Apple iPad Review: The Tablet Revolution Begins - HotHardware

Apple iPad Review: The Tablet Revolution Begins

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We've had the opportunity to review a few tablet / netbook combinations here at HotHardware (the Eee PC T91 from Asus immediately comes to mind), but in the 10+ years of covering computing technology, there has yet to be a tablet as polarizing, alluring, and promising as iPad. And after all of these years, who would've thought that it would be Apple leading the tablet charge of 2010? Early last decade, somewhere around 2003 or 2004, there was a huge push for tablet PCs to make it big. That's a long time ago, for sure, but we recall it feeling a little bit like the netbook push of 2008. Companies were hailing their tablets as "all new machines," with new form factors that would "redefine" the way we used a computer. We were told that our keyboard and mouse were no longer necessary, and so long as we had a free hand, we had a means to enjoy a full-fledged computing experience.

But those tablets were, putting it simply, way ahead of their time. Most were very bulky (some nearly 2" thick), screens were generally low-res, battery life was abysmal and Windows XP simply was not optimized for touch. It felt like manufacturers were shoving an operating system that was designed from the ground-up to be used with a mouse and keyboard into a device with neither, and then they all wondered why no one wanted to pay more for the things than the average notebook. Users simply saw no real benefit in using a tablet over a laptop, and they definitely didn't see the need in paying more for less convenience. For years, the tablet PC lived on primarily in two places: hospitals and in the wild. Panasonic kept a Toughbook Tablet or two alive for years since it was such a great machine in the field, and obviously medical charting works very well on a tablet-styled device. But consumers? Most simply ignored them and moved on.

A Video Preview - Be sure to check out our in-depth analysis on the pages ahead...

But in early 2010, something different happened. In response to well over a year of rumors, Apple confirmed that most of them were true by launching the iPad at their "Latest Creation" event in California. The response was something akin to the original iPhone debut: oohs, ahhs and a new world of possibilities thanks to one huge card that no one else really has access to: the App Store. This past weekend, the iPad shipped in the United States (international destinations are still waiting), and the company managed to sell over 300,000 of them without ever setting foot in the tablet world before this. As a means of comparison, Apple "only" sold 270,000 or so iPhone units during that device's first day on the market. The tablet launched at a time when few other consumer-facing tablets were around, though we know for a fact that companies like Asus and HP are planning a number of rival devices in the coming months. HP's Slate is likely to be one of the major "iPad killers" out there, but Apple has a big advantage over those tablets that are still on track for production: the iPad is out now, and there's a lot of steam behind it. For now, let's take a look at the hardware within:

Apple iPad (Wi-Fi) Tablet
Specifications and Features (as tested)
  • Apple A4 SoC @ 1GHz; Manufactured by Samsung
  • Undisclosed RAM; Reports Suggest 256MB
  • 9.7 inch IPS LCD; LED backlit; Multi-Touch Enabled
  • Undisclosed Graphics
  • 16GB/32GB/64GB Flash Storage
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Digital Compass
  • No Webcam
  • Support for 1024 by 768 pixels with Dock Connector to VGA Adapter; 576p and 480p with Apple Component AV Cable; 576i and 480i with Apple Composite AV Cable
  • Dock Connector Port
  • Headphone (3.5mm) Input
  • Built-In Speaker
  • Microphone
  • Dock Connector To USB Cable Included
  • 10W USB Power Adapter Included
  • Non-Removable 25-watt-hour Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
  • 9.56" x 7.47" x 0.5" (Dimensions)
  • 1.5 Pounds
  • iPhone OS 3.2
  • Price (starting): $499
  • 1-Year Warranty

Many people are wondering if all of the hype surrounding the iPad is deserved. How could a tablet with no integrated USB port, SD card slot, camera or multi-tasking capabilities be worthy of all this praise? And why didn't the tablets of 2003 see this kind of positive reaction?  Much like the iPod touch and iPhone, Apple has a deadly card that no other company has, and that's the continually growing App Store, which basically enables the iPad to do more on day 2 than it could on day 1. This type of "growing ability" allows the iPad to be viewed more for what it could be one day than what it is today. But is the existing unit worth a purchase with so much innovation coming from so many other companies in the next few months? Join us in the coming pages as we dissect Apple's first (and only, thus far) tablet during our full review...

