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iPad Editorial: Does it Fall Short?

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Posted by Patrick, 3 Comments

The hype leading up to Steve Jobs’ unveiling of the iPad led us to believe the days of the netbook, and even the notebook, might be coming to an end. This was supposed to be the dawn of the tablet PC, the inevitable blending of the sleek, pocket-sized smartphones of today with the bulkier, yet well-endowed laptop computer. Enter the iPad, formerly referred to as the iSlate, or the iTablet. Does the iPad live up to the hype, or is it headed down the same lonely road as the Apple TV? Sure, it looks great and benefits from the incredible user interface of the iPhone OS, but even more surprising are the things it doesn’t have.

iPad Specs: Does it Fall Short?

Steve Jobs is a great salesman. He can pitch a never-before-seen product to a crowd that doesn’t even know they want it, and magically that product ends up becoming a ubiquitous part of our lives. The iPod forever transformed the way we consume music and video, and the iPhone is transforming the way we make phone calls as we speak. The iPod was the next logical upgrade from the Walkman and the CD player, and the iPhone was the genius next-gen iteration of the clunky old cell phone. Both of those products made what we already had better, easier, and more enjoyable. Apple is known for taking what is, and transforming it to the way it should be. The iPad doesn’t quite fit that mold, though.

Tablet PCs are far from mainstream, and the existing tablet PC market competes with the well-entrenched laptop and netbook markets. To the average consumer, a modern laptop can do everything a modern desktop can do, except for heavier gaming and HD video. However, people got fed up with short battery life and having to lug around a heavy and inconveniently-sized machine. Enter the netbook. The netbook can have battery life exceeding 10 hours, and is much smaller and lighter than its laptop cousins. It can do most normal tasks with ease, such as web-browsing, email, productivity via MS Office, and basic video like YouTube. Even then, it still lacked the the few things that made desktops better than everything: gaming capability, and HD video.

The great challenge, it seems, is to try and pack the power of the desktop computer into the smallest, most portable device possible. We want capability with portability. Make that ultra-portability. It’s a race to see who can cram the most efficiently capable computer into the smallest box. One of the more underrated, or at least under-hyped products on the market right now is the new line of netbooks featuring Nvidia’s Ion graphics processor and Intel’s dual-core Atom CPU. These new netbooks allow us to view full 1080p HD video, and send it to our HDTVs with an HDMI port. Did we mention you can play games like Counter-Strike: Source and World of Warcraft with smooth frame rates in the neighborhood of 30fps? And did we mention that these new super-netbooks cost less than $500 currently? If you ask me, this could be the end-all for the laptop/netbook market.

So enter the iPad, Apple’s attempted solution to the mobile computing industry’s shortfalls. If Apple’s good at anything, it’s making their products sexy. Really sexy. The iPad is no exception, with a gorgeous aluminum frame and a full-touch LED-backlit 9.7″ screen. It also happens to be just a half-inch thick (full specs at Apple’s site). No doubt, the iPad will be a dream to control, especially with the fully integrated touch keyboard that pops up on the screen – Steve typed on it just like a normal keyboard, and man it looked cool. It’s got a faster 1ghz Apple A4 processor, and comes with your choice of  a 16, 32, or 64gb flash drive for storage. The biggest advantage the iPad has over everything else is how beautiful the new iPad apps look on its screen. The New York Times app made beautiful use of the screen, and the MLB app made following a baseball game seem really fun… and I don’t watch baseball anymore. Even more impressive was the iBooks app, where you can literally pick an eBook off your bookshelf and turn the pages in a mind-blowingly realistic way. Look out, Kindle.

Ok, so the specs are pretty much what we expected. What’s really surprising is that the web browser, as beautiful as it looks in the iPad’s bigger screen, suffers from the crippling lack of Flash support. How can we expect to truly browse the web without support for one of the most widely-used web content standards? The argument can be made that Flash support would drain the iPad’s battery pretty quick, but  come on. It’s not a web browser if it can’t have Flash. My original Windows 95 computer in my basement can handle Flash.

