Apple has earned a reputation as the maker of some of the most elegant and user-friendly computers, music players and smartphones in the business. Yet the Apple iPad may be the most impressive piece of Apple hardware we’ve handled. Updated May 5 2010.

See also: New iPad review. (March 2012)

See also: Apple iPad 2 review

It’s bigger than an iPhone, of course, but much lighter than a laptop. The front is almost entirely glass, save for a thin aluminium frame. The back is a gently curved plate of anodised aluminium.

The iPad is designed to be held, and it couldn’t feel more solid. This is not a delicate piece of technology to be coddled, but a semi-rugged slate for toting wherever you go.

The 9.7in glass touchscreen packs in 1024x768 pixels, resulting in the 4:3 aspect found on older TVs, as opposed to the predominant 16:9 ratio of today. At 132 pixels per inch (ppi), it’s down on the 163ppi of the iPhone. A 19mm bezel may look superfluous, but it’s actually essential for your thumbs when holding the iPad, making a solid grip that doesn’t trigger commands to the sensitive capacitive touchscreen.

This screen, based on superlative in-plane switching (IPS) technology, is bright and vibrantly colourful, with a wide viewing angle. It collects fingerprints but it’s got the same oil-repellant coating as the iPhone 3GS; one quick wipe and they’re gone.

The screen space means you can put lots of fingers (and, indeed, both hands) on the iPad, to type or interact with onscreen objects. People who disparage the iPad as merely a hyper-thyroidal iPhone are failing to see the bigger picture.

For full pricing, and details of how to buy an Apple iPad see our Apple iPad FAQs.

Apple iPad

Apple iPad: Specs and speeds

The iPad is available with either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of flash storage. In due course we’ll see models of the same capacity with built-in 3G in addition to 802.11n Wi-Fi.
The processor inside the iPad is proudly billed as a ‘1GHz Apple A4 custom-designed system-on-a-chip’, and appears to be based on a single-core ARM Cortex-A8. Graphics may be courtesy of the same PowerVR SGX 535 used in the iPhone 3GS.

Whichever chip is in there, the Apple iPad flies. It was fast at almost everything we threw at it: games played smoothly with gorgeous graphics, and there’s no lag when panning and zooming around large images. Any touch-based device stands or falls on how smoothly things on the screen can react to the movement of your fingers. The iPad breezes that test masterfully.

We tried the SunSpider JavaScript test on iPad’s Safari browser. In September we ran this test on every iPhone OS device made – the fastest (iPhone 3GS) took 15.5 secs, while the original iPhone took 36 secs. The iPad completed it in 10.4 secs.

The battery is a 24.8Wh lithium-polymer pack, over five times the size of the iPhone 3GS’s unit. While Apple boasts a battery life of 10hrs, early reports suggest that real-world figures may be even longer. Charge overnight and you’re set for the day.

In short: the Apple iPad is fast and the battery lasts.

NEXT: typing on the Apple iPad >>

Apple iPad focus

Apple has earned a reputation as the maker of some of the most elegant and user-friendly computers, music players and smartphones in the business. Yet the Apple iPad may be the most impressive piece of Apple hardware we’ve handled. Updated May 5 2010.

Apple iPad: Typing on the Apple iPad

As with the iPhone, you use a touch-triggered virtual keyboard to enter text in emails and documents. The difference is that this keyboard can be nearly as big as a real one.

Typing is better than we expected, but this setup is no substitute for a real keyboard. Apple has admitted as much by offering a keyboard dock as an accessory.

In landscape mode it’s just below the size of a normal keyboard; after some practice and with fingers poised above the keys, we were able to type at a reasonable pace. But true touch-typing – all digits resting on the centre row – is a multitouch no-no, prevented in any case by the absence of anything real for your fingertips to sense.

There’s no room to include the apostrophe or quotation marks on the keyboard – those symbols, along with numbers, are a level down and another speed bump to our typing.

We tested Apple’s keyboard dock and several Bluetooth keyboards, and they all worked well. We suspect more people will prefer the wireless keyboard. You’ll just need something to prop up the iPad while you type.