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I've been looking forward to reading this review in detail to see if this website can convert me to believing the Ipad has potential. Sadly, it does not. However, Marco pointed out something in the last paragraph in the review.

"Some Windows PC users and hardcore computing enthusiasts will probably look elsewhere at some of the more complete, competitive tablet solutions coming to market this year, but for everyone else, the iPad brings a lot of computing fun and function on the go."

That sentence sums up everything. It is not for people who watercool their desktops, overclock their cpus, uses RAID, vmware, linux or other non-mainstream software or techniques that maximize their PCs or even Macs (Yeah, I said The Ipad's small memory of ram (256mb) and its lack of customization (USB ports, SD slots, unable to take the battery off) can be a real turnoff.

Other than that, I thought the Ipad was very fitting for those who don't need an intensive digital experience. That was...until I saw this news this morning after I read the review...

Now, the Wi-Fi problem can be resolved as it is shown with the following link:

However, that being said, the overheating issue stinks....especially when you have to put your Ipad in a refrigerator to cool it down since it dissipates heat poorly. You might as well only use the Ipad indoors since it is heat sensitive. There is no way you can use this in the summer when the Ipad will just automatically shut down if the temperature is above 35 degrees Celsius.

I would also like to point out that Apple's app store policy is just as bad as Microsoft's Xbox Live where they want full control on what is to be available to the public.

All in all, I'll settle for netbook anytime and anyday of the week over an Ipad. I'll pass.

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Very nice review, and not a bad little system.

Now, I've got to go write them a nasty letter for not printing double-sided and wasting virtual paper in the iBook app.

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more or less my thoughts on it exactly.

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Just a few points to help you guys out...  Lots of these are just minor annoyances

You can not hover (actually you can do hover by flicking really really lightly on the (small) button, just most people don't know this)

Lots of HTML rendering issues (and I'm not talking about flash, try naving Facebook)

Price per GB of storage past 16 ($6.25 per GB beyond 16 for the 32 model, $4.16~ per GB beyond 16 for the 64 model)

No proper filing system (get a bunch of docs in Pages and then try to find the one you were working on...)

No up/down (you guys lost where the home button or volume rocker was yet?)

App rearrangement (the 5x4 layout switches to a 4x5 when rotating, causing top right apps to move to middle left)

No stereo sound (two speakers firing out the same hole do not stereo but mono sound make)

Wi-Fi (sure they listed some fixes, but it is buggy as hell)

iPhone apps do not rotate

No Multi-tasking (I know I know, said already but this is a HUGE deal breaker)

Touch keyboard (seriously, just look at Anand's in-depth review to get an idea of the pain actually using this most of the time)

Not widescreen?! (What is this, 1990?  With most media coming out being widescreen, why would you release a media device that isn't?)

No GPS (this thing would be great for nav... but no GPS)

oleophobic coating just does not work well on the iPad

Screen is near unreadable in sunlight (not that you will be using it in the sun, since it overheats like a mutha)

USB charging, shaky at best (need a 5w plus USB port, which isn't very common at all)

Headphone jack (why on top of the thing?)

Why no widgets?  (All that screen space just wasted)

Horizontal holding/home button (be careful while your playing a game, hit the button and game closes)

Unstable apps (I'm shocked that this wasn't mentioned.  Apps are crashing on these things a *LOT*)

Cost of iPad apps (seriously, double?!)

Pages doesn't ($10 for Apples word app which doesn't even work right)

Spelling auto-correction (doesn't work/often gives crazy words)

Consuming, not creating (Not really a gripe, but what the iPad is)


That's enough for now.

