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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

(continued from page 2)

What no one seems to mention is that you can't use a mouse with a factory iPad at all. You could "jailbreak" your iPad, by altering the operating system software to recognize a Bluetooth mouse. But that term itself is a hint that you might end up with a voided warranty or, worse, turning your iPad into a shiny brick. Oh, and one more thing... the iPad can't print. Tortuous workarounds will deliver middling results but, basically, if you create or edit a document on the iPad and want to print it, you'll have to transfer it to a real computer first.

Bottom line: the iPad may be a useful alternative for lightweight tasks, but it's no laptop, or even netbook, substitute.

Fun and Games: The single application that has consumed more of my iPad hours than any other is Pinball HD, a $2.99 app with three different pinball tables, spot-on physics, beautiful graphics and enough challenge to keep me coming back. The big screen is well suited to pinball; playing on a little Nintendo DS, or a cell phone, just doesn't support the level of detail that makes a pinball table interesting. And controlling a pinball game isn't a problem on the buttonless iPad; a thumb on each side of the touch screen works just fine.

Most iPad game options fall into the "casual" category, like those found on cell phones. A few titles will appeal to serious players, such as Civilization Revolution, a wonderful turn-by-turn strategy game ($6.99). Even an old chestnut like Scrabble is a winner on the iPad, its full-board- at-a-glance format trumping the cramped-screen iPod version. You can also use an iPhone or iPod touch as a tile rack, if you happen to own one.

Most iPad games don't have the depth to keep you amused for very long, but the price-to-amusement ratio holds up, with most casual games selling for under $3. There's also a nice assortment of games for kids, who are riveted by anything iPad.

With no physical buttons to mash, game controls can be troublesome, particularly with titles that use the built-in accelerometer for this purpose. Overall, though, gaming is a fun feature on the iPad platform, as long as you don't mistake it for a more powerful Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.

Web Surfing: The built-in Safari browser does a nice job displaying most Web pages, and the option to view with the iPad held either vertically or horizontally is a wonderful feature. Turn the page sideways and the tiny type on most Web sites becomes large enough to read and the links big enough to click accurately with big fat fingertips.

Of course, the touch-screen pinch that lets you zoom page size in and out is another option, and great to have for special circumstances. For most Web surfing, though, it's a slow way to go. The zoom feature I find myself using more often is double-tapping a column of type to expand it to full screen width, and repeating the procedure to get full-screen view again. For a three-column page this works like a charm. Not so charming: the message "This content is not supported on your device" that comes up too frequently when browsing for entertainment content.

Safari doesn't support multiple windows simultaneously, or visible tabs while viewing a page the way Internet Explorer or Firefox do on a computer, but it does have a nine-page display for navigating between recent choices, which works well. And looking at lengthy Web pages is one place where touch-screen control is notably faster and more intuitive than keyboard, trackpad or mouse.

Even with the Flash snafu, surfing the web is the most compelling reason to own an iPad. Way back in 2001, I was a consultant on a product called the Intel Web Tablet, designed "to allow consumers to access the Web from anywhere in the home" without buying an extra computer. The product was killed at the last minute because you couldn't use both your computer and the Tablet at the same time. The iPad delivers what we were after a decade ago nearly flawlessly.

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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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