The iPad 1: Review and FAQs
Copyright © 2009-2011 by Zack Smith .
All rights reserved.
IntroductionThe first generation Apple iPad is a wonder of technology. It's not perfect but it's an excellent FIRST generation attempt at a usable tablet computing device. I bought the 16GB 3G version of the iPad for US$630, and I eventually also bought the Apple iPad case and their wireless Bluetooth keyboard.
This model is MC349LL/A, and it has the following features:
Appearance and build qualityAs everyone knows, Apple is an industrial design leader. The iPad is very sleek and simple. It's made of aluminum and the screen is covered in glass. The aluminum unibody makes for a very firm device. It does not bend. When picked up, it does not squeak as some all-plastic equipment does.
WeightThe iPad is light enough to be carried around without feeling very burdened, but it's definitely not feather-light.
The iPad with the Apple case on it weighs 1 pound, 14.75 ounces. In other words, about 2 pounds.
KeyboardsThe on-screen keyboards are fine for people who still hunt-and-peck, but for touch-typists like myself, the external option eventually becomes a necessity.
I opted for the standard Apple US $70 wireless keyboard, which I can report is very good quality. (Note, I bought one at Best Buy, noticed some keys were not straight, and returned it for a replacement.)
Because the wireless keyboard is Bluetooth, I can also use it with my Macbook Pro.
CasesThere are many iPad cases on the market but few are well liked. I examined three options in detail.
Silicone cases with stick-on screen protectorThis $8 option is useless because it hinges on whether you can get the screen protector on just right without any bubbles and without it peeling away from the edges of the screen. I assure you, you cannot. Even tiny bit of dust causes a bubble to appear and any affordable screen protector will always pull away from the edges.
The InCase notebook caseSold at the Apple store for US $60, this case is considerably more heavy than the official Apple case -- probably 3 times as heavy. It also doesn't seem to permit standing the iPad in portrait orientation at an angle. For these reasons I decided to skip it.
The official Apple notebook caseI bought this case for US $40. It permits propping up the iPad in both portrait and landscape orientations. It's quite lightweight. At the Apple store the salesman warned me however that whereas the InCase case offers some protection against drops, the Apple case does not.
StandsWhile the Apple iPad case permits keeping the iPad propped up, I built a custom stand for my iPad based on my previous book stand design. You can view it here: Firmitas.org
GPSThe 3G versions of the iPad are believed to have a real GPS chip in them, as opposed to something the non-3G iPads, which probably do not and therefore have to infer location by other means than GPS.
To test the iPad 3G's GPS feature, I took my 3G iPad for a drive while running the Maps app. The location was indeed updated as I drove along, so I consider the GPS claim confirmed.
But do note, I don't have 3G service, so Maps had to use what map data that it had on hand i.e. whatever I had looked at before going on the drive while playing with Maps using Wifi. This was a low-resolution image of a map. So, if you don't have 3G service I would recommend using Maps before you go on your trip to trace the path, zoomed in, to ensure that Maps has the maps on hand when you need them.
Screen qualityI have no complaints about the LED-backlit display. It's bright, clear, crisp, and colorful. The pixel density (pixels-per-inch) is perfect for watching short videos. Longer ones would certainly review a larger display.
Video playbackMany videos play fine, however if you attempt to re-encode videos using a converter into MP4 format, you may often find that higher resolution videos are rejected by iTunes during the sync process.
Video conversionIn order to convert FLV files from the Web to MP4, use FFMPEG from the Terminal on your Mac. You need to use the "copy" codecs, like so:
PerformanceThere are two basic methods for determining performance:
Using the iPad as a laptop replacement?If (and only if) you combine the iPad with an external keyboard, I believe it could be used as a laptop replacement, provided that
Frequently asked questions
Battery lifeI keep my iPad plugged into my laptop most of the time, but when I've disconnected it I've found that battery life is very good, so long as I don't play YouTube videos continuously. Video playback drains the battery as much as on any Apple laptop. That said, the battery life is much better than with any non-Apple laptop.
Areas for improvementThe first generation product of any device will always have areas where it could improve.