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The iPad Makes It Hard to Resist the Temptation to Gloat

By Rob Walch MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Apr 5, 2010 10:20 AM PT

Not since the time of Moses has there been this much anticipation and talk about a tablet. Many would say/have said/continue to say the iPad is nothing more than a big iPod touch, and while that is true from a certain perspective those people really miss the big screen picture. When comparing the iPod touch to the iPad, the iPod touch would only be able to fit the first two commandments and maybe part of the third on its screen, whereas, the iPad could comfortably fit all 10.

The iPad Makes It Hard to Resist the Temptation to Gloat

I don't want to get into trying to tell you whom the iPad is and is not for. I think that would be a fool's errand. For some people, the iPad makes a nice media device to complement their current computer; for others it will become their main computer. I hope this review will help you decide whether the iPad fits your computing needs.

What You Get in the Box

When you purchase your iPad, be it the 16-, 32- or 64-GB version, you get the following: 1) the iPad; 2) the power adapter with USB cable. That is it -- well actually you get a couple of Apple stickers too. I found it rather cheap strange on Apple's part to ship a media device without headphones or even a cloth to clean the touchscreen, for that matter.

Granted, when you buy a laptop from Apple it does not come with headphones either, but the iPad is the first iPxxx product not to ship with headphones. Note: The iPhone 3GS headphones will work in the iPad, including the volume control and the pause button -- so getting a pair of headphones that are compatible with the iPhone 3GS is recommended.

Setting Up the iPad

Note: If you don't plan to sync your iPad to a computer at your home, then you should go to an Apple store and let the staff know you plan on using the iPad as a standalone computer. This can be done, but it is best to have the folks at the Apple store help you set it up before you leave, as you do need iTunes to get it set up. You could also use a friend's/relative's computer if you ordered online.

For everyone else, what you need to do when you get your iPad home is to connect it to your computer and use iTunes to activate it. If you have ever used iTunes with an iPhone, iPod or iPod touch, then you are already trained on how to activate the iPad. The iPad's integration with iTunes really is a key differentiator from "competing" tablet devices that are available or will be coming out. Getting the iPad set up was really very easy. It took just a few minutes, and then I started syncing the various media files, which again was very easy to do. (Note "easy" does not mean "fast" -- as my 4,000 plus pictures and videos in iPhoto needed to be optimized for the iPad, and that took a couple of hours.)

Adding a Gmail account to your iPad was as simple as entering your name, email address and password. That was it -- nothing more was needed for me to send and receive emails. No adding in POP account IDs and outgoing server configuration. It was both very easy and very fast to get set up for email, at least with a Gmail account.

Benchmark Tests - 2G vs. 3GS vs. iPad

The geek in me really wanted to know how fast the iPad is from processor speeds compared to the iPhone. I looked at the load times for three different apps and took the average load times for each app on an Original iPhone 2G, an iPhone 3GS and the iPad. The three apps were Blowfish, Crazy Hamster and Pocket Ants, all are games and each takes some time to load. Below are the results of those tests.

App:

Blowfish

Crazy Hamster

Pocket Ants

Device:

2g

3gs

ipad

2g

3gs

ipad

2g

3gs

ipad

Avg. Time: (secs)

17.7

7.0

5.1

14.9

9.7

8.3

24.9

13.9

12.3


As was already known, the 3GS is considerably faster than the iPhone 2G (FYI -- The iPhone 2G and 3G use the same processor). The iPad, as can be seen above, tested faster than the 3GS, although the gap in performance between the iPad and the 3GS is not as great as that between the 3GS and the 2G.

However, these tests only tell part of the story, as the feel of the iPad seems to be much smoother than the 3GS, which already felt fast. It is actually difficult to describe how great the interface feels/works on the iPad without coming off as a total Apple fan boy.

How Long Does the Battery Really Last?

When Apple announced the iPad in January, it said it would have 10 hours of battery life playing video. Many bloggers said "no way." Some even said it was impossible to get to 10 hours of video with that size screen in a unit that weighed only a pound and a half. This was the first real test I wanted to do with my iPad and what better way to test the battery life claim of 10 hours than to have a "Torchwood" marathon?

