My iPad Review

I know there are loads of iPad reviews out there, but people still keep asking me what I think of it, so now that I’ve had it for a week or so, here are my thoughts so far.

Look and Feel

First up, there’s no denying that it is a beautiful thing. Apple certainly build gorgeous looking devices and this is no exception. Build quality and aesthetics are second to none. The screen is lovely and it just looks good.

In use it’s a perfect size for sitting on your lap on the sofa whilst watching TV. The big question though is what is it for?

Both Anna and I have been using it, although Anna so far hasn’t had much chance to get her hands on it as I seem to be on it all the time. The Christmas period has of course been the perfect time to play on it as I’ve had time on my hands and a break from work.

Browsing

It’s perfect for web browsing and many sites seem to look better on its gorgeous high resolution screen. Obviously no Flash works, but that is rarely a problem. I have had issues with text entry on websites though. The on screen keyboard itself is fine and you soon get used to it. In fact I can probably type almost as fast on it now as I can on a normal keyboard and the predictive text and auto correction make it just as accurate for me – not that I was ever very fast or accurate anyway. The problem arises when trying to type lots of text into a text entry box on a website. The text entry box only has a certain number of lines so you can only see a certain number of lines of text. Normally on a desktop browser you would be able to scroll back through such a text entry box to see what you’ve written or at least move back through the text with the arrow keys. On the iPad this isn’t the case. There are no arrow keys and scrolling scrolls the whole page, not just the text in the text box. So far I haven’t found a way to do this so have resorted to typing text into a separate text editor on the iPad and then copying and pasting it into web forms.

Email

Email is good too. I set up a gmail account ages ago in preparation for getting an iPad and it works really well through the built in mail app on the iPad with the IMAP account keeping everything in sync between my iPad and my iMac. I wouldn’t want to do all of my emailing on it but for some casual keeping up with things it is perfect.

As a man I didn’t read the manual and so far everything has been pretty intuitive to use. I have had a quick look through it now but haven’t found anything that I didn’t find out by myself.

Built in apps

The other built in apps are good to. The calendar looks nice and behaves well, although it’s a shame you don’t have more control over the alerts within it. As far as I can tell these only allow you to set up alerts for certain preset times before or after the event and I have been unable to find a way to set alerts for anything other than these presets. The contacts app is good too, although once again certain things are missing from the desktop app such as the ability to assign contacts to a group. You can view groups, but not move contacts from group to group.

A similar trend extends to the photos app which is a very nice photo browser, but nothing more. It’s a real shame that it doesn’t allow you to manage your photos a bit as well. I wouldn’t what all of the photo editing capabilities of the desktop iPhoto, but some organisational tools would be nice. Just the ability to name and keyword photos would be great along with the ability to create albums and place photos into them. Adding faces and places would be good too but I realise that these may be beyond the capabilities of the iPad. These simple additions would make the iPad really useful for photo management. I have thousands of photos but never have enough time to organise them. I could do such things in the evening on my iMac but don’t like sitting in the office on my own being anti-social. If I could sit in the living room doing it on my iPad that would be perfect, especially as the photos look so nice on the iPad.

Storage and connectibilty

I got the 32GB 3G model iPad. Initially we were going to go with the Wi-Fi only model but went for the 3G model as it has GPS built in too. The extra £100 was quite a bit to pay for GPS but we thought we’d miss it if we didn’t have it and the 3G might come in handy from time to time as well.

I’m glad we did as our phone line went down a few days before Christmas so we had no Internet access over the Christmas break. The fact that we had the 3G version of the iPad meant that I could set up a data plan and at least get some connection to the outside world. We don’t have 3G coverage here so it was only a slow GPRS connection but it was better than nothing. We went with an O2 plan that was £10 for a months connection with a bandwidth allowance of 1GB.

As far as storage goes, then 32GB is only just enough for me. I can’t get my entire music library and photo library on it so have so far not synced music to the iPad. What I’ll do though is go through my photo library and only sync those photos that I want displayed on it when using it as a photo frame. That should free up some space and allow me to sync music to it as well.

Games

I’m not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’d go as far as saying I never use my computer to play games, but the iPad is different. It’s a really good gaming device and is much better suited to ‘playing’ than working. I’ve therefore been playing a few games on it and have been enjoying the Lego Harry Potter game on it over Christmas. Games are inexpensive from the app store so I can see myself playing a few casual games from time to time and using the iPad as an entertainment device.

