We love
Revolutionary in every sense, computing has changed for ever
We hate
Disappointing speaker, and annoying lack of true computer-class files
Launch Price

iPad UK

The iPad is, for all its hype, a very special device. Whether you’re an Apple fanboy, or a Mac-averse Windows stalwart there’s no denying this is the sort of gadget that makes tech-heads remember why they care so much about circuitry, software and specs. But the curious thing is, the iPad doesn’t exude technical prowess. It doesn’t scream about the technology inside, and it certainly isn’t a power-monger’s plaything. Instead, Apple has concentrated on the experience of using its minimalist slate.

The iPad is understated, simplistic, even feeling like a toy in many ways. So is this the tablet computer that’ll herald the revolution we’ve all been waiting for, or a poser’s dream machine, a glorified iPod touch with gigantism? Read our iPad UK review, and we’ll lay it on the line.

Read the rest of our iPad UK review:
iPad UK review: Design and build
iPad UK review: Kindle vs iBooks
iPad UK review: iPad OS

iPad review: One month on

Empty your mind. Forget your preconceptions. Stop imagining, stop expecting and stop predicting. You have never used anything like this in your life. The iPad sets a new tone for mobile computing, and it’s… well, it’s odd.

After spending our entire adult lives hauling laptops and hunching over mobile phones, the iPad is a breath of fresh air, but also a strangely unsettling one.

Nay-sayers decrying the iPad as an inflated iPhone or iPod touch are, strictly speaking, correct; at least from an experiential point of view. Apple’s interface is so familiar, even the inflated size of its iPad icons is jarring at first. The iPad feels like a plaything, a toy, a bit of fun. But it’s not, this really is a true portable computer.

It’s that odd juxtaposition of fun and function that makes the iPad such an oddity. Apple’s slab really does feel like it has travelled back from a not-too-distant future. It’s reassuringly weighty, and feels astoundingly solid, but it’s also speedy, sprightly and packed with grin-inducing touches.

At first it’s tempting to be gentle with the iPad, to mollycoddle and cradle it. But this is a tablet built to last, to be thrown around, passed to friends and handed to even the clumsiest child without worry it’ll be broken.

The more you use it, the clearer it’ll also become that the iPad is the result, not of a minimalist feature cull, but of careful and considered construction. That narrow chamfer around its bezel makes the edge of the iPad melt away. Similarly, its gently curving rear makes the tablet feel less than half its actual thickness.

The black border around the screen too, while wider than we’d expected, is important: a valuable, and natural, resting place for fingers and thumbs, giving you space to hold the iPad without interfering with its sensitive touchscreen.

The iPad’s aesthetics are, to an extent, secondary to its purpose. This is a computer to be used – thrown into a daybag and touted around town. It’s a workhorse, and a true day-long companion. It just happens to look good enough to stop traffic.

Dive into the iPad, and you’ll be wowed by Apple’s touchscreen. If Apple set a new standard with the iPhone’s display, the iPad is here to smash right through it.

Bright and bursting with colour, using the iPad is a transfixing experience. Browsing webpages in portrait feels natural and engrossing, and if you’re an avid web-reader, prepare to lose hours browsing the web on an iPad. We’re not ashamed to say it’s extended several bathroom visits in its short stay at Electricpig towers, and will genuinely make you consume more of the web you love. That’s no bad thing, in our opinion.

Apple design boss Jonny Ive hasn’t achieved a perfect design though, the iPad has plenty of failings. It’s speaker placement is astonishingly bad, and the sound quality is not much better. Frequently blocked by your hands when held in landscape, Apple seems to have created a curse, as well as a blessing, by allowing the iPad to be held any way you like.

Crank up the volume too, and you’ll be disappointed. Almost all heavy basslines lead to distortion, while trebles sound weak and lustreless. Turn down the volume to counter the problem, and you’ll barely be able to hear the iPad’s feeble squeaks.

