Product Type: Apple Tablet PCs / eBook Readers
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iSpy an iPad Review
Apple iPad 3 Wi-Fi 16 GB
Member Name: SWSt
Apple iPad 3 Wi-Fi 16 GB
Date: 09/11/12, updated on 09/11/12 (48 review reads)
Advantages: Highly portable, excellent battery life, very versatile
Disadvantages: Slightly awkward on-screen keyboard, lack of SD/USB ports, expensive
This is not going to be a review that talks about the iPad in terms of technical specification because you can find all that information on the Internet and a lot of it means nothing to me. Instead, it's going to be a review of my experience and perception of the machine.
First of all, the size makes it an ideal size for carrying around. In width and height, it is probably about the size of a hardback book. It is also incredibly thin. Even in a protective case, it is only around an inch deep, making it much more portable than a standard laptop or netbook. Inevitably, it is a little heavier than its size suggests. To use the example of a book again, it's slightly heavier than carrying a hardback book, but not by much. Certainly, I have lugged this around in a backpack all day and not felt that it was unduly heavy.
The iPad also feels pretty sturdy. Although like any equipment it's not going to take kindly to being dropped, it doesn't feel like it will fall apart as soon as you look at it. Having said that, i would strongly recommend buying a decent protective case to protect it from the trials of everyday life. Without a case, your lovely shiny new iPad will soon start to show lots of scratches on its moulded plastic casing.
Ergomoically, it is well designed and sits neatly in your hand and is comfortable to hold. All the ports and buttons are placed in fairly logical places and pretty accessible, although I have to confess that I sometimes find the on/off button a little bit fiddly, since it not always clear how much pressure is needed to activate it, or when you can stop pressing.
Battery life is also impressive. A full charge gives me well over 12 hours of usage, which is about thee times what my netbook (my other portable alternative) provides. This means I can take it out for the entire day and not have to remember the charger. From experience with my iPhone, I expect this battery life will gradually deteriorate over time, but you expect that from electrical equipment. The downside to the long battery life is that it also takes a long time to fully charge - around 3-5 hours.
Perhaps the most impressive upgrades from the iPhone come in the sound and vision department. The larger screen is far superior to the iPhone's. Wwithout going into technicalities, it's a HD screen, so images and text look really sharp, as on a TV screen. It also makes it ideal as a personal media player, since the pictures are so crisp and it has quickly established itself as my platform of choice when watching things on the iPlayer or other TV applications. It is easy on the eye, so doesn't cause eye strain when looking at for long periods of time. Although it has improved over the iPhone 3GS, the screen does still suffer usability issues in very bright or direct sunlight, but this is true of almost any screen based equipment. It can also become very grubby, due to the touch screen nature of the device, so again some form of screen protector is highly advisable.
Sound hardware has been massively improved on the iPhone. One of my big disappointments with that was that the sound often sounded a bit weak, unless you used the headphones. Not so with the iPad: the speakers have been beefed up so that whatever you are doing - playing games, watching TV, listening to music - it sounds fantastic.
It's also incredibly easy to use and it's clear that a lot of thought has gone into designing the interface. Setting up the device could not be more straight forward and you are given prompts at every stage to help you. From unpacking it to using it for the first time takes less than five minutes. The touchscreen controls are deeply intuitive and within just a few minutes, most people will be up and running. I've given my iPad to different people to use: some used to PCs, some who are older, younger, complete technophobes and all have found the iPad very easy to use, swiping, pinching and expanding programs and icons, often without needing to be told what to do: and isn't that what an operating system should be like?
What's not quite so comfortable is the on-screen keyboard which is no replacement for a physical device. Although it's fine for smaller pieces of work I find it starts to be a little uncomfortable after a while. Although its as well designed as it can be (given the confines of the space available), it can feel a little cramped and awkward, even in landscape mode. Certainly when I'm typing on my iPad, I make more errors than on my PC (although the generally excellent predictive text helps with this). For this reason, I see the iPad as an alternative to my PC, not a replacement. I'm lucky that I can afford both, but if I could only afford one, I'd go for a PC despite the many frustrations that can bring!
It's the versatility of the iPad that impresses most. Whether you want to use it for business, supporting your hobby, finding out news and information, watching films, buying things or playing games, there really is an app that will help you. Whilst its slightly frustrating that the iPad doesn't have much software preloaded (so its immediate functionality is limited) its easy to download from the App Store and pretty cheap, with most apps costing less than £5. Even the more expensive ones are not massively expensive. A full office suite, for example, will cost between £15-30; far cheaper than its Microsoft counterpart.
Pretty much every app I've used has run really smoothly (unless its been badly programmed, of course!) and I've experienced very few crashes to date. The one downside to apps is that most of them are designed to be compatible with the iPhone's smaller screen. This has a couple of implications. First of all, they are displayed by default in Standard mode (iPhone size). Whilst most apps do offer the option to use them at double size (to fill the iPad's screen) this does artificially stretch images so they don't always look quite as crisp and clear. The other implication is that apps don't always make full use of the iPad's more advanced capabilities. Amazon, for example, have just released a version of their app specifically for the iPad and it contains so much more functionality than the iPhone equivalent. It's understandable why developers do this, but it can sometimes be a little frustrating.
The big downside for the iPad is the cost. At around £375 For the 16GB wireless only version (and more for the 32GB option) it's not cheap. If you want the 3G version (so that you can get online any time, rather than just when you have access to a wireles Internet connection) it's going to cost even more. Personally, I went for the cheaper wireless version, since most of the time that is fine for me and I rely on my phone for 3G Internet access on the move.
It would have been nice if the iPad supported SD cards or USB sticks to allow easier transfer of files and images between different devices (particularly between PC and iPad) but, of course, given the massive rivalry between the two platforms that would have been too much to ask.
Overall, the iPad does live up to its hype ad has quickly established itself as one of my more indispensible gadgets. It's fast, easy to use, versatile and highly portable. Yes, there are a few niggles but on the whole, it's a lot less frustrating than a PC, even if the lack of a physical keyboard does mean its not quite as comfortable to use for long periods.
(C) copyright SWSt 2012
Summary: An excellent gadget, but I'm not convinced it's ready to replace the PC yet
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