Then, there are other things the iPad can’t do. It lacks a camera, which I see as a critical piece of any iPod-like product, especially considering the beautiful iPad screen. It also lacks an expandable SD card slot, which means that you’re hard-limited to the max of 64gb of storage. 64gb isn’t a lot for something meant to serve up your entire movie and music library, so expect a lot of transferring back-and-forth with the iPad. Speaking of movies, the iPad also lacks an HDMI-out slot. I realize that it’s meant for watching a movie in your lap, but that could get a little awkward for multiple people. The ability to output to a larger HDTV would have been pretty nice, but we’ll never know just how nice.

One more iPad gripe: no multitasking. Which in my world, means no productivity. Yes, Apple has redesigned iWork specifically for the iPad in an effort to prove its productive capabilities (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote also only cost $9.99 each, which is pretty cheap), but how productive can you expect me to be when writing a paper or doing some simple math in Numbers when I have to constantly switch back and forth between programs? Even writing this blog post would have required me to go back and forth between several different websites to make sure I got my facts right, rather than simply clicking the tabs at the top of Google Chrome. Ok, maybe that’s nitpicking, but think about writing a paper. If I have to check a web source, I have to save my Pages document, close Pages, then open the web browser, then check my source, then close the browser, then go back to Pages, then type what I wanted. Hope I didn’t forget anything, or I have to do it all over again.

I promise, this is my last iPad criticism: it doesn’t come with a stand. You seriously expect me to hold a 1.5 pound object in one hand for more than 20 minutes? That could get pretty uncomfortable, especially when watching movies, as some of the other iPad bloggers have pointed out. Guess I’ll have to shell out more money for a stand.

What I’m trying to point out is that I just don’t see how Steve Jobs expects the iPad to break into this market. The cheapest iPad is the 16gb, non-3G version at $499, which is a price point only a few dollars more than the aforementioned Nvidia Ion, dual-core Intel Atom netbooks mentioned earlier. To point out the differences between the two, I leave you with the following chart. After reading it, if you can explain to me how the iPad is still worth $500, let alone $829 (plus $29.99 a month for unlimited data) for the 3G-enabled 64gb model, please do.

Asus 1201N Netbook

Apple iPad 16GB

Price

$489.99

$499

Weight

3.21 pounds

1.5 pounds

Screen Size

12.1-inch, 1366×768

9.7-inch, 1024×768

Operating System

Windows 7 Home Premium

iPhone OS 3.2

Storage

250GB

16GB

Wifi

802.11b/g/n

802.11a/b/g/n

HDMI-out

Yes

No

HD Video

Up to 1080p

Up to 720p

Camera

Yes, 0.3 megapixel webcam

No

Flash Support

Yes

No

Multitasking

Yes

No

USB

Yes, 3

No

SD Card Slot

Yes, MMC/SD (SDHC)

No

Stand Included

Yes, it’s a netbook.

No

Sex appeal

Maybe

Yes

Is the iPad a dud? Will you buy it? Am I completely wrong? Leave your comments below.

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Tags: Editorials · iPad · News · Reviews

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 malcolm guite // Feb 1, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I’d love one, but that’s just the problem, the more we have beautiful devices that stay with us when we’re out and about the more we blur some vital distinctions; not only the work/life/leisure boundaries, but also the distinctions between our actual presence to real life and our virtual absence from it as our beautiful devices drain our attention away from the present moment. I reflected on this in a brief poem, “iPitaph on an iPad” here:
    http://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/ipitaph-on-an-ipad/

  • 2 riycou // Mar 2, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    wont buy it got a perfect laptop why get a crappy net-book or ipad i got a itouch it serves its purpose i guess

  • 3 Frank // May 6, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    great article, really helped me and my iPad

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