With the Apple iPad set to go on sale this weekend, a number of news outlets have published reviews of Apple’s new tablet. Here’s a smattering of opinions:
- Sun Times: This is the first true tablet. Everything else is a laptop with the keyboard removed.
- New York Times: It’s basically a big iPod touch. The big display is a game changer for some apps. But the on-screen keyboard stinks.
- TechBlog: It’s not a PC replacement, but it’s an entirely new class of device (with a surprisingly decent on-screen keyboard).
- USA Today: Netbooks will need to change or adapt… but the on-screen keyboard stinks (mix messages much?)
- Wall Street Journal: You can use it surf the web, send emails, and consume media. You won’t use it for creating large documents.
- Boing Boing: It will change the way you read books — think “Harry Potter” books with moving pictures.
- PC Magazine: The iPad is lighter than a laptop, but kind of heavy to hold in one hand for extended periods.
- ABC News: Hey look, it’s a video!
Interestingly, while some reviewers hated the on-screen keyboard, others found it comfortable. The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg says he preferred it to some netbook keyboards.
Reviewers also differed a bit on the battery life — but nobody came up with test results that were that far off from Apple’s 10 hour estimate. The shortest I saw was about 9.5 hours, while several reviewers managed to get 11 to 12 hours of run time while playing videos continuously.
The new A4 processor is reportedly quite snappy, making the iPad feel much more responsive than an iPhone. And the general consensus appears to be that the tablet is excellent for surfing the web and consuming media — and not as good for producing media. The New York Times’ David Pogue had one of the most clever reviews, because he split the review in half. For techies, he basically admits that the tablet has a lot of failings. It doesn’t play Flash video. It doesn’t multitask. But for casual users, that large display but touch-friendly, iPhone-like interface is a game changer.
So… now that the reviews are coming in, the question remains — is the iPad a netbook killer? It sounds like that depends on what you use a portable device for. At 1.5 pounds and with a 10+ hour battery, the iPad could be a great device to carry around the house or on the road while leaving your notebook at your desk — if you don’t need Flash, multitasking, a physical keyboard, or the ability to run Windows apps.
But if you’re going to find yourself using the tablet because it’s lighter and more portable to carry around, only to find yourself reaching for a notebook every few minutes when you encounter an email that needs a lengthy reply or a Flash-heavy web site that won’t load properly in the browser, then the iPad starts to look like just another device in your arsenal.
It’s very likely that as the iPad continues to take the world by storm Apple and third party developers will come up with solutions for most of the minor complaints that people have — that the keyboard is tough to use (maybe), that there’s limited multitasking support, and so on. We already know that many web video sites are working on HTML5 video players that will work perfectly on the iPad — no Flash required.
But there’s another reason I don’t think the iPad will replace the netbook just yet. It has a starting price of $499, which is about $200 more than the price of many netbooks on the market today. Whether you care about size, weight, battery life, or keyboards or not, $300 is still a lot cheaper than $500.