There are no headphones included with the iPad either, so it’s impossible to claim the speaker is a backup solution to listening in private. And the bad news doesn’t stop there.

The iPad’s accelerometer is similarly disappointing. Sure, it’s quick to react when you need it, but it’s also twitchier than a turkey at Christmas when you don’t.

Set the iPad down flat on a table, and you’ll be lucky if it hasn’t swivelled its screen before you’ve let go. That’s the reason for Apple including a lock switch on the iPad’s side, disabling screen rotation completely.

Don’t be mislead, that switch is a valuable addition, and works well while scouring the web, watching video or reading eBooks in anything but an stiff upright position. Take the iPad to bed, lounge with it on the sofa, or even slump sideways in your chair and it’ll be the first thing you reach for.

Those two annoyances, however, are minor niggles. Our few reservations fade away almost entirely when engrossed in Apple’s gorgeous new software, humming away inside the iPad like a caged tiger.

It’s clear this tablet has vast reserves of untapped potential, and out of the box it’s a little frustrating that Cupertino’s included iPad apps are so boring.

Sure, Google Maps looks astonishing on the iPad’s 9.7 inch screen, with Street View almost feeling like a portal to another world. Likewise, its Calendar, Notes and Contacts apps all stand up as solid standard features, but they’re not going to knock your socks into a cocked hat.

What will force an uncontrollable grin onto your mush is Safari and Mail. Apple hasn’t so much redesigned these two iPhone stalwarts, as given them room to breathe on the iPad. Diving through pages and rifling through e-mail on the iPad really comes close to a desktop-class experience.

Mail in particular makes excellent use of its expanded screen-space, tilting sideways in landscape mode, and offering up a side-by-side view of your mailboxes and messages. It’s fast, efficient, and like everything on the iPad: fun.

We’d happily use the iPad as a day-to-day e-mail machine, in place of our laptops, with the single exception of sending e-mail attachments. And that’s because of one final fault with the iPad. It’s file system, or should that be it’s lack of a file system.

Just like the iPhone, the iPad forces you to save files into pre-defined places. Photos and images live in the iPad’s photo library, for example. Sounds are kept in the iPod app, and videos in a new Video app, separate from the iPod. But documents and other files…. well, they’re homeless. Unable to be saved and, therefore, unable to be sent onwards as e-mail attachments.

What’s more, even if you’d like to e-mail one of the few files the iPad can successfully house, it’s an arduous task. Photos can only be attached to messages from within the Photos app, and if you’ve used a third party app to create something fresh, say a sketch or a spreadsheet, you’ll have to tap into it and hope there’s a built-in e-mail function.

Forget doing all your e-mailing from within the Mail app itself, the iPad will make you skip around collecting attachments first.

Likewise, file support within Safari is almost non-existant. Tap and hold an image and you’ll be able to save it to your Photo Library, but that’s where the iPad’s talents end. Found a site offering a free MP3? You can play it, but saving it’s out of the question. Want to download that PDF for later reading? Forget it.

Broadly, however, Apple has succeeded. Steve Jobs and Jonny Ive’s vision has triumphed over those who doubted the iPad would be more than a jumped up iPod touch. Instead, the iPad has proved itself to be a true portable companion, changing the way we use the web, ushering in a new generation of apps, and altering the way we think about entertainment on the move. Best of all, Apple has done all this with a sense of sheer joy, child-like wonderment and genuine excitement. The hype is justified. The iPad is amazing.

Read the rest of our iPad UK review:
iPad UK review: Design and build
iPad UK review: Kindle vs iBooks
iPad UK review: iPad OS

iPad review: One month on

  • Tim

    It’s rubbish, It runs iPhone O/S which is extremly poor. If it had Mac O/S then I would be sold (Mac’s are the business), but iPhones are junk and so is this.

  • zed

    i don’t get it. it’s a cmputer that you cannot save your own files on? ££££’s to have a decent email? baws to it.

