-other and you can't give us a chat client? I can only hope that the end of the exclusive AT&T era means that Apple will no longer be tied to some secret back room deal that forced iPhones to try to shove users to the crap SMS network to pad a telco profit margin despite the fact that our devices are living on a Wi-Fi network.

So, what does Apple need to fix?

  • Lose several ounces. PLEASE.
  • Video Camera
  • iChat
  • User switching (or at least an Anonymous mode)

I used it for a day and a half and think that it will be an excellent couch companion PC. I'm also certain that on planes, long car rides, and vacations it will be a great little machine. The battery life is pretty dang amazing. But this is a 1.0 piece of hardware running 3.0 software. The size/shape is great. The speed is wonderful. And 2 years of Moore's law might make this a device to be reckoned with if Apple sells enough of them to continue heavy development on the software and hardware. This version isn't a replacement PC for anyone yet, but future versions might be. You probably want to save your cash until then.

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iPad Review

Comments Filter:
  • by ptbarnett ( 159784 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:56PM (#31735690)

    Correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure that the iPhone, and therefore most likely the iPad, can get location without GPS via Skyhook and the known locations of wireless access points.

    You are correct. I was surprised when my iPod Touch was able to identify my location. It took some research before I figured out that it was getting it from Skyhook Wireless []. It actually put my position on the street just outside the house, presumably where someone drove by with a sniffer and picked up the SSID of the WiFi AP I was using.

  • where you at (Score:4, Informative)

    by digitalsushi ( 137809 ) <> on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:58PM (#31735720) Journal

    This seems like an oversight: if you don't have a location sensor, don't ask! Even the built-in Map app asked me for information that it could not possibly have.

    google wardrives everyone's wifi while they update streetview; your unique 48 bit mac address uniquely identifies your location if you are on a recorded wifi hotspot.

  • by rwade ( 131726 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:02PM (#31735804)

    The post behind this joke. [] Here it is:

    Apple releases iPod

    No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

  • by WebManWalking ( 1225366 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:03PM (#31735810)
    I got an iPad 64GB and am using Safari a lot more. It's showing up multi-touch Safari's deficiencies.

    In all other browsers, you can open a file on the device's file system. It's called the file protocol because the URL begins "file:". This allows offline prototyping of websites. I use it to define a "jump page" that's crammed full of all the hotlinks I normally use, organized to find them easily. Since we don't have the file protocol in multi-touch Safari, I have to put my jump page out to the actual Internet via iWeb and access it as an unpublished URL. In a sense, that makes sense, because I would only be able to use it if I were connected to the Internet, but it's not as private as keeping it on your own hard drive.

    Also no View Source.

    Also no default home page (short of saving the URL as an icon in the iPad's home).

    Also no back arrow history (have to go back only one page at a time).

    Also no Firefox allowed in the App store, which is what would REALLY force multi-touch Safari to get more usable.
  • by ircmaxell ( 1117387 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:05PM (#31735846) Homepage

    Also, any reports on how that second-monitor app works on it?

    Horrible []...

  • by alnjmshntr ( 625401 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:09PM (#31735924)

    It's works many places. I just travelled to a bunch of countries in asia, australia and new zealand with an IPod touch and the maps app invariably gave me an exact location. In places like Singapore it was outstanding, it could give me precise location down to the street corner as I walked along.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:11PM (#31735956) Homepage Journal

    "My iPad has no 3G, therefore it has no GPS. "... Huh?
    You don't need 3G to have GPS. Heck you don't have to have any cell phone connection to have a GPS. You need a GPS to have GPS.

  • by rwade ( 131726 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:14PM (#31736038)

    The original announcement said that there would be a Bluetooth keyboard available, although I haven't bothered to check if it's available now.

    The standard iMac bluetooth keyboard [] works with the iPad. []

  • Not a laptop (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jezza ( 39441 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:38PM (#31736488)

    Apple don't intend this to be a replacement for a laptop. You want a nice comfy keyboard, iChat and a camera? Apple make that: it's a MacBook Pro - no, seriously, it's a MacBook Pro.

    A lot of people have said it feels heavy - OK, I'll accept that, not seen one, but sure it's heavy. So why does it need a camera? What you said about it being heavy is going to count double if I'm going to hold it at arm's length in front of me. Otherwise I'm either going to be in extreme close up (and trust me, I'm not the kind of person who does well in extreme close up) or a really nice view up my nose (and even Brad Pitt can't make that look good). Honestly, I'll pass on the camera - I also do work in places where cameras aren't allowed (defence and education).

