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I'm showing my age a little when I say that I can remember a time before the internet when computers that could do very little were the size of a room. I am, then, bedazzled by what modern technology can offer, no more so than by the i-Pad 3 which was my first foray into the world of tablets and which I got on release day. It's taken me a while of owning it to work out what its full potential and what I will actually, on a day by day level, do with it. Hopefully my experience will help you decide if you need one - though in all fairness with this product it's more about "want" than "need"; put simply the iPad is the best toy you can ever own. So is the iPad3 in general, and this particular 32GB model worth the Ł479 price tag? I think that it is; it's not quite perfection but I still am very glad we have one.
As most people will know, and what is instantly obvious once you get your charged iPad out of the box, is that it's all about the 9.7" screen which is both for viewing and the main way of interacting with the device being a touch screen. Apple call it a "retina display", meaning that the human eye at normal viewing range shouldn't be able to detect any pixelation. For the technical minded amongst you Apple say that there are 4 times as many pixels as the iPad 2 (1536 x 2048 resolution). As a normal user all I care about is the fact that, yes, the screen is sharp and the colours are indeed impressive. If, for example I am looking at buying an item online it's far better viewed on the iPad than on my computer screen, I can see more detail and the colours are more true to life. When streaming video from a media player the picture is amazing, though I do find sometimes blacks and darker shades can be a bit hard to distinguish it's good enough to use as a secondary TV screen, when for example I'm in the kitchen. I have used an iPad 2 a little and I would say the difference is noticeable even to a casual user.
It's true also that the iPad 3 is a little thicker and heavier than its previous incarnation, to some people that may be an issue, but it's marginal in my opinion and it's not so heavy that it's uncomfortable to hold in one hand and use for extended lengths of time. In my experience the battery life is very good, it will last for a couple of days with casual use (eg using apps in mute), though crank up the volume and watch video and you will need to recharge within a couple of hours at most and not the "up to ten hours" that Apple claim.
Touching the screen itself is key to the interactivity and addictiveness of the iPad. I find the build quality, as perhaps you would expect at this price tag, to be superb. There are only 4 buttons all told, including the home button which is at the bottom of the screen and which is easily accessible and solid to touch. You probably will use the volume button which is on the side of the tablet but find that the power off and lock are pretty redundant, I only use the power off on the rare times in extensive use that the system has fallen over, as it powers down automatically when the cover (purchasable separately) is closed a button is of little use to me. Simplicity is key here and there's no faulting the design of quality of the buttons, though when in landscape mode, eg to watch TV with the iPad on my cover which acts as a stand, the volume button is just the wrong way round somehow. Ignoring such minor issues, even the back of the iPad is a thing of beauty - this does mean that I've fallen prey to treating the iPad as if it needs wrapping in cotton wool - I wouldn't really use it out of the house partly as I would be wary of damage and partly as it's an expensive item, and I suspect many people would feel the same. This may be pertinent to mention if you are wondering whether to buy a wifi or 3G version of this item, which will be something you and the entire family will probably will want to use a lot. This is mainly as the iPad is intuitive, I've found that even a young child can pick it up and instantly interact and I was somewhat surprised when my 69 year old mother (who still watches video cassettes) confessed to wanting one - the appeal is really that wide.
So will I use it?
So what are the best features and having said as I have, that it's a beautiful and well made thing what do I, as I suppose an average user, do with the iPad? Ultimately we mainly use it, as I suggested at the start, to play, for pure fun. It was easy to hook up to the wifi and then there is a world of apps at your fingertips. It's simplicity itself to organise and access the apps as you can fill as many home screens as you want, and also there's a bar at the bottom where you can drag up to 6 regularly used apps that will stay on the bottom of every home screen. Though some of the apps are quite memory hungry we haven't found the 32GB to be insufficient - a quick look at my settings (again easy to understand and use) reveals only a third of capacity used. When I swipe between screens it is very quick and smooth indeed and after a bit of use it's easy to organise apps into folders or delete or close them down (holding your finger on them will mean that a little "x" comes up) - it's so simple a child could, and does in this house, manage it. There are plenty of reviews of apps on this site and most people will have used them in one form or another, all I can say is that the wonder of holding up the iPad to the stars and seeing them labelled or interacting with a child's book or the regular feeling that you have been transported to a place where anything is possible is what the iPad gives me. Using the iPad like this is mainly trouble free though on occasions we do get thrown out of apps or find that the iOS 5.1 (operating system) has frozen, this thankfully is rare and though it's a little boring and not really customisable, in the main I like the interface which is equally pleasing whether you are using the iPad in portrait or landscape mode - it quickly works out which and orientates the image accordingly.