Apple iPad keyboard

Apple iPad: The iPad as a reading device

One of the most talked-about aspects of the iPad is its potential as an e-book reader. It’s heavier than the Amazon Kindle (think hardback versus paperback), and its LED-backlit display is transmissive of light rather than reflective – unlike the Kindle, it can be read in the dark.

One of the iPad’s strengths is its ability to display e-books from several sources. Apple’s iBooks app is the focus, of course, and it’s attractive and functional. iBooks will even display DRM-free ePub files you can make yourself, or find on the net. And Kindle for iPad gives you access to Amazon’s e-book library. Other readers will undoubtedly follow.

Some newspapers and magazines are building their own apps. And the iPad’s larger colour screen can replicate the magazine and comic-book experience in a way that even the largest Kindle DX cannot.

Apple iPad: The iPad as a web-browsing device

Perhaps the most important app is the web browser, Safari. This version is a hybrid of the Mac and iPhone iterations. From the iPhone, Safari inherits the easy tap-to-zoom interface and resolution-independent scaling that makes pages so readable. But the browser benefits from the iPad’s extra screen space, adding Mac-style interface niceties such as toolbar bookmarks.

There’s something different and pleasing about surfing the web on the iPad; tapping links is simply more satisfying than clicking with a mouse. Strangely unavailable, though, is the three-finger reverse swipe action that takes you back one page so effortlessly on multitouch-trackpad MacBooks.

And Adobe’s Flash remains absent. Apple forsook Flash on the iPhone three years ago and hasn’t looked back. In fact, the popularity of the iPhone has sparked debate about the necessity of Adobe’s inefficient (and serially insecure) web plug-in. Many major sites are phasing out Flash, with open-standard HTML5 rising as an alternative.

But if viewing Flash is critical for you – we’re thinking mainly Flash games for kids and Facebook users – the iPad won’t satisfy.

Apple iPad

NEXT: the iPad as a multimedia player >>

Apple iPad focus

Apple has earned a reputation as the maker of some of the most elegant and user-friendly computers, music players and smartphones in the business. Yet the Apple iPad may be the most impressive piece of Apple hardware we’ve handled. Updated May 5 2010.

Apple iPad: The iPad as a multimedia player

The iPad is a capable entertainment device. Out of the box you get the iPod app for music playback; a Videos app for films, TV and video podcasts; a self-explanatory YouTube app; and an iTunes app to purchase and download content right on your iPad.

The iPod app is a hybrid of the iPhone’s app and full-blown iTunes for Windows or Mac. It’s got the familiar controls at the top and a source list on the left. Tab buttons let you sort your music library, and you can edit playlists and create new ones with custom names – both firsts for an iPhone OS device.

When you play music, the interface vanishes and is replaced by full-screen album art. We’d rather have the choice to stay in the iPod interface, however.

Also missing is the ability to connect to shared iTunes libraries. Wouldn’t the iPad make a wonderful, portable, self-contained version of the Apple TV? Perhaps Apple restricted this so that you wouldn’t be confronted by the shared libraries of strangers when surfing at your local cafe…

In Videos, films and TV programmes are identified only by their art; if this is obscure, you’ll have to tap to discover its name. Displaying text would be nice, at least as an option – as would a simple alphabetical list.

Once you’ve tapped into a film or series, the information screen is compelling. TV series, in particular, offer a mountain of data: episode titles, lengthy synopses and so on.

With modern film and TV presented in 16:9 or wider aspect ratios, the iPad’s 4:3 screen means a lot of video appears inside large letterbox bars. Double-tapping the screen zooms you in, losing the sides of the image. It’s a nice compromise, but we’d like a further option: a semi-crop that expands the image slightly without losing quite so much.

The high quality of the iPad’s display means that films look stunning, and the loud, clear speaker means you can enjoy them without headphones – unless you’re commuting, of course.

Apple iPad

Apple iPad: The iPad as a laptop alternative

Apple proposed that iPad users would be able to create as well as consume content, by announcing iPad versions of its iWork for Mac applications: Pages (word processor), Keynote (presentations) and Numbers (spreadsheets). Throw in the ability to type on an external keyboard, and you can see that Apple has business productivity in mind.