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:40PM (#31736530)

    Does gmail chat/facebook chat not work in the iPad browser? If it does, this is probably better for most than some proprietary chat client. Quite frankly, I'm inclined to place the unavailability of multi-task greater than iChat.

    But what about when you want to quickly use some other app? Then you have to close your chat. It's things like this that demand multitasking.

    Okay, let me provide a little clarification. The OS multitasks. Third party apps don't, because Apple has not provided an API. They have provided a push messaging API, however, so the OS can get a notification and flag a chat client so you know you have a new message, which will appear as soon as you switch back to the chat client. This is pretty much the same as Blackberry's push notification, except third parties use it, instead of just RIM. This is the right way to handle resource allocation and push notifications on devices with limited resources, limited bandwidth, and where UI responsiveness is important. So multitasking is not really related to the feasibility of implementing chat. Even if it was, that limitation has never applied to apps pre-installed by Apple.

    As a side note, Apple is demoing the next version of the iPhone OS to developers on Thursday. The new version (by almost all accounts) provides third party apps the ability to run in the background, but it is questionable that Apple will accept a chat client app submission that does not use the push notification in any case.

  • by tknd ( 979052 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:42PM (#31736582)

    Yes. Even a magazine is too heavy, but usually you can rest it on your chair/lap until you need to turn the page. Now you have this gadget that needs lots of user input/interaction...hello gorilla arms. It isn't the ability to lift and hold the device or media, it is the need to continuously hold it and interact with it for long periods of time that becomes the problem. Sure, you can life a 20lbs or even 30lbs dumbbell a few times with one arm. But can you hold it there for 10 to 15 minutes with no effort? It is the reason why we don't have touch screen monitors for work and we continue to use keyboards and mice. Keyboards and mice simply take less muscle effort.

    Now from the article:

    Finally let me talk about the device itself. It's heavy. I mean, surprisingly heavy. The specs say that it is 1.5lbs, which sounded very light on paper. For the first few minutes, I liked the heft; I felt that I was holding a solid, well-crafted item in my hands. But then I started trying to figuring out ways to type. I wrote a number of emails of moderate length and slowly realized that I just don't like typing on this thing.

    I saw this a mile away. The reason an "pad" device will never work is because of weight. Even a plain plastic clip board is annoying without a desk or surface to support it. Similarly it is why devices the size of a cell phone will continue to dominate. You can comfortably hold your phone in your hand and it isn't going to feel heavy because there is no lever force. All of the weight is in your hand. Now you have this pad device in your hand but you need to hit a point on the opposite side with your hand that's not holding the device. That "tap" will feel a lot heavier than it is because of physics. Now you need to do this a 100 or 200 times? 10 minutes? Nevermind, it'll be worth it to get the laptop in 1 or 2 minutes and not have to use so much energy just to hold the device.

    Sorry everyone, it is going to continue to be phone size devices or laptops and full size keyboards for a while.

    Of course the ipad will have a convenient stand at the Apple store so you don't actually have to hold it. You have to admit, they do know how to sell something.

    But there is a solution to the ipad input, and Apple is not going to like it. It involves using your thumbs instead of your index finger similar to a gameboy. Apple is never going to like this because it isn't "friendly" enough. Just like their one-button mice and cmd clicking.

