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The best thing about the iPad’s snappy, speedy, futuristic hardware is how it pretty much disappears once you start using it. The black bezel doesn’t just give you a place to grip your iPad without engaging the 9.7-inch touchscreen--it makes the apps jump right out at you. The screen is large enough that the apps become immersive, filling your field of view and almost making you forget you’re holding the iPad in the first place.
We snagged this adorable lock-screen wallpaper from the free Backgrounds HD app.
The LED-backlit IPS display makes photos and especially video look amazing from nearly any angle. When three or four people gather around your iPad to check out the latest YouTube sensation, you won’t have to bother asking, “Can you see it okay?” while finding an optimum angle for everyone--the colors stay bright up to 178 degrees from the center. Glare, however, is a significant problem in sunlight and even occasionally indoors--as with a glossy-screened MacBook, we get creeped out by catching glimpses of our reflection on the screen while we’re trying to watch Lost. (Lost is creepy enough.)
As for touching the screen, it’s no exaggeration to call it sublime. It’s smooth under your fingers and sooo responsive. We never had trouble tapping precisely what we wanted to, which hasn’t been our experience when using the iPhone and iPod touch--those smaller devices have a hard time, for example, guessing whether we’re tapping the software keyboard’s O button or the I. The iPad’s extra space and improved accuracy make that a non-issue. All that touching, though, leads to constant messy smudges even with the oleophobic coating on the glass. C’est la vie.
The 1.5-pound iPad can start to feel heavy when you’re holding it for hours, but its weight isn’t excessive, even compared with svelte e-readers like the 0.64-pound Kindle or the 0.76-pound Nook. And the battery life is astonishing, even better than Apple’s claim of 10 hours of video--our first charge lasted 13.5 hours of constant app-using, and in our video-rundown test, it played for 14 hours straight, enough for a flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong.
The built-in speaker is loud enough for a small group of people to watch a video together, and the mic worked well when we tested it by making VoIP calls with the free Truphone app. And Apple’s inclusion of an orientation-lock switch, which keeps the display from swinging wildly between portrait and landscape modes as you turn the device, is genius. When the orientation isn’t locked, we love how you can turn the iPad a full 360 degrees and watch the display snap into each position--even though we were occasionally so distracted by that nifty animation that we temporarily lost track of the inconspicuous Home button.
In the disappointment column? We would’ve loved to see a front-facing camera, and we’d bet money the second-gen iPad (as in, next year’s) will have one. Today’s iPad doesn’t capital-S suffer from the lack of one; you just have to cross “video chat” off the still-massive list of things it’s good for. Plus, third-party apps (like Camera for iPad, or Camera-A and Camera-B) let you use your iPhone as the lens and capture the image on your iPad, thanks to Bluetooth. Gimmicky but neat.
This is sexy, sexy hardware. If you don’t believe us, head to your local Apple Store or Best Buy and demo one. Touching is believing--and probably buying.
PRICE: $499, 16GB; $599, 32GB (tested); $699, 64GB; all with Wi-Fi only. For 3G versions, which weren’t available at press time, add $130.
SPECIFICATIONS: 1GHz Apple A4 chip; 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB capacity; 9.7-inch 1024x768 LED-backlit glossy multi-touch display with IPS technology and oleophobic coating; 802.11n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR; digital compass; accelerometer; ambient light sensor; 30-pin dock connector; built-in speaker, mic, and stereo headphone jack.
Long battery life. Gorgeous screen. A more immersive way to experience the iPhone OS and all its apps. Also great as media player, e-reader, and netbook alternative.
No Flash support. Screen attracts smudgy fingerprints. No camera. No expansion slots or ports. Battery not user replaceable. No multitasking (until iPhone OS 4).