iPad Review Part 1, The purchase and hardware

As I’m sure you’re aware, the iPad was launched in the UK last Friday, and I was lucky/sad enough to be in the queue that morning. Since there’s so much to discus, I thought I’d break this review down into several bite-sized chunks, and I’ll throw some app reviews into the mix too.

First up, the product launch and hardware design…

The Purchase

Along with the rest of the Internet, I have got myself an iPad. Yes, I’m an Apple fanboy, a geek, I have more money than sense and I bought the £429 ‘big iPod touch’ without a specific need for it. I hope that covers all of your complaints, so let’s move on.

First up I’d like to talk about the UK Apple launch. Sure, I could have ordered online and had it delivered to my door for free on launch day – or even a day early according to some customers – but I don’t like waiting all day for the delivery man to not bother knocking on the door and taking my package to the depot. So I got up at 6am and headed down to my local Apple Store, at the Bentalls Centre in Kingston-Upon-Thames.

I joined the queue at about 7:20am – 40 minutes before the store opened – and I was probably 65th in line, with a further 70 or 80 behind me once the doors opened at 8am. But, this being Apple and Apple being American, the doors didn’t just open, Oh no. There was cheering, whooping and high-fives from the 20-strong staff as they ran a lap of the shopping centre, before returning to the store and cheering everyone in.

I had expected it, but I – along with everyone else – felt rather awkward. The highlight was when an employee fell over while running past. He’s fine, I’m not that mean. Oh, and while I’m here, thanks to Starbucks for offering free pan au chocolate and coffee/hot chocolate to everyone in the queue.

Twenty minutes later I had my shiny new iPad WiFi 16GB – the cheap one – in my hands, waiting to catch the bus home.

Now let’s see what this thing is really like…

Hardware

The iPad is surprisingly heavy. It’s also feels incredibly solid and well-built, thanks to the aluminium back and glass screen. It feels nice and thin thanks to the tapered design and the buttons have a quality click to them. The weight is reassuring but does become annoying if you’re going to read for hours at a time. The bezel may looks large in photos but if it were any smaller than you wouldn’t be able to hold the iPad without touching the screen. My thumbs fit nicely in the width of the bezel without interfering with the touchscreen.

The screen is – as with most smartphones – a magnet for fingerprints, but the screen is bright enough to make any marks disappear. But while the screen is very bright and beautifully crisp, it can be too bright when reading in a dark room and the settings only allow a small adjustment in brightness. Although the iBooks app lets you lower the brightness much further, I just with this setting was system-wide.

The iPad has the same home button. volume rocker, power/lock button and headphone jack as seen on the iPhone 3GS and they all function in exactly the same way as you’d expect. There’s also a speaker at the bottom right, which is much better quality and louder than you’d expect. I’m listening to a podcast right now at 50% volume and it’s plenty loud enough and very clear. Music plays just as well.

Apple is known for exaggerating they battery life claims with Macs, but the advertised 10 hours of WiFi browsing or video viewing for the iPad is certainly correct. This battery is awesome and has easily lasted me a full day of use – and by a full day I mean I have been glued to this thing, browsing, downloading, gaming and reading and it still lasts the day. This is a good job, though, as charging seems to be slow. Connected to my MacBook Pro via USB it seems to charging incredibly slowly; the iPad does come with a mains charger and the quoted charge time is quoted at 5 hours.

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