Hands-down, our #1 iPad accessory shouldn't cost you more than $10. It's a cleaning cloth. I doesn't matter if it's Chamois leather or synthetic microfiber, just get something that works slightly better than a t-shirt.
Don't bother spending money on sprays or other cleaning liquids. The iPad's oleophobic-coated glass screen makes wiping off smudges easy, so long as you have a cloth handy. Besides, as anyone with a glossy laptop screen will tell you, you never seem to have those expensive sprays around when you need really them.
Basic iPad dock
Apple offers a basic iPad dock for $29 that includes an audio line output and a 30-pin pass-thru connection for connecting to a charging cable, video output cable, or any other accessories that would otherwise plug into the iPad's dock connector. A charging cable is not included with the dock (which seems kinda cheap, if you ask us). The only item in the box is the dock itself.
Now $30 may seem steep for such a basic, bland-looking accessory, but the dock is one of the most attractive solutions we've seen for charging the iPad in your home or connecting the iPad to a stereo system. It is second only to a shammy cloth in our list of top iPad accessories.
Photo by: Apple
Apple has a knack for designing beautiful products. But when the real world meets all that pristine glass and aluminum, things can get ugly real quick.
To protect your investment, Apple offers a $40 case for the iPad that folds back to act as a kickstand or an angled surface for typing.
Other well-known companies, such as Griffin, Belkin, also have sleeves and cases available for the iPad. More options seem to appear every day.
Former CNET alum Tim Moynihan performed extensive stress testing on the Apple iPad for PC World, and came to two conclusions: the iPad is fragile, but the screen is virtually scratch-proof.
Buying a case for the iPad makes a lot of sense, but adhesive or film screen protectors are a waste of money. We know the iPad's screen gets smudgey and the glass is fragile, but sticking something on top of it isn't going to help.
There are exceptions, however. Screen films that offer privacy when viewed at off-angles, or prevent glare, may be useful for particular applications. For most users, we strongly advise against mucking up the screen with films and adhesives. A good case is all the protection you need.
Apple iPad camera kit
One of the more unexpected iPad accessories coming from Apple is a $30 camera kit that lets you directly transfer images to the iPad from your digital camera or SD card.
The kit includes two adapters: one for SD cards and one that connects to cameras over USB (cable required). Both adapters connect to the 30-pin dock connection on the bottom edge of the iPad.
Photo by: Donald Bell/CNET
Chargers (10 volts)
Apple includes a 10 volt USB wall-charging adapter with the iPad that extends about 3 feet. For a little extra freedom, Apple sells a $30, 10 volt power adapter for the iPad that runs 6 feet long.
The 10 volt distinction is important, since most USB power adapters work at half that voltage and are only half as effective (or worse) at recharging the iPad in a timely fashion. Using a 10 volt charger, a spent iPad should recharge to full power in around 3-4 hours. On a 5 volt adapter for an iPhone or iPod, a recharge could take all day.
To make a long story short: the voltage of your iPad power adapter matters.
If you want to prop up your iPad to watch videos hands-free, it's nice to have some sort of stand. There are some dirt-cheap methods, but if you plan on using the stand frequently, it can't hurt to invest a more elegant solution.
For example, Scosche offers an iPad version of their popular Kickback stand (shown here), which retails for $45. The flip-out stand is integrated into a polycarbonate case that wraps around the iPad for added protection.
Apple VGA adapter
If you're interested in using the iPad and its suite of iWork apps for presentations, Apple offers a $30 VGA adapter that can connect to a projector or computer monitor. The maximum output resolution is only 1,024x768 pixels, so keep your HD expectations in check.
Composite and component video output cables are also available. All of the adapters are capable of playing video content (movies, TV shows, video podcasts, YouTube) to your television, provided the connections are compatible.
Photo by: Donald Bell/CNET
Sketch stylus from Pogo
Fingers are fine for the relatively small touch screens found on smartphones, but you may find it more comfortable to use a stylus on the iPad's 9.7-inch display.
Because the iPad's touch screen uses capacitive instead of resistive technology, you can't just apply pressure to the screen with any old pointy stick and expect it to work. Fortunately, the Sketch stylus from Pogo ($14.95) is specially designed to work with the capacitive screens on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Apple iPad keyboard dock
With it's larger screen, the iPad has much greater potential for e-mail and word processing than the iPhone or iPod Touch. To give it an extra edge, Apple is offering a charging dock with an attached full-size keyboard for $69. You can read or full hands-on take of the iPad keyboard dock on CNET's Crave blog.
Sure, you can plug any old pair of headphones into the iPad's 3.5mm headphone jack, but you may as well invest in a pair with a compatible microphone and remote control.
There are a lot of third-party headphones with iPhone/iPad-compatible remote and microphone functionality, but we actually think Apple's own In-Ear headphones sound pretty great for the price (about $70). The mic allows for higher quality voice memos and VoIP calls, while the remote controls volume, play/pause, and skip for music playback.
No, you can't carry the iPad in your pocket. That doesn't mean you need a suitcase for the thing.
For better or worse, most standard laptop bags are overkill for the magazine-sized iPad. If the whole point of the device is to lighten your load, why not scale down your bag as well?
For example, the Grammercy bag from Cocoon ($29) comes in three different colors and is specially made to fit the iPad.
If using Apple's special iPad keyboard dock makes you feel a little silly, how about using a wireless keyboard? The iPad supports Bluetooth connected keyboards including Apple's own classy wireless Mac keyboard ($69).
We have every expectation that accessory manufacturers will be cranking out competing portable Bluetooth keyboards, in all shapes and sizes.
Also, bear in mind that if you go the wireless keyboard route, you'll probably want to invest in some kind of basic stand to keep your iPad propped up.
The iPad can't stream music directly to Base station, users can install Apple's free Remote app to use the iPad as a giant wireless remote control for their home music collection.
If the idea of using the iPad as a wireless remote for your home music collections sounds like fun, but you don't like the idea of keeping your computer running in the background, the Sonos ZonePlayer ($399)and Sonos app deliver a powerful combination of Internet radio, subscription music, and a tabletop speaker system--all controlled by a slick app interface.
Upgrade your router
If you've been holding off on upgrading your home wireless router to the newly approved 802.11n spec, now might be the time to bite the bullet. The iPad supports the newer, faster Wi-Fi spec, so why not take advantage of it.
Of course, the path of least resistance for using the iPad with wireless audio is to just stream music directly via Bluetooth to a compatible speaker like the Parrot Boombox ($200). Sure, the iPad can only hold up to 64GB of music, but you can also install Internet radio apps such as Pandora, Slacker, and Last.fm, to stream free, unlimited music from the cloud.
Disclosure: Last.fm is a part of CBS Interactive, which also publishes CNET Reviews.
Click here for more CNET Bluetooth speaker recommendations.
There's no doubt that you'd look a little silly carrying around your iPad like an iPod or iPhone, just to listen to music.
With the iPad's stereo Bluetooth support, you can keep your iPad tucked away in your bag and listen to music wirelessly. Our favorite stereo headset for the job is the Altec Lansing Backbeat 903. A list of other CNET top-rated stereo Bluetooth can be found here.
Sure, companies like iLuv offer them, but unless you're enrolled in grade school, we wouldn't recommend it.
Universal remote adapters
Since the iPad is probably spending a lot of time in your living room, anyway, why not have it work as a universal remote? That's the idea behind the RedEye Mini, and a handful of other products, that combine an iPad App and an unobtrusive dongle to transform the iPad into a mega remote.