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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.