These are TV shows downloaded from iTunes. On the iPad I turned off WiFi and Bluetooth and set the video brightness to the 50 percent mark and turned off Auto-brightness. I wanted it to be as close as possible to how you would have it set when on an airplane. The results were much better than I expected. After 4 hours and 9 minutes, the iPad showed 75 percent charge left. After 7 hours and 20 minutes, the iPad was at a 50 percent charge. After 10 hours and 36 minutes, the iPad was down to a 25 percent charge, and the iPad finally ran out of juice after 13 hours and 24 minutes of continuous video playback.

Please note, if you are streaming video from YouTube over WiFi, the battery life will be less -- probably right in that 10 hour range Apple claims. The test above was done with people who travel on long flights and don't have access to power outlets in mind. For regular or even semi-regular international or bicoastal travelers, the iPad is, in my opinion, a must-have device.

I was also going to do some temperature testing -- but after 10 hours of continuous use, the iPad felt barely above room temperature to the touch. A key "feature" of the iPad, compared to my MacBook -- no need for a fan -- hence, no fan noise. Plus no keyboard -- so the next time I am in bed next to my wife, I will be able to surf the Web and tap out emails in complete silence.

Trust me, if you knew how cranky -- and justifiably so -- my wife can get at 1:30 a.m. after I wake her up with fan noise or keyboard noise from my MacBook, you would know right there the iPad is worth the purchase. Silence, as they say, is golden.

Once the iPad was completely drained, the next question was how long would it take to recharge it to 100 percent.? Using the power charger that comes with the iPad, it was back to 25 percent charge in 52 minutes, 50 percent charge in 1 hour and 47 minutes, 75 percent charge in 2 hours and 44 minutes, and 100 percent charge in 4 hours and 13 minutes. That means you can basically use it all day long and charge it while you sleep and then repeat.

I should point out if you have it connected via USB to older Macs and most PCs it will not charge while operating. You will see a message saying it is "not charging" in the upper right. This also happens when connected through most USB hubs, as they do not have enough power to charge the iPad while it is running. However, once you put it to sleep, it does start charging the iPad regardless of what it said when powered on -- which is causing lots of confusion as people are reporting that the iPad can not be charged by PCs, when really it is that when in use, the iPad cannot be charged by PCs, older Macs and most USB hubs.

Some Apps Are Missing

The iPad comes with some Apple-created apps preinstalled. iBooks is not one of them -- not yet, at least -- you will need to download that app (it is free) if you want access to the iBook store. There are also a few other apps missing that are on the iPhone and iPod touch: Voice Memo, Stocks, Weather and Calculator are the Apps that Apple did not include with the initial launch of the iPad. Considering that other apps -- such as Photos, YouTube and Mail -- have been specially redesigned just for the iPad, it is likely those missing apps will be added in the near future.

There has a been a lot said about the iPhone OS and hence the iPad not supporting Flash and that you cannot get video on the iPad. While it is true that it does not support Flash, the part about not being able to get video on the iPad is false. The iPad comes with a YouTube App that allows you to see most YouTube videos. So, if you want to see the latest viral video -- no fears. You can see Charlie biting his brother's finger or Marina telling you the meaning of your favorite word. For most users the lack of flash will be a nonissue, just as it is for most iPhone and iPod touch owners.

For full reviews of additional iPad apps, please check out my podcast at www.todayiniphone.com. Starting with Episode 126, we will have reviews of iPad apps.

If you are on the fence about whether to get the 3G or WiFi-only iPad, I did a post that goes over the total cost of ownership of the iPad with 3G and AT&T vs. going with WiFi-only and a mobile hotspot plan from Verizon, Sprint or Clear.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the Ten Commandments, so in closing, it is only fitting to say that if you purchase an iPad, there is a good chance that when you show it to your neighbors, they will break the 10th commandment: "Thou shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor."


Rob Walch is host of the Today in iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch podcast.


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