  • by jcannonb ( 1665423 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @01:44PM (#31736656)
    At the bottom he says: You probably want to save your cash until then. That is awefully confident and cocky. Like everything else in life, everyone has different computer needs and habits. I personally, love my iPad, and have convinced 2 other ppl to purchase iPads since I got mine. The iPad fits my needs perfectly. I have been waiting for an device from apple to fill the voice between the phone and the laptop, and this is it. 1.5 isn't a lot when you consider how much weight you would always be lugging around to get more functionality than your phone having to carry your full fledged laptop around all the time. Is this the best iPad that can be, hell no. Hardware revisions by Apple are always thoughtful, whether we think they get all our requests/demands in, or not. But quite frankly, if everyone found the iPad so unusable that you needed to save your cash until then, then Apple would make no money off iPad G1, and they would have no interest or motivation to make iPad G2. Apple is a company first and foremost with share holders. They have to strike a balance between what the consumers want and what the share holders want. If Apple made such bad decisions, they would not be the 3rd richest company in America currently. Apple is apparently pleasing enough ppl in the world. To think that they can do it with fewer items sold than Microsoft is quite frankly, astonishing. I personally bought the iPad G1, thinking it would be a nice toy, but wanted to support them, because I know if they are motivated to make iPad G2, G3 etc, it will get infinitely better than this first one. Do I like my iPad? Yes. Do I think it's for everyone? No. However, if I show you how I use it, and you like it to then why shouldn't you buy it? Are there things I wish were different in this iPad? Yes. But quite frankly, as human beings with our own thoughts and desires, no product is exactly the way we all think it should be. People still bitch and moan about Windows 7, they still bitch and moan about iPhone 3GS et al. If you like it, get it. If you don't like it, don't get it, but don't let someone else to tell you to save your cash. Read their (lack of) usability points, go play with one, and make the decision yourself.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2010 @02:08PM (#31737230)

    So wait, your review of the iPad was almost entirely how stuff other people have made shows up in it... isn't that kind of like basing a review of Firefox on how a "Made for IE 5.5" website displays in it?


  • by mikestew ( 1483105 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @02:13PM (#31737356) Homepage

    My question to this whole deal is why does the iPad not run true OSX?

    Do we seriously need to go through this again? I'll say what countless others have said before: "the iPad isn't for you". "Code and work", like it's a dev machine? With an on-screen keyboard? That's just a cry for help.

    I would have bought one the first day if it was a real tablet that ran all of the software i need.

    And I would have not bothered with a pre-order and keeping my nose pressed against the living room window waiting for UPS on Saturday morning if it were what you wanted. I've got a Macbook for when I want to run OS X. I've got an iPad for when I'm not trying to write the next great American novel (or more realistically in my case, writing the next great iPhone/iPad/Mac app).

  • Re:where you at (Score:3, Informative)

    by dlgeek ( 1065796 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @02:32PM (#31737876)

    Google drives by my house and sees a WPA2-protected wifi router. I guess they could get the MAC of the router if they want (right?). But that's all they can see.

    They can also get the SSID and they know the exact location. This is more than enough to allow a wireless device to figure out its position when it sees your router.

    When I go to a from my wifi laptop at home, google sees the MAC of the laptop, but NOT the router.

    Actually, they see neither. The MAC address is exposed on the physical layer, as your packets are routed through the internet, they take on the MAC addresses of the devices they pass through.

    So how would they associate a physical location with a google user? They can see my external IP online, but they cannot see that by just wardriving. (Unless there's a way to also sniff the MAC of my laptop at the time of I'm paranoid.) I don't get how they could associate the two things, unless I'm ignorant on the details here.

    No one is claiming that they're associating the two. Parent poster merely said they're recording the GPS location of every wifi access point they see as they take pictures for street view.

    Now, the two COULD be associated on the android platform which integrates heavily into your google account, but I'm not aware of that happening.

  • by justinb26 ( 1783508 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @02:36PM (#31737968)
    Just curious if you said the same thing about the ipod and iphone?

    FWIW, since Saturday I've used it for:
    Remote Desktop/VNC/SSH
    Extra Monitor
    Gaming system (most pleasant surprise: playing multiplayer games with my kids on a single screen)
    Music Player
    Web Browser
    Ebook reader/Comic Reader/Interactive Children's Story Reader
    "Interactive Educational Tool" (Exploring elements and molecules, etc with my older son)
    Musical Instrument

    ... and this is before the jailbreak is released, after which you can add "unix workstation" to that list.
  • by LucidBeast ( 601749 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @02:59PM (#31738512)
    Do you think Apple will come up with new pad design ever? Sort of like the current one, but have a hinge at a bottom, which would be connected to an equal sized square. Then you could open it sort of like this -> \__ or close it like -> o__ Perhaps you could add some input devices to the bottom part, perhaps qwerty keyboard and a separate input pad so the screen wouldn't get dirty when it is in use. Some new catchy title could be used for this new iPad. iMaxiPad is obvious, but what is a pad? It's a thing for taking notes right? How about iNotes or since it can be closed like a book. iNotesbook or Notebook for short. Go figure.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2010 @03:07PM (#31738708)

    Also no default home page (short of saving the URL as an icon in the iPad's home).

