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Apple iPad review

Jason Snell | April 5, 2010
It was hyped and ripped before it even had a name, and after it was announced, it was both praised and panned.

Now about the size of that screen. When the iPad was announced, one of the common criticisms of the product was that it's just a bigger version of the iPod touch. That's true so far as it goes, but I suspect a lot of the people who said it didn't understand just how vital that increased screen real-estate--the iPad has five times as many pixels as the iPhone or iPod touch--really is.

Sure, if the interfaces of iPad apps were just scaled-up versions of iPhone apps (like what you get if you run iPhone-only apps on the iPad), the iPad would be the technological equivalent of one of those oversized novelty checks presented to lottery winners. But what the additional pixels really allow is entirely new, richer, and more complex interactions. On the iPhone, an app like Mail is a series of single screens, with the user constantly burrowing down and then backing up like a confused gopher. (Tap on an account, then the Inbox, then a message, then tap the back button, tap another message, tap the back button three times, tap another account, tap Inbox...) The iPad changes that experience by displaying the body of messages in their own, capacious pane, while your mailboxes and lists of messages fight over a smaller pane or, in portait orientation, a pop-over element.

Beyond the more sophisticated user-interface possibilities, the iPad's large screen opens the door for new gestures that simply wouldn't work on a pocketable device. You can put lots of fingers (and, indeed, both hands) on the iPad, to type or to interact with on-screen objects. This is one of those areas where the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and people who disparage the iPad as merely a hyper-thyroidal iPhone are failing to see the bigger picture.

Specs and speeds

Before diving into the details of the iPad, it's worth recapping some of the details of the product. There are currently three versions available, all identical save for the amount of onboard storage: a $499 16GB model, $599 32GB model, and $699 64GB model. Three other models with built-in 3G networking in addition to Wi-Fi will be available later in April, at the same storage sizes: 16GB for $629, 32GB for $729, and 64GB for $829. Before you buy a Wi-Fi-only model, it's worth considering how you might use the 3G models.

With the iPhone and iPod touch, Apple has been reluctant to talk about processors and speeds, preferring to treat those products as magical black boxes. But we must forgive Apple from crowing a little bit about the processor that powers the iPad, because it was custom-designed by Apple itself. The new A4 processor, running at 1GHz, is a "system on a chip"--in other words, it was built to run the iPad, not chosen from a parts list and adapted to work for the iPad.

 

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