Our resident gadget guru OutstandingO shares his thoughts on Apple’s iPad.

If you haven’t heard by now, 2010 is set to be the year of the tablet pc (check your inbox for the memo).  Amidst all the companies (large and small) trying to get in on this new trend, it should come as no surprise that Apple has taken center stage with its iPad tablet.  Surrounded by hype and controversy, the iPad has been released, and to much anticipation.  So with a host of tablets set to launch this year, is the iPad worth all the hype?  Or did Apple produce a tablet with a lot of fluff and no stuff?

Design and Features

Whether you love them or you hate them, you can’t deny that Apple knows how to make beautiful tech, and the iPad is no exception.  The iPad has a uni-body aluminum finish, with a fingerprint-resistant front.  It’s a very simple design that resembles the iPhone or iPod Touch, including the unique singular home button on the front.  It weighs 1.5lbs and is 0.5” at its thinnest point, making it as light as (but definitely thinner than most) netbooks and laptops.  Apple said they wanted this device to fall between a cell phone and a laptop…well, they certainly hit the mark with the dimensions, including a 9.7” display that makes viewing content enjoyable.  The iPad feels good in your hands and is a breeze to pack and carry with you when you’re on the go.
If we look beyond the shell, we see that the iPad sports a 1Ghz Apple-branded A4 processor.  This isn’t bad, it just does nothing to set the iPad apart from other mobile devices.  It also comes equipped with 802.11 a/b/g/n wifi, Bluetooth, and the option of 3G (3G models set for release the end of April.)  Also included is a micro simcard slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, GPS, and a capacitive multi-touch LED-backlit IPS display that has a resolution of 1024 x 768, which makes onscreen content extremely vibrant.  You can purchase the iPad in 16, 32, and 64GB flavors (the one I tested was 16GB).

Performance

Apple has touted this to be the best mobile experience on the market.  I wouldn’t say that I completely agree, but using the iPhone OS for the iPad makes for a simple and intuitive experience.  The iPad is quick and responsive: everything from the Safari browser, to launching apps, multi-touch pinch and zoom, and screen rotation with the accelerometer feels almost instantaneous.  The aforementioned Safari is back and just as good as before.  Apple truly pulled a smart move by transferring a mobile OS over to simply ANOTHER mobile device; all the functionality of the UI for the iPad seem like it was designed specifically for the device.  Battery life seems to be far from an issue.  I was able to watch Transformers 2, Finding Nemo (don’t ask), and play countless hands of Uno on top of everything else I did and not once felt the need to run to a dock.  Apple has reported 10 or more hours of video watching time, and I believe it.

Overall Experience

The true meat and potatoes of the iPad aren’t the specs, but the apps.  The ingenuity behind apps like the iBook reader and the Marvel app bring a fun interactive approach to reading text content.  I was able to test a few games and other apps such as the NPR app and an app called Doodle Buddy which sucked away at least 30 minutes of my time before I even realized it.  Certainly, the more time developers have with the iPad, the level of creativity and quality will increase proportionately (or so we should hope.)

Even with all the crazy fun to be had with the iPad, it does have its drawbacks.  For one, the accelerometer is very responsive, but can be a bit sensitive for some people; the screen seemed to rotate at the slightest change of angle at times.  I found myself being forced to use the screen lock latch on the device more often than I expected.  Typing may be an issue for those people with smaller than average hands.  Two thumb typing wasn’t very easy in portrait view, and standard typing posture isn’t comfortable for long periods in landscape mode.  So for some, they may be forced to shell out money on a dock/stand and maybe an additional keyboard (which would defeat the purpose of a tablet, no?)

The browser experience is arguably the best, but it is missing Adobe Flash.  Apple is apparently looking towards the future with push of HTML5.  That’s all well and good, but with the internet still being so heavy on content that requires flash, this may be a deal breaker.  Last but not least, this is the first generation of this device.  As with most first generation releases there are bugs and glitches that need to be ironed out, and this is no different with the iPad or its apps.
Overall, the iPad is a great and fun device that puts a new spin on mobile content as well as the tablet experience.  It is certainly not a “must have” device, and won’t take the place of your laptop, desktop, or smart-phone.  However, if inclined, it can find a nice fit amongst those other devices.  It does have its limitations, but depending on how willing you are to over look them, you might find the tablet you’re looking for in the iPad.