The iPad shows great promise. It's thin and sleek and not like any other gadget out there. It was also more hyped than any new device in recent memory. But is it worth buying?
Given the cost, and a slew of drawbacks, the answer boils down to how much you're willing to pay for a toy.
We've been testing both a low-end and top-end iPad all weekend, also letting family members age 9 to 59 try it out and offer their reactions, and our overall conclusion is that while the iPad is fun to play with, it's hard to figure out what role it fills that some other device doesn't do much better. Here are the most severe problems we see:
You can't carry it on your hip like a phone, so it presents the same portability issues as any laptop – you'll need a case of some sort to protect it and carry the power cable. Even around the house, there's no simple way to carry the iPad. It's too thin, heavy, slippery and expensive to put under your arm. Several of our testers were seen carrying it like a dinner tray, as a butler would, to go from the kitchen table to the couch. Portability, shmortability.
To be sure, at 1.5 pounds and with all this functionality, the iPad is an impressive feat of engineering. But it's simply not light enough (a Kindle ebook reader is about 10 ounces) and that heft adds to the awkwardness. Holding the iPad in one hand for more than a few minutes to watch a movie or read an ebook results in tired wrists. Even holding it with two hands to read an ebook is tiring. Reading an ebook on a smartphone is ergonomically much more practical.
We might ignore the awkward size and weight, but the iPad is also slippery, and its aluminum back is ever-so-slightly slightly concave. You feel as though it'd slip right out if you try to hold it under your arm. And on the kitchen counter, it slides and twirls as you try to type or swipe the screen (required for navigating). It needs rubber feet, but of course then it won't be near as cool.
The screen has too much glare
The iPad has the same glossy screen as Apple's Macbook Pro laptops and iMac desktops. Unless you're reading in a very dim room, the glare will be noticeable and can be distracting. Outdoors, even in the shade, the glare is really annoying.
Forget reading in the sun
If you thought to take your iPad along for an outing in Central Park or at the beach, forget about it. While bright and contrasty indoors, the iPad's screen looks washed out and is almost impossible to view in bright sunlight. The Kindle's non-glossy e-ink display fares much better outdoors than the iPad's screen.
Fingerprints are annoying
Once you've used the iPad for a few minutes, among the most glaring shortcomings (besides the screen glare) are the fingerprints on the screen. With a smartphone, you can wipe the screen on your shirt or pants. The iPad is too big for that. We're wondering what exactly to clean it with and where we'll keep the cleaning supplies.
It does not multitask
The iPad runs the same operating system as the iPhone, and as a result has all of the iPhone's limitations. The most obvious of these is the inability to multitask — or do multiple things simultaneously. The iPad can't run more than one app at a time (with the exception of a few Apple apps, such as iPod, the iPad's music playing app). While this is may be acceptable in a smartphone, it's a major handicap in a device that Apple expects people to spend hours at a time on. (11 iPhone Tips That Also Work on the iPad )
The browser is limited
The iPad also uses the same limited Safari browser that's found on the iPhone. While much fuss has been made about the iPad's inability to play Flash video, there are other things it can't do as well. For example, Safari on iPad can't be used to create Google Documents, only to view them.
The virtual keyboard stinks
While the virtual keyboard on the iPad is much larger than the iPhone, it's still awkward to type on glass. Even those who've used tiny, cramped netbook keyboards will be disappointed by the lack of real keys and likely reduced to one-finger typing. The iPad can be paired with a physical keyboard, but even this is awkward, because the actions normally done with a mouse or a trackpad on a desktop or laptop have to be done with your finger on the iPad.
There's no USB port
The lack of even one USB port – the universal means of connecting just about everything these days – means you can't connect the device to a printer or other computer peripherals, such as an external hard drive. The iPad can be connected to cameras, but it requires the purchase of a separate accessory from Apple.
iPhone-only apps look horrible
Apple boasts that many of the 150,000 apps already available on the iPhone will also work on the iPad. What the company doesn't tell you is that when enlarged to fit on the iPad's screen, these iPhone apps look horrible, with images and text very pixelated. For this reason, many people will opt to buy apps that are made specifically for the iPad, which tend to be more expensive than their iPhone counterparts.
The price is just too high
$499 is just the beginning, a low-memory model that will fill up too quickly for anyone with a big music library and/or an appetite for video. Toss in ample memory and a 2-year, $280 "we'll replace it even if you drop it" warranty at Best Buy, and you're out $1,000. Given the iPad's weight, awkwardness and slipperiness, we think the warranty is smart.
It doesn't replace anything
The iPad will not replace your smartphone. Unless you can't type, it won't replace your laptop. If you love books, you could argue it’s a great e-book reader, but let's see what your wrists say after a few days. The Kindle is a better e-reader. Frankly, we're not sure what need the iPad fills, other than the desire to be cool by owning a device that is in a class all its own.
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