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Apple's iPad Hardware and Software Review - Is It Really Just a Big iPhone?

written by: •edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 5/25/2011

Apple's new tablet device called the iPad is the latest development in portable computing that is going to pave the way for new and better devices, but is it worth getting now?

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    Do the Features of Apple's iPad Resemble a Big iPhone?

    ipad and steve jobs After much speculation and anticipation, Apple finally released their first tablet machine and called it the iPad. While comedians immediately started coming up with jokes about it relating to feminine hygiene products, many tech-loving consumers were left wondering just what the iPad actually does. Is it really just a big iPhone or is it something totally different? Well, it’s a little bit of both.

    Let me start by saying that I am not one of those Apple worshippers who buys everything they put out and worships Steve Jobs. I do own two iPod Nanos and an iPod Touch, but I have not owned a Mac since the early days of the iMac and even then I was pretty disappointed. I do, however, work in the IT field and have done so for more than a decade, so I like to keep up with trends and developments in the world of computing. I am very interested in Apple computers and their other products, but I am looking at the iPad from an economic standpoint as far as what it delivers for the rather high price tag.

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    Hardware Features

    apple-ipad I think Apple designed the iPad to compete with Netbook style PC’s, which are the smaller stripped-down laptops you see selling for $300 on up at various stores. Netbooks are extremely popular right now for the low price and the fact that they are basically a full-fledged computer (all be it a slow one) minus an internal CD/DVD drive. But comparing an iPad to a Netbook is apples and oranges if you’re looking at software and hardware availability.

    The iPad is essentially an oversized cross between an iPhone and an iPod Touch. It doesn’t have any phone hardware in it, although it would be hilarious to watch someone talk on one. It also does not have any kind of camera built into it, so forget about video chat like the Jetsons. I really hope later models will feature a camera device. Available in three storage sizes (16, 32, and 64 GB, for five, six, and seven hundred), and with or without 3G. Adding 3G costs a whopping $130, causing speculation that the 3G model prices are being used to subsidize the base model to $499 and claim a starting price under the $500 mark (Reuters). Unlimited data plans are available from AT&T for about $30/month. Based on the trouble AT&T's network has with the massive traffic demand of existing unlimited iPhone plans (there were audible negative reactions from the audience when AT&T was annouced as the carrier) this might get interesting. The wi-fi only model iPad really is just a big iPod Touch.

    An iPad has no USB ports and no ability to add a printer or other expansion, nor can it do multi-tasking or let you transfer data without using iTunes or hacking software. A Netbook and iPad are both portable, but Apple's product is, as expected, very locked down when compared to the Netbook. You can also forget about upgrading an iPad.

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    Software Features

    ipad gallery The iPad can play all the same apps that the iPhone and iPod Touch can, with the exception of the phone-based stuff. You can play games on it, which is cool, but the graphics don’t always looks so swell since the games were designed for a screen 1/3 of its size. Apple is also putting out an iPad SDK for software developers to start making apps specific to the iPad, which means you can expect bigger, better apps down the line. Your movies will probably need to be re-encoded at a higher rate to look their best on the big new screen, too.

    In the promotional video you can watch on, three of the biggest features they show off are email, internet, and photos. Since a great many people just use their computer for email and the internet, then maybe the simplicity of the iPad is perfect for them. The email program is really sweet and simple to use. The photo management software is very cool, too. The browser is pretty decent although it has no Flash support, which can be a problem when it comes to online gaming. Hopefully, this can be updated later. I’d really love to be able to watch Netflix movies online with the iPad, but it’s not yet available.

    Basically, the average Netbook kicks the iPad’s rear in nearly every regard besides the ooh-ahh-wow factor. Just like the iPhone or iPod Touch, the iPad can only run one app at a time, so you can forget about multitasking.

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    Conclusion - iPad Pros and Cons

    ipad home screen If you are an early adopter of the iPad, you will get to enjoy the usual bragging rights and conversation starters assorted with using this thing in public. You’ll also get to spend a minimum of $499 for something that doesn’t really have many new features as compared to the iPhone or iPod Touch, other than having a much bigger screen. Personally, I think the iPad is a giant step in the right direction for making tablet-style computers, but this thing is too much like its little brother to make me want to spend that kind of money right now. If Apple adds a camera and a USB port, I might seriously consider getting one.


    • It’ll pave the way for better developments in tablet computing
    • Very nice LED screen
    • Awesome photo management software


    • No Flash support
    • No multitasking ability
    • No camera
    • No USB
    • High price compared to Netbooks

    For a crueler assessment of the iPad, check out The iPad Fail.