We find that we use some of the other features a lot less than the apps. Though undoubtedly the 5mega pixel camera and 1080Hp HD video is fantastic, in actual fact it can only be described as a pig to use - the iPad is just too big to hold and use as a camera with any degree of comfort, even though you can use the volume button to take the pictures, it's a bit near the lens. I have used it but it's less fun than I thought even though it's simpler to edit pictures than, say in microsoft windows, for some reason the reality doesn't really match up to the idea, though being able to put pictures straight to twitter or facebook is a good feature. I don't really find myself videoing with it very much even though playback is superb and also the speakers on the iPad are pretty good. I haven't used facetime, but that facility is there - unlike Siri (the AI helper on iPhone) which isn't, and may be of interest to some. I can't really criticise the iPad3 as a music player or for playing films, though this is a good way of filling up your memory quite quickly.
As well as apps the other main use of the iPad by us, and I assume most people, would be for surfing the net. For this as I've already mentioned in some ways - notably display - the iPad is better than my PC, however it's not all good news. In practice navigating by touch screen can be quite annoying, for example on if I were on a page on ciao, it's easy to miss a small feature of the web page, such as a page number, or hit an ad when you were aiming for something else. In the browser, Safari, I like the "reader" feature which allows any webpage to be viewed as if it were a book page, but typing is a bit of a nightmare if for example you are using facebook. The pop up keyboard on the screen is fine but somehow just a bit annoying. I have had to think about my use of the predictive text feature (customisable in settings) as it's almost *too* clever, and can sometimes get a bit annoying though I am more than satisfied with the speed of browsing, though I'd rather email from my PC and find features such as copy and paste a bit tricky and you can't, of course, view flash through the default browser. It is, however, fantastic to be able to zoom into an element of a web page with just a pinch of the fingers or to scroll with ease as if the page were a physical item. On balance for sofa surfing the ipad 3 is good, but different.
I'm sure the iPad has much more potential than I have unlocked but over months of ownership we've come to find it pretty well indispensable - the kids are pretty horrified that we are leaving it at home for the Summer holidays, it really does fit seamlessly into our life, though it is a terrible eater of time. I have read that some people have trouble with their iPad feeling hot - for us this has not happened and bar the aforementioned rare crashes we have had no technical issues with it at all. I do find the screen gets mucky very quickly (hooray for brasso inventing a cleaning product specifically for this) and you will need to buy some sort of cover for it in my opinion, however overall the iPad is a master class of great design all round.
So then an excellent item to own - I hesitate whether to award it four stars or five as it's not niggle free. It is, undoubtedly however a superb piece of design that is literally world changing - see one in action with someone who is visually impaired, or watch someone who hasn't used an iPad before be instantly won over and it's hard not to feel like it's sci-fi made real and Steve Job's legacy. The iPad is not quite all things to all people, but it's not far off - and I personally wouldn't now want to be without mine with all the slight criticisms I have of it, it's an amazing thing to own.
I am not, it has to be said, an Apple fan, with their "we're the alternative" schtick when they are most definately "the man", however, I do have an ipod touch and , curse them, it's so easy to use and so damn useful!
Novabug 12.09.2012 20:12
I've said it before, personally I cannot justify spending such money on a toy. But I would like to prance around like Cpt Picard tapping into it. Fine review Az.