Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few days, you’ll know that Apple’s iPad was put on sale in the US over the Easter weekend.
As is usual for these launches, tragic umbrella-toting fanboys queued outside Apple stores for days, over-excited loud people whooped horribly and stores resonated to the relentless flesh-slap of high fiving, delivered by the mandatorily enthusiastic staff doing the kind of crass celebration of consumerism that Apple always does best.
But now the back-slapping dust has settled down, how does the iPad actually stack up? Does it justify the hype? Is it worth shelling out in excess of £500 for?
It’s a new thing
From what we’ve seen and read of the device so far, it certainly looks a compelling new kind of device, mixing Apple’s legendary ease of use with the iPhone’s super-slick interface.
We love the Star Trek-like form factor, the shiny, shiny case and the luscious big screen, wrapped up in Jonathan Ive’s beautiful industrial design. Strut around with this baby in your hand and you’ll screaming to the world, “Yes. I am here and I am part of the 21st century.” Well, possibly.
With the app store already filling up with the second wave of upgraded and all-new apps for the iPad, anyone buying the device won’t feel like they’re heading up a technology cul-de-sac, with the device sure to position itself on the cutting edge of tablet software.
The battery life – which has been living up to its promise of 11 hours plus – means that this could be the perfect device for using around the home, checking out websites, doing some simple emailing, playing games and perhaps watching some movies. We’re certainly interested, alright.
There’s quite a few things that are spoiling the party for us though: the lack of a built-in SD or USB slot means that it would be unlikely to find space in our weekend bag (the one thing we need from our portable devices is the ability to back up our photos).
There’s a lot to get upset about with Apple’s walled garden approach too, with Herr Jobs & Co’s ridiculous power-grip controlling what you can and can not put on the device you’ve already given him money for.
We’re still harbouring big doubts about that onscreen keyboard too – although we get along reasonably well tapping away at the cold, non-tactile glass on our iPhones, we’re not sure we’d like to write anything more than a few short emails on the iPad’s even bigger affair.
Of course, we haven’t actually got our grubby mitts on the iPad yet, so our doubts may well be swept away on sight, and before we know it we’ll be in the Apple store, high fivin’ at the Genius Bar with the rest of them.
Or perhaps we’ll take one look, declare it a nice but rather pointless gizmo, and bag ourselves a new ThinkPad x100e instead, which does a whole load more for less.
We’ll only know for sure when we get to play with one.
The king of reviews
Although they’ve yet to reach Blighty, there’s no shortage of reviews coming through from the States, and when it comes to penning sober, in-depth reviews, Ars Technica have a better reputation than most.
They’ve certainly gone to town on their iPad review, dedicating no less than 18,000 words to the device in an 18-page blockbuster of an analysis.
We’d question whether any device is worth such a magnum opus, but it’ll certain answer just about any possible question you might have about the device. It’s well written and definitely worth a read – check it out here.
If reading an 18 page odyssey isn’t your thing, you can just jump to the conclusion page instead. Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite:
But for today: can the iPad replace a netbook or a laptop? For some of you hardcore users, probably not. For those who use netbooks as a lightweight way to browse the Web, chat a bit, and do some light work: yes, it can. Does the iPad make a good weekending/vacationing computer? Sure. The way the iPad is designed, you are less likely to get sucked into doing work or accidentally wasting away hours of your life online than you would on a “normal” computer, but it’s mostly capable enough so that you can do some work when necessary.
Is the iPad easy and foolproof enough for your technologically challenged family member? Yes, if that person has at least $500 to burn. Does it make a good e-book reader? Depends on your definition of “good.” Readers that use e-ink (such as the Kindle) may still be better in some situations, but for gadget consolidation’s sake, the iPad as an e-reader is decent enough, even for those of us with sensitive eyes.
Five hundred dollars (or more) is a lot of money to spend on a device that some people still can’t figure out how to fit into their lives. So at this point, it’s hard to say whether anyone should get an iPad, but for those of us on staff, even the most skeptical of us don’t regret it.
The best way for us to sum up our collective and unanimous conclusion on the iPad, is to say that it’s the first device to substantially deliver on the promise made by the iPhone and, in some respects, the Newton. Both of these earlier Apple products gave us glimpses at what a real, usable, purpose-built tablet computer might one day look like, and the iPad at long last gives us the complete picture. So in a sense, the iPad is both the end of a long journey and the start of a new one. We can’t wait to see where it takes us next.