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After the Hype

iPad launched with typical Apple fanfare. Now that it’s not the next big thing, it’s time for a second look to see if it’s still a big deal
Steve Morgenstern
From the Print Edition:
Adrien Brody, September/October 2010

You don't need an iPad. I'm not saying you don't want one-that's a very different issue. But ordinarily, when you go shopping for an Apple product, it's for something you need. A computer. A phone. But an iPad doesn't do anything you can't already do with electronics you undoubtably already own. Nor is it an effective substitute for the vital items in your digital entourage. Carry an iPad instead of your laptop? With no physical keyboard, not bloody likely. Tote it in place of a portable music player? Not unless you have pockets like Captain Kangaroo. Doesn't make cell phone calls. Doesn't take pictures.

And yet Apple has again jump-started our tech libidos with an imaginative device that has the competition scrambling to keep up.

Now that the launch hype has dissipated and early adopter cred faded, it's time for a clear-eyed look at what Steve Jobs calls "the most important thing I've ever done." Let's examine what you get and don't get with the iPad and how it stacks up to some other options.

The iPad is, quite simply, a beautiful piece of electronic gear. When you get it in your hands, the desire to keep it is nearly irresistible. And nobody does touch screen better than Apple. It is highly responsive, making it easy to drag items, press virtual buttons and use such gestures as finger-pinching, which resizes objects on screen. Keep a few issues in mind, though.

The first is portability. Steve Jobs introduced the iPad to the press from the comfort of a plush armchair, which is really its natural habitat. However, the reason so many iPod/iPhone apps (most of which also run on iPad) are so cool is you have them in your pocket for quick access. Without a shoulder bag or backpack, you're not carrying an iPad, and that's a severe limitation for a portable device.

At 9.56'' x 7.47" x 0.5", it has the dimensions of a legal pad, but, weighing in at a pound and a half, it doesn't feel much like one in your hands. It's more of a two-handed tome-a slender coffee-table book filled with pretty color pictures-than a notepad to be held in one paw.

Another issue comes with its beautiful 9.7-inch glass touch screen. It's a pleasure to behold, bright and sharp and intensely colorful, under ideal conditions. But-as with all shiny objects-the screen is highly reflective. Watching a fairly dark movie on a train I found myself inserted into the film, as my mirror image took over the screen. Screen glare is also an issue if you're trying to use the iPad outdoors. Reading an e-book at poolside or on a park bench is an exercise in pure frustration.

The iPad design has been described as an oversized iPod Touch, which shouldn't be taken as a diss. An elegant simplicity carries over from the very successful portable music player. Buttons? Just a couple: a power button, a volume rocker and the home dimple along the bottom. One more control, a sliding switch, turns off the internal sensor that would ordinarily pivot the display to match when you rotate the iPad horizontally or vertically, because that usually terrific feature can be annoying when you hold the device at an angle.

And that's it for buttons and levers. There's a mini audio jack, a surprisingly decent speaker, a built-in mic and an iPod-style connector at the bottom for transferring files and charging the battery.

For the battery, Apple deserves both a slap on the wrist and praise. Because the built-in power cell can't be removed or replaced without a repair bill, you can't carry a spare. On the other hand, the battery life per charge is impressive. Leave the wireless network on, play back movies and video clips, listen to music, play games, have fun-you'll still make it through the day with plenty of juice to spare.

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Comments   2 comment(s)

Chris A February 10, 2011 3:45am ET

i just got myself one of these and im very happy with it. my macbook pro is now dedicated to downloading and syncing tasks only.

will CA ever release an online PDF version of the magazine? April 11, 2012 10:14am ET

i got one last fall. love it. do i need it? well my laptop is as heavy as a cinder block. once i have the logistics together, i'll be able to VPN into my laptop at work and keep it there. phone? my company pays for my BB and blocks most of the features. so travel with an ipad is easy and lightweight. with 3g service, i can access everything i need when i need it. i'll be able to troubleshoot anywhere without the overhead of setting up and booting up a corporate computer that can take 30 minutes before being fully functional. at 30000ft or underground on a subway, i'll take an ipad anyday.

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