The iPad won’t replace a laptop anytime soon, but let’s face it: there are plenty of tasks we use laptops for (checking email, surfing the web, browsing photos) that don’t tap their full power. These are netbook tasks, and the iPad is perfect for them.

The iWork apps may still be a little rough around the edges, but they’re truly groundbreaking. We were amazed by the functionality crammed into each one.

Apple iPad

Apple iPad: Other apps

The iPad’s Calendar app may be even better than Apple’s iCal application in Mac OS X. It feels more responsive, looks better and provides more flexible views. It’s a shame you can’t flick through the calendar, though.Contacts has a nice frame reminiscent of a real address book, while Notes is an overgrown version of the iPhone app, complete with lined yellow paper and Marker Felt font.

The Maps app will be familiar to anyone who’s used the iPhone, but the sheer size of the screen makes it more compelling. Photos, meanwhile, is a beautifully designed app, with your pictures displayed in stacks of images that you can pinch open and closed with your fingers. The iPad makes a fantastic photo album or digital photo frame, thanks to that gorgeous, colour-accurate screen.

You can’t yet edit images, however. Dock adaptors will encourage you to import photos and videos from your camera, and third-party apps will inevitably rise to the challenge of editing photos on the iPad.

It’s worth noting that the iTunes App Store and a thriving community of developers will accelerate the functionality of this device. And existing iPhone apps work on the iPad, taking just the centre of the iPad screen with the option of filling the screen by dabbing a x2 button in the corner.

In the next few months, the iPad platform will continue to evolve, as developers and users start to understand just how the iPad works and where it fits into users’ lives.

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Apple iPad focus


NEXT: our first look at the Apple iPad, by Melissa J Perenson >>

We had the opportunity to spend some hands-on time with the long-awaited Apple iPad tablet after the much-hyped press event. Here is our first review of the Apple iPad.

Unfortunately, we were underwhelmed: we can see a lot of really useful applications for the Apple iPad, but the reality is that it looks and behaves like an Apple iPhone 3GS (or iPod touch) on steroids. And that's not exactly a good thing.

Apple iPad Hardware: Awkward to handle

While the Apple iPad is super slim at only a half-inch (13mm) thick, we had some difficulty handling it. At around 680g, it is too heavy to hold in one hand, which is troublesome if you plan on using it as an e-book reader.

Other e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle 2 or the COOL-ER e-reader, are much lighter in hand than the Apple iPad, and therefore make for a much more comfortable user experience. Using two hands is much more comfortable, but if you're reading a long novel, that could get quite tiresome.

Apple iPad

Compared side-by-side, the Apple iPad's 9.7-inch 1024-by-768-pixel LED-backlit display appeared dimmer than our iPhone 3G's (auto-brightness disabled, brightness set to maximum). Whites, in particular, looked much brighter on my iPhone. Apple had no comment, however, when we inquired about the difference. Although, one Apple spokesperson pointed out that a phone - which we expect to use outdoors as easily as indoors - might need to be brighter.

Apple iPad OS: A giant iPhone interface

One of the biggest rumours leading up to the event was that iPhone OS 4.0 would be released in conjunction with the Apple iPad. Instead, the iPad is running iPhone OS 3.2 (which has not been released for actual iPhones yet).

The lack of a fresh, new interface for the iPad is disappointing. There might be some incremental differences between versions 3.1 and 3.2, but to me on the surface, the iPad's interface looked exactly like a blown-up version of our iPhone 3GS'. And in our opinion, the Apple iPhone OS doesn't translate very well from the much smaller iPhone 3G to the iPad.

It's not so much about the touch aspect of the interface; in fact, navigating by touch is a huge benefit on this roomy screen, superior to, say, the joystick-based navigation of the comparably sized, non-touch Amazon Kindle DX screen. But images, icons, and text aren't as crisp as expected on the higher-resolution Apple iPad. We found it much like watching standard definition video on an HDTV; Apple doesn't seem to have optimised the operating system's visuals for the iPad's display.

Apple iPad interface

Because of the larger display, pretty much all of the native applications we're used to viewing on the iPhone look and function better on the Apple iPad. Video playback, in particular, is stunning on the iPad, but we're disappointed by the lack of Flash support (though that exclusion wasn't exactly surprising, it remains a grievous omission).

