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Apple iPad - Sheer Tablet Brilliance

By Kenny Yeo - 7 May 2010


Is the iPad for You?

Perhaps the question in the title can be best answered if we could figure out what the iPad exactly is. It's similar to the iPhone in so many ways, yet it doesn't make calls or receives SMSes, hence it can't be a smartphone. But neither is the iPad a full on PC, because there's so many things it can't do. It's a conundrum really, because on one hand the iPad is capable of doing so many things, yet, on the other hand, it is also restricted in so many ways.

Hence, whether the iPad is suitable for you depends very much on your usage. For hardcore, power users, the iPad will not be able to replace your notebooks or desktops. The iPad is also not ideal for people who intend to use it to get work done, for the virtual keyboard, as intuitive and pleasant to use as it is, can be frustrating to use when trying to compose lengthy articles or presentations.

It's also hampered by hardware limitations. The lack of a USB port or a memory card slot means there's no quick way to transfer files onto the device.

Additionally, the iPad also needs a PC or MAC with iTunes to activate and sync for the first time. Perhaps this is an indication that Apple does not intend for the iPad to be a replacement for traditional desktops and notebooks just yet.

That said, the iPad works well enough for quickly accessing and replying e-mails, and with the Pages app, adequate for light word processing or quick edits when on the go.

Where the iPad excels, however, is media consumption. It's great for music, movies, and it's good for playing games. And where it really shines is web browsing, because the large screen, overall responsiveness and speed of the device offers a browsing experience (albeit without Flash) unlike anything we've ever come across.

The iPad is a proficient e-book reader too. We didn't find the screen to be too glaring to use, rather the glossy and highly reflective screen posed a bigger hurdle - but only in harsh lighting conditions.

All things considered, the iPad is probably a new breed of device altogether. It is what we would term as a Portable Entertainment Device (PED). If you consider the fact that it has a lot in common with a portable media player, but yet the iPad does much more than miniature entertainment as it handles web browsing and e-book reading with aplomb in addition to all the other entertainment outlets which Apple's App Store provides.

The iPad can't do everything, but what it can, it does fantastically.

At the time of writing, Apple has not yet announced when the iPad will come Singapore, but our unit is the base 16GB model with WiFi only, and it goes for US$499 a pop. With this in mind, expect it to cost around S$700 when it does get here. S$700 is not what we would consider loose change, but it is rather reasonably priced considering a 64GB iPod Touch is presently going for S$620. Of course, if you have more cash to spare and have the need for extra capacity, you could always opt for the 32GB and 64GB variants.

Apple has also recently released the 3G version of the iPad in April, which is identical to the WiFi-only models, except that it accepts micro-SIM cards for 3G connectivity. Needless to say, the 3G model is going to be more useful when you are out and running about, but it will also cost considerably more.

On a whole, the iPad is an amazing achievement by Apple. There have been many tablet devices before the iPad, but none feel as refined, complete and accomplished as the iPad. Most were either too cumbersome, too slow or just not as intuitive to use. But, as good as it is, the iPad won't replace your existing desktops or notebooks, instead, it offers a glimpse of what the tablet platform is capable of when the right mixture of hardware and software come together.

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The Good
Gorgeous screen
Form factor is just right
Blazing fast and ultra responsive
The Bad
Restricted in some ways by the iPhone OS
Screen is highly reflective
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