Apple iPad Review: The Tablet Revolution Begins

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Power Consumption and Battery Life

So, why would Apple (reportedly) go with such a low-powered GPU implementation?  Two main reasons: to keep costs down on a product already made expensive by the IPS panel, metal enclosure and embedded flash storage, and to keep within a very tight power envelope.  At its debut a few months ago, Steve Jobs said this tablet could get 10 hours of use, easy. It could even stay on for days on end in "sleep" mode. That sounded pretty wild to us, and we've seen in the past that most battery life claims from various computing OEMs are nowhere near the truth when put to the test in real world usage models.

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Somehow, however, Apple has nailed their battery claims. This, we think, will be one card that Apple continues to play when those "other tablet PCs" start to ship in a matter of months. Many of those gaming-centric tablets may have a faster CPU and a more robust GPU, but if it dies after 2-3 hours of use, what good is such a portable machine? Apple has actually designed a full-fledged tablet with the battery life of an ebook reader, a feat that we previously thought next to impossible.

We used the iPad rather heavily during this review, browsing the Web, testing applications, writing e-mails, sorting through photos, listening to a few songs, watching a few "V" show clips, etc. We basically used the iPad how we would use it on an ideal vacation day. We had Wi-Fi on at all times and the brightness set at 50%, which is plenty bright (and maybe even too bright) for indoor use. Our tests found that the battery lasted 10 hours and 13 minutes before dying completely.

We can't overstate how rare it is for a company to meet or exceed claimed battery life figures. We know that the battery situation in the iPad is pretty robust (it's got far more capacity than an iPhone 3GS), but we never expected this. The battery just kept going and going, and we think we could make it last even longer if we took it easy on the media consumption and disabled Wi-Fi when we weren't surfing.

This 10 hour mark sets a new (high) bar for tablet PCs. Will future rivals be able to meet it? We've heard that many only aspire to last 5-7 hours before dying, and if that's the case, Apple will certainly have the upper-hand here.  However, NVIDIA has made similar bold battery life statements with respect to Tegra 2 tablets coming down the pipe.  We'll see when the time comes but  road warriors who travel often and see very few AC outlets will appreciate the longevity of the iPad.  That alone may be enough to compensate for "just" a 1GHz CPU and a low power GPU.

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