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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.

And yet I find the iPad's iPod app a bit disappointing. When you play a track, the interface vanishes and is replaced by the track's album art, which fills the screen. Quite frankly, I'm not that interested in album art. I'd rather just stay in the iPod interface, so I can see what other tracks are coming next. (You can get back to that view by tapping on the album art, then tapping a back button.)

Another missing feature that would make sense on the iPad is the ability to connect to iTunes shared libraries. As I write this, I'm listening to music on my MacBook that's streaming from a Mac mini in another room of my house. Having access to shared music (and videos, for that matter) would seem a natural for a device like the iPad, but that feature's not there. Wouldn't the iPad make a wonderful, portable, self-contained version of the Apple TV? I think so, but none of those features are here. If it's not loaded via iTunes, Apple's apps won't play it.

The Videos app is similarly functional yet a bit disappointing. Movies and TV shows are identified by their cover art; if a particular movie's poster is obscure, you'll have to tap on the image in order to discover what movie it is. Displaying text with a movie or show's title would be nice, at least as an option. (So would a simple alphabetical list.) Once you've tapped into a movie or TV show, the information screen is attractive. TV series, in particular, offer a mountain of data: episode titles, air dates, ratings information, and lengthy synopses.

With most movies and TV shows these days shot in 16:9 (and more extreme) aspect ratios, the iPad's 4:3 screen means most video content will display with large letterbox bars at top and bottom. Double-tapping on the image will zoom you all the way in, cutting off the sides of the image. It's a nice compromise, yet I kept wishing I could zoom to an interim step, cutting off some of the picture without filling the entire frame.

The general high quality of the iPad's display means that movies and TV shows end up looking beautiful, and the iPad's surprisingly loud and clear speaker means you can watch without headphones and still have a pretty good experience. (Unless you're on an airplane--that would just be rude.)

iPad as a laptop alternative

During the run-up to the iPad's debut in January, rumors abounded that it would be a device designed solely for the playback of media, be it video, text, or even games. Apple challenged that perception by announcing it had designed iPad versions of its three iWork Mac applications--Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. Throw in the ability to type on an external keyboard, and you got the distinct impression that Apple was trying to make the case that the iPad is a business tool and a true laptop alternative.

 

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