Work

That brings me onto working on it. Those people, that say they use an iPad as their only computer really mustn’t normally do much on their computers. Granted, I haven’t yet bought any of the productivity apps such as Pages, but that’s because I can’t really see the iPad being too useful for such things. If I have such work to do then I really need the power and ease of use of a desktop computer with proper multi-tasking, dual monitors and a full size keyboard. I also need the features and functionality of the desktop apps, in this respect the iPad just doesn’t cut it.

That said I never had it down as a desktop – or even laptop – replacement. If you think of it more as an overgrown iPod that does much much more than just play music then you won’t be disappointed. Its a device for entertainment, music, videos, web browsing, email and organising your life, but if you want to do serious work on it then it isn’t for you – not version 1 anyway.

Even fairly simple task such as blogging aren’t that great on it. Yes, you can write blog posts on it – I’m writing this one on it, but when it comes to adding images and publishing the posts it isn’t ideal. I like to optimise my images before uploading them so need Photoshop to do that, I’ve already mentioned the problems with entering lots of text into web forms and although there are apps that help with publishing to a weblog it is so much easier on a real computer. I shall save this post as a note in the Evernote app so that it syncs across to my iMac and will then post the blog post from there where I can add links, images etc.

Other apps

That brings me onto the app store and other apps that I’ve been using. So far I’ve been fairly conservative in my app purchases and have been trying out a few paid for apps and lots of fee apps. As mentioned above I’m using Evernote to keep notes and for writing. It’s a simple app that uses online storage for you notes at then syncs with any computer – or iPad – that you log into Evernote from.

GoodReader is another useful app that allows you to read documents such as PDFs, Word docs, iWork docs, Excel docs etc. etc. It allows you to open attachments in emails and view them on your iPad, and then has many other features such as allowing you to annotate and highlight the text. Yo can also transfer files to the iPad from within iTunes and use Good Reader to view them. There’s no real file system on the iPad – not one a user can access anyway- so this take a bit of getting used to and a bit of organisation and forward planning, but GoodReader is a useful tool for viewing files.

Dropbox is useful too. It’s an online storage facility at syncs with your computers and iPad and therefore does give you a ‘proper’ file system. Again, it just takes some organisation to make sure that files that you want are in your Dropbox, but it works well.

Books and Magazines.

This is probably what I’ve been using the iPad most for. It really is a lovely book reader and even better for magazines. Many magazines have their own apps, but I’ve been using Zinio for most of mine. Zinio is like having your own private WHSmiths in your hands. You can browse through loads of magazine titles that are normally seen on the high street shelves and then either buy a single copy or subscribe to the magazine for 6 or 12 months. Prices are cheaper than on the high street and the actual look of the magazines on the iPad is great. No more piles of old magazines lying around the house, just a large library of them on my iPad.

Reference

I also have various apps for reference purposes, things like TV guides, road atlases, astronomical charts etc. Some of these are useful, some interesting and some just a but of fun, but here’s plenty to play with.

GPS

I’m glad we went with the 3G version as the GPS will prove useful. We’ve a had a successful geocaching expedition with the iPad – although it is a little too big for use in the field really. I’m also quite likely to buy all of the OS maps For my iPad through RouteBuddy Atlas as it works out to be a very cost effective way to get OS maps and they’ll look great on the iPad.

Social networking

It goes without saying that the ipad is perfect for social networking, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare etc. etc. You can do them all, either through the browser or through the assortment of dedicated apps for each social networking site.

What’s missing?

The 2nd generation ipad is due out soon, so what do I think is missing from this one? For me, not a huge amount, much of which could be fixed in software upgrades. The ability to sync with my iMac wirelessy would be good just to save me plugging it in, but that is a software thing.

Hardware wise then the next iPad will almost definitely have a forward facing camera. This would be nice, but not that useful to me – I’ve never use the one on my iMac! A USB port would be good so that I could connect things such as my gamin GPS and heart rate monitor to it, but probably the most useful thing would be an SD card slot so that I could upgrade the storage capacity of the iPad.

Overall it is a beautiful device that just works. It is perfect for content consumption and use in the living room and when away from home. It isn’t by any means a computer replacement but it is very capable. I wouldn’t want to call it a toy as it is so much more than that, but for me it is much better suited to personal use and entertainment than serious work or productivity. If I approach it as an upgrade to my aged 5th generation video iPod then it is an amazing device and does everything I need and more. If I mistakenly think of it as a replacement for my computer then I’m a fool. Although, when visiting clients it should impress even if it won’t do anything too useful and it will be good as a PDA device and for showing them websites etc. It is a little pricey, but what do you expect from a 1st generation Apple device.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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