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Referring to the video, I was very impressed with how fluid the motions on the interface were. If Apple is doing something right, it's creating an OS that can be extremely responsive to touch, and it shows with how efficiently it handles your finger movements. One thing in particular that I noticed was how fast the images loaded. There was no lag at all between the cycles. Using Safari on a WiFi network was pretty impressive as well. The HH webpage loaded pretty well and the Pinch/Zoom feature showed virtually zero pixelation, regardless of how fast you attempted a zoom. But as always, the greatest downside for the iPad is the fact that it doesn't support flash encoded videos. At least it plays YouTube though. 

It's true that the App Store is growing everyday. Jobs said that there was over 100,000 apps currently in circulation, and that there was no apparent end in sight. But how many of those apps are actually being used? There are Apple App developers out there that are creating apps to try to return a profit for purchasing a $100 licensing charge, and they can't turn over anything because their apps get lost in the sea. I've wanted to jump on that bandwagon and try to pay my way through college by making apps that are popular and sell for cheap. But honestly I don't see a point anymore, I'm 2 years behind the craze, and I believe that all of the good ideas have been taken up. I understand that I'm being pessimistic, but a guy is making thousands of dollars a month for creating an App that simulates various farting noises. I mean, where is the hope in that? 

Gaming will be more popular on the iPad specifically because it has a larger screen and better capabilities. But I too am perplexed on why Apple wont' reveal all of the iPad's system specifications. Are they just paranoid? Or maybe it's like you said, the low powered GPU keeps the iPad alive for much longer than other tablets out there. But the real question is: How will people successfully integrate this in their day by day life? I really feel like this product is one of those "wow" factors that just eventually die. It's like, playing a video game campaign, beating it, reveling in the awesomeness, and then shelving it. The internet experience is better on the iPad simply because it's better than the iPhone, in terms of size at least, the larger screen allows for an easier web browsing experience. 

But I'm extremely biased towards any product that Apple throws out on the market, so I am really trying to be nice here. But I have to say, that I think that these devices are so popular because of their simplicity: the fact that anybody can pick it up, no matter their intellectual ability with computers. The iPad is still being held back into it utilizes the full potential of the OS 4.0 that is coming out soon. I feel like I am thrown away from it regardless though. Just the fact that I can't hot wire a USB connection from my computer to an iPad, and upload media date on there is a really big turn off for me. We'll see what happens in the coming months. 

Great review guys!

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Excellent objective review..... The lack of a killer must have app I'm sure is hurting Apples adoption of the iPad. Multitasking will come but the lack of a camera, USB port, and SD card reader which could all be done with add on peripherals are really a detourant.

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Thanks dcford. Glad you flet we gave it a fair shake. That's our keen focus here is being fair and balanced.

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Fair and Balanced!
You sly Fox's

I beck you guys reilly know how to throw a party :)

Good review. I was wondering how this thing would stand up in the WiFi arena, that answers it.  Even with this review, I think I will wait for the Slate just for the ports and camera.  Hopefully they will take a cue from the same battery manufacturer and give us the same performance the Ipad has.

One thing I was wondering about. Autodesk signed on to partake in the marketing blitz, by saying this is teamed up with Sketchbook Pro. I still don't understand how one can use just your hands for something like that. Or if the GPU has the capability to go past 200DPI? I'd probably feel like a kid trying to fingerpaint.

Is there any mention of this being able to use any kind of stylus?

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Really nice review. I'm still not interested in buying one but this review was nice. I never said anything about the graphics for gaming as i guessed it would be great. How ever i think the ipad is too large to do racing games like that one. I might get tired holding it up tilting left and right but maybe im just weak :). If they decide to add features i could use i may consider one as i want a ereader anyways xD. The website speed test is a nice graph have :)

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The iPad is waaay too expensive, doesn't do Flash Player, and AT&T is the sole provider of data service. Yuk. Unless you just gotta have the newest hardware, wait - there are going to be a whole bunch of new tablets very soon from other manufacturers for LE$$. Perhaps Apple will sue one of them, too.

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