Apple iPad review roundup

Early iPad review scores are stellar. Here's what critics like and hate about the Apple tablet.

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    The Apple iPad tablet aims to be part e-reader, part laptop.
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Interested in an iPad? Review scores say you ought to be.

Apple has kept a very tight leash on its new tablet computer, allowing only a handful of reviewers and app developers to get their hands on it before this weekend's release.

Pre-order numbers have been high – analyst sale speculation even higher – but here are the pros and cons from people who've actually held it. If you want the bare-bones info, check out our post about the iPad specs, its lack of Flash video, and the price tag. If you want opinions from iPad reviews, read on.

Recommended: Apple's new iPad brings 4G, better camera, more pixels than an HDTV

The opening shot

"Is the iPad cheap? No. Is it flawless? Not at all," begins PC Mag. "Omissions including support for multitasking, a built-in camera for video chats, and Flash support in Safari leave room for improvement, but otherwise, the Apple iPad is a very convincing debut. And it will undoubtedly be a driving force in shaping the emerging tablet landscape." The website gave Apple's iPad a 4.5-out-of-5 "very good" review.

The basics

"Apple rarely skimps on design and the iPad is no exception," says CNET in its pre-review. "The screen is made of the same oleophobic-coated glass as the iPhone 3GS', making it relatively easy to wipe away fingerprints. Behind the glass is an LED-backlit, 9.7-inch capacitive touch screen that uses IPS (in-plane switching) technology for above-average viewing angles.... For all its charms, however, the iPad is not as portable as we'd like. Part of the problem is psychological. Logically, you know the iPad's dimensions are no less portable than a book. But when a book costs between $500 and $800 and is made of glass, you treat it differently. Without being tucked away in a messenger bag or protective case, walking outside with an iPad in your hand feels like slapping the laws of gravity in the face."

The battery

"Apple asserts that the iPad runs 10 hours on a charge of its nonremovable battery — but we all know you can’t trust the manufacturer," explains David Pogue of the NYTimes. "And sure enough, in my own test, the iPad played movies continuously from 7:30 a.m. to 7:53 p.m. — more than 12 hours. That’s four times as long as a typical laptop or portable DVD player."

The laptop killer?

"I also was impressed with the overall speed of the iPad," praises Walt Mossberg for the Wall Street Journal. "Apple’s custom processor makes it wicked fast. Screens appear almost instantly, and the Wi-Fi in my home tested as fast as it does on a laptop. I found email easy and productive to use, and had no trouble typing accurately and quickly on the iPad’s wide on-screen keyboard. In fact, I found the iPad virtual keyboard more comfortable and accurate to use than the cramped keyboards and touchpads on many netbooks, though some fast touch typists might disagree. Apple’s $39 iPad case, which bends to set up a nice angle for typing, helps. The Web browser also works beautifully, and takes advantage of the big screen to show full pages and cut down on scrolling."

The opportunity

"Maybe the most exciting thing about iPad is the apps that aren't here yet," writes Xeni Jardin in her rather gushing iPad review for Boing Boing. "The book-film-game hybrid someone will bust out in a year, redefining the experience of each, and suggesting some new nouns and verbs in the process. Or an augmented reality lens from NASA that lets you hold the thing up to the sky and pinpoint where the ISS is, next to what constellation, read the names and see the faces of the crew members, check how those fuel cells are holding up. I like it a lot. But it's the things I never knew it made possible — to be revealed or not in the coming months — that will determine whether I love it."

The final word

Since Mr. Pogue had the most reserved review of the bunch, we'll give him the final word: "Should I get the iPad or not? Well, I thought I made it clear that it depends on your mindset. It’s a brilliant machine, a category-creator, a joy to use. I think it will be a big hit. The apps coming out for it represent some of the most exciting software ideas in a long time. If you need a laptop, though, get a laptop."

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For more on the iPad, including reports on a Netflix app and the possibility of an iPad camera, check out the Monitor's extensive iPad coverage page.

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