  • Lorna

    I am very sorry guys, but your write-up felt like a sales pitch to me – as if you had to really justify the device to cover up disappointment.
    Sigh. I still can’t believe the amount of exposure and interest this device is having, when it really doesn’t seem that amazing to me, sorry. I am all for the tablet idea, but not when it seems like a browsing device, and not the product we were hoping for that included all the productivity of a laptop/desktop…
    But hey, this is the first of it’s true kind – bring on the competitors!

    • http://www.electricpig.co.uk Ben Sillis

      I don’t think there’s a simple buy/don’t buy answer for the iPad for every single person: different strokes. I doubt I’ll be buying one on launch, but as you say – bring on the innovation!

  • Fugasmic

    I’m sorry guys but seriously c’mon. There is NOTHING new about this piece of rubbish and theres certaining nothing innovative either in the software OR the hardware. Quite frankly your review has made me curious as to whether there is a little glue sniffing going on at your location.

    • http://www.electricpig.co.uk Ben Sillis

      Now now – have you tried the thing yourself yet? From my time with the iPad, I’m impressed: Apple’s achieved something phenomenal in making a tablet with fluid software and a pleasant screen. I’ve honestly never used a tablet of any size or OS which has done that before – I can honestly get close to touch typing speeds on the iPad in landscape mode, which is something you could never dream of on anything Archos has ever made. For me, the iPad is still not worth it: the lack of file structure for £499 (minimum) seems a bit daft. But unlike previous tablets, it is worth thinking about.

  • drewandy

    Cheers for the review guys,
    Apple always seems to miss getting the common basic features on their hardware, front cam, gps, etc,
    same story with the early iphone , lack of mms etc.

    • http://www.electricpig.co.uk Ben Sillis

      Sometimes I get Apple’s logic. I get that it held off on multi-tasking to ensure stability and prevent technophobes opening too many apps unwittingly and draining the battery. I even get the lack of file structure in iPhone OS to a point – Apple wants to keep things simple, and most people will never notice it. But then it leaves out obvious UI decisions that could only bring benefits to all iPhone (and iPad users). Like why is the lock screen so…empty? And how has it taken until 2010 to get a merged mailbox up in this place? Surely the people who made such a finger friendly OS and browser spotted these things? But no.

  • http://www.scargill.net Peter Scargill

    The iPAd is out there – launched today. Think carefully before landing yourself with a 3G contract and with whom! Iphones for example are not the most sensitive phones in the world and on Orange you rarely get a decent enough signal to do anything serious on the web. You might be better off waiting for reviews on the subject. For me the WIFI version is good enough and I can get WIFI access at home, in the office, in hotels and by sharing it on a mobile phones.

    Mine iPad was shipped over from the States when they launched over there so I’m one of the more experienced UK users. It’s a great device, not without issues.

    More on this subject here.


  • Dave

    Got one yesterday. I agree it is just waste of money. I cannot connect it with my wifi router.

  • Les

    To be honest, the iPad is a waste of money unless you really need the few things it does do well. Sure, the touch-screen is brilliant, though there must be other touch-screen devices around.

    My annoyance with it is that it was bought for me as a present by someone who knows nothing about computers etc.. So they bought the hype they'd seen on the TV and landed me with a huge problem: it won't do anything I want to do, and only does the things I actively don't want.

    Download music? I am a double hearing-aid wearer – why would I want to make things worse?

    Load up files to use in meetings, and save reams of printed paper? No, sorry, Apple doesn't want the iPad to do that, so it won't.

    Buy apps for your hobbies? Nothing USEFUL for the angler or the radio amateur. Nor for the model engineer.

    It would die if I took it out in the rain, its too heavy and too fragile to put in the rucsac as a means of recording data, and its much too small to properly watch a film on.

    It is very awkward to grip if you try to hold it – the “stylish” shape means its constantly trying to slide out of your hand – and drop on the floor…

    If you are thinking about it, think hard before parting with your cash. If you're still convinced you want one, then buy mine!

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