    Look in Settings/Safari to set the homepage

    Also no back arrow history (have to go back only one page at a time).

    Click at the history button in the title bar

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2010 @03:11PM (#31738792)

    His predictions are correct. The first iPods were lame.

    How do you figure? Aside from slightly different technology, they're about the same as the current iPods. They were fast, small MP3 players that synced automatically with desktop software. The only difference is that they were Mac-only, which didn't matter a whit to the Mac users who bought them.

  • by Brandee07 ( 964634 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @03:12PM (#31738818)

    Taco may have skipped this issue, but other reviewers haven't: [] []

    Based purely on my iPhone (also known as "the precious"), I would skip the iPad and get a Kindle if reading is your primary goal. If you want to do all sorts of stuff, and read books too, then you may be happier with the iPad.

  • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @03:38PM (#31739326) Homepage
    Too bad he can't seem to figure out how the location thing works.

    Ipod touches have had location support for a long time now (and they do not have gps or 3g chips). Google scrapes base station ID numbers from wifi points when it takes street-view photos--this was enough to put my friends dot on a map within 20-30ft of our actual room when he first got his ipod touch (it was in the right building...just not quite in the right apartment).

  • by snkline ( 542610 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @05:50PM (#31741650)
    Except what you typically do at a computer isn't reading. You are typically looking away a lot, gazing at images, or gazing away from the monitor. Reading is something different. Reading is sitting there entirely engrossed in what you are reading never really looking away for extended periods of time. For that type of reading something like a Kindle is IMO far better. I have a Safari Books Online subscription, and I'll occasionally try to read extensively at my computer. Most of the time I end up just pulling out my Kindle DX and bringing up the mobile version of their site to read it on there. There is a level of distraction trying to read at my computer, and there is a level of discomfort reading on a high contrast black on white screen. Contrary to the low contrast "problem" people like to complain about with the Kindle. I find the images low contrast but still with crisp letters and very easy to read.
  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @05:54PM (#31741722) Homepage Journal

    > The first iPods were lame.

    No, they weren't. No wireless and less space than a Nomad, sure, but they were physically smaller than other HDD-based players, transferring songs over FireWire was MUCH faster than USB at the time, and having an awesome UI (the scroll wheel, making it easy to quickly navigate your giant collection) more than made up for those other shortcomings. The net result was "not lame."

    A lot of it is personal taste and preference, but for me (and many other people), the iPod was the first NON-lame MP3 player out there. Taco dismissed it over two small points. (And might I point out that no other MP3 player (AFAIK) had wireless at the time? Many people were hoping for it, sure, but no one else had it--so why was Apple deemed "lame" for not having it either?)

  • by thanasakis ( 225405 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @07:16PM (#31742766)

    Wifi to location is not provided by Google. The iPhone/iPod Touch use Skyhook Wireless [].

    Even when GPS is available, this service is being used inside buildings etc.

  • by brufleth ( 534234 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @07:13AM (#31746258)
    Some neighbors were over for dinner on Saturday who has just purchased two iPads. We were going to a movie after dinner and wanted to buy tickets ahead of time (one of those theaters with assigned seating). They were trying to do it on a netbook we have and having some trouble. It occurred to me that between their iPhones and now their iPads they weren't used to going to an actual website to order tickets. They were used to having an app for that and pretty much everything else that most PC users happily use a web browser for. My point is that there is an entire class of users out there that have become used to an app for whatever task they might regularly perform. I'm not criticizing this as the specialized apps are usually going to get the job done faster than a often clunky website.
  • Re:Yup. (Score:1, Informative)

    by exolon42 ( 1140715 ) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @08:58AM (#31746928)

    no USB ports, no flash-card reader...these are things that would be very trivial to add from both a cost and engineering perspective, yet are still lacking Because adding those things would prevent it from being smooth and sleek. Jobs hates ports on devices for aesthetic reasons and he has final say on design. Thus, Apple products have the bare minimum needed for the device to function. Didn't you ever wonder why so many Apple products have the batteries are sealed inside? If a battery compartment door would spoil the lines, you're dreaming if you expect something as hideous as a USB port.

    one reason the batteries are starting to be sealed in in more devices is because then they don't need to put the batteries in a row like in a laptop battery pack. they can fit the individual cells where there is room inside the unit, using the space more efficiently.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.