As a photo viewer, the Apple iPad shines. Photos looked superb on the iPad's display, and it uses all of the familiar multitouch gestures (flick, pinch to zoom) found on the iPhone's photo app. The iPad's photo application is much better than the iPhone's, too, with on-the-fly slideshow creation (complete with transitions) and different ways of viewing the images (including sorting by places, people, events, and a mini-thumbnail bar at the bottom of the screen to jump quickly to other photos in the album).

Unfortunately, the sorting capabilities will only work if you're using iPhoto - which means that those of who use any number of alternative imaging applications for the PC or the Mac (the majority of potential Apple iPad users) are left in the dark with regard to those features.

We had the opportunity to spend some hands-on time with the long-awaited Apple iPad tablet after the much-hyped press event. Here is our first review of the Apple iPad.

Apple iPad: Touch keyboard disappoints

Like the rest of the OS, the Apple iPad's touch keyboard is a larger version of the iPhone's. But unlike on the iPhone, the keyboard has no letter magnification when you press a key, and we found we missed this visual cue immensely. And unsurprisingly, it lacks haptic feedback (part of Android phones).

You get no physical or visual feedback when you press a key and that's frustrating if you're trying to pound out a long email. The experience, oddly, is akin to typing on the native Google Android OS' touch keyboard.

Apple iPad keyboard

Using the keyboard in vertical mode, our small hands had difficulty maneuvering around the keyboard - our thumbs couldn't stretch across the whole Apple iPad device to reach the keys. Horizontal mode felt much more natural, but as a touch-typist, we still made more errors than we would with a physical keyboard.

Apple will be offering a keyboard dock accessory, which gives you an actual physical keyboard to work with. You can also place it in the iPad Case, which allows you to angle it slightly. This feels much more comfortable than just laying the tablet flat and typing. Both of these items are sold separately, though.

iPhone apps don't fly on Apple iPad

One of the big concerns among developers and users before the iPad's announcement was whether iPhone apps would work on the device. Thankfully, they do, but the experience isn't exactly ideal. You can either view an iPhone app as a small window or doubled to fill the display. We demoed the Assassin's Creed and Oregon Trail apps on the Apple iPad, and were put off by the obvious pixelation. Text in Facebook looked fuzzy, too.

Clearly, this an interim fix until actual apps are developed for the iPad. And we expect many app makers will create versions optimised for iPad. We see a lot of gaming potential for the iPad, but cool 3D graphics game like Assassins Creed just doesn't work on the iPad.

Luckily, the Apple iPad isn't shipping for another 60 days, so hopefully more content will be developed by then. And who knows? Some of the issues we've noticed on this demo unit may be fixed by then.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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Apple iPad: Specs

  • 9.7in 4:3 touchscreen
  • 1GHz Apple A4 processor/graphics/IO
  • 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of flash solid state storage
  • 802.11n WI-Fi internet, and Bluetooth 2.1. It has an accelerometer and compass, speaker, microphone and 30-pin connector
  • Apple iPhone OS 3.2
  • 13mm thick
  • 680g
  • 9.7in 4:3 touchscreen
  • 1GHz Apple A4 processor/graphics/IO
  • 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of flash solid state storage
  • 802.11n WI-Fi internet, and Bluetooth 2.1. It has an accelerometer and compass, speaker, microphone and 30-pin connector
  • Apple iPhone OS 3.2
  • 13mm thick
  • 680g


This is an impressive debut for an ambitious new product direction for Apple. The iPad is a wholly new product, yet one that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used an iPhone or iPod touch. It’s a futuristic gadget the likes of which we’ve never seen before, yet also a ‘version one’ that may soon be viewed with the same nostalgic amusement we have for the chunky original iPod. Yet today’s iPad is already, undeniably and enthusiastically a great product. It’s fantastic inside and out, blending cutting-edge hardware and innovative software into a single, unified whole. If you love the latest whizzy gadget, you’ll find nothing whizzier. If you want a web-connected device that fits in the space between phone and PC, you’ll find the iPad a joy. Devices like this change the way we view technology, and holding the iPad feels like you’re holding the future.