Apple iPad First Look

See the Apple iPad in action and read our review.
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01.Apple iPad review

Read our first look at the iPad 2 to see how it compares.

If you think of the iPad as a much larger version of the iPod Touch or iPhone, you wouldn’t be far wrong. It shares the same minimalist design and runs the same iPhone apps, now numbering over 200,000, plus more than 5000 new ones designed specifically to take advantage of the iPad's larger (9.7 Inch) screen.

We tried out a 16GB Wi-Fi version to see how it feels in use. If you're familiar with the iPod Touch or iPhone, you'll feel at home on the iPad pretty much right away.  It shares the same basic look and feel, though naturally gives the impression of more room to move. It comes with the standard Apps, with icons for Calendar, Contacts, Notes, Maps, YouTube, iTunes, App Store, Settings, Safari, mail, Photos and iPod, but also a separate Videos app.

The apps do actually load a lot more lickety split than on even the 3GS iPhone, due no doubt to the new proprietary Apple A4 processor that powers the iPad.

Video: Ipad first look video

See our video for what average users think of Apple's "magical" new iPad. iPad and iPhone users can view this video at the CHOICE YouTube page



Touch typing on screen is not possible because as soon as you touch a key it types it, leading to all sorts of garbage. Unlike a separate keyboard, your fingers cannot actually rest on the keys, so touch typing is difficult as you can't rest your fingers on the keys at all without typing a lot of gobbledygook. A hunt-and-peck approach is best, using two fingers or even more if you're comfortable with that, as long as only one finger touches at any one time. If you need a "real" keyboard, you can use the optional extra Apple Keyboard Dock or an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard.

As with its smaller brothers, there is no "up" with this device. Hold it in any orientation and the screen will rotate to present the correct view. However, the iPad has a hardware switch on the top-right edge to lock the orientation -- handy for when you don't want the screen auto-rotating, such as when you're reclining on the lounge or in bed perhaps.

As with the iPhone, you can take a snapshot of any screen by holding the Home button (at bottom) and pressing the on/off /sleep/wake button. The screen will flash and your screenshot will be saved in the Photos area. The glossy backlit glass screen itself is very sharp and crystal clear, with vibrant colours, as you would expect from a device designed for reading websites, electronic books and other detailed media. Like the iPod Touch and iPhone however, it's best for indoor or shaded viewing. Outside viewing is where e-ink based ebook readers have the edge for visibility.

While half the weight of Apple's super-slim MacBook Air, the iPad may still be a tad on the heavy side for prolonged one-handed use. Like the iPhone, most of the back is flat but curves in towards the edges. This presents one little niggle -- if the device is lying flat on a hard surface,  a heavy hand on the Home button can force the opposite edge to lift up. Also, it doesn't have a hardware mute button, as on the iPhone, but does have a volume up-down button on the side edge, alongside the screen orientation lock. 

Apple's minimalist approach to hardware design means there is little to play with on the iPad until you load your content on to it. This is a good thing. It is content that really drives this device, whether it is viewing movies, TV shows, pictures, reading books or using your favourite apps. The hardware doesn't drag your attention away from the important stuff.

Pricing and plans

Here's a pricing guide for what you can expect to pay for an iPad.
  • Wi-Fi (local area wireless networking) models at $629 for the16GB version; $759 for 32GB; and $879 for the 64GB unit.
  •  The next three models include Wi-Fi but also add 3G phone network capabilities. These are priced at $799, $928 and $1049 for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models respectively. 

Of course, buying a Wi-Fi iPad is one thing, but if you're after a 3G model then you have to take into account a 3G mobile data plan. The iPad uses the tiny Micro-Sim card format however, so you can't simply swap in the standard sized sim card used the in most current mobile phones, including the iPhone.

Telstra has announced well-priced Micro-Sim 3G plans that are prepaid, so you're not locked into a contract. The Australian Communication Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is strongly advising consumers to opt for a pre-paid plan with their iPad to avoid the dreaded “bill shock” experienced by 3G smartphone owners hit with excess data usage charges. Our article on bill shock explains the pitfalls to watch out for and how you can avoid them.

Telstra is offering a $30 prepaid starter kit and top-ups from $20 per month for 1GB of data and $30 for 3GB and $60 for 6GB.  Optus is offering Micro-Sim plans including $20 per month for 2GB of data.  The other major carriers have yet to formally release pricing details, though unlike the iPhone no telcos are expected to sell the iPad directly.

Use player below to hear Steve, Ryan and Laurence discussing the iPad and its effect on the Netbook format. (Warning - podcast is 15mins long and tends to go off-topic!) See below.



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