Autoplay: ON Autoplay: OFF
CNET First Look
Apple iPadThe Apple iPad is the first affordable tablet computer worth owning, but it won't (yet) replace your laptop.
Hey I'm Donald Bell for CNET.com and today I'm giving you a first look at the Apple iPad. You've no doubt heard a lot of hype about Apple's new tablet computer. It measures a little under 8x10, and around a half inch thick, giving it a natural, magazine-like feel. It weighs 1.5 pounds, which is light by laptop standards, but a little hefty compared to something like the Amazon Kindle. There are two main models, one that connects to the Web over Wi-Fi, and one that uses a combo of Wi-Fi and 3G wireless from AT&T. The Wi-Fi models come in three capacities, starting at $499 for 16GB, $599, for 32GB, and $699 for 64GB. The 3G-quipped models come in the same three capacities, but sell for $130 more, on top of the pay-as-you-go data plan you need from AT&T to get 3G working. For most people, the Wi-Fi model is going to be the one to go with, both because it's cheaper, and because this is device that really seems geared for the living room. The whole thing is based around the iPhone OS, only scaled much bigger to fill the 9.7-inch screen. There's a lot of familiar features here, such as email, web, photos, maps, music, videos, and YouTube, along with links to the integrated iTunes store and App store. When you launch any of these apps, however, the user interface is slightly different than what we've seen for the iPhone, mostly because there's more room to play with. The email app shows off your inbox alongside emails while in landscape view, the Photos app behaves much more like Apple's iPhoto software with these stacks of photos grouped by events. And apps such as Maps and the Safari web browser get much closer to a laptop experience on the larger screen. Apple beefed up the processor too, using their own custom 1GHz A4 chip which makes the whole thing very responsive, which you notice particularly on apps that don't depend on the web, like Photos. There's also an optional download from Apple called iBooks that gives the iPad a drool-worthy e-book reader. Thankfully, the faster processor doesn't come at the expense of battery life. Apple promises 10 hours of active use, including web and video, and up to a month of standby time. When you do need to charge it, you can connect it to your computer or use the included USB wall charger. Apple also sells a basic $30 dock which has the advantage of transforming the iPad into a pretty cool little photo frame while it charges. Speaking of docks, Apple has another one for $70 with a keyboard attached, which can really help for hardcore emailing or for entering text into Apple's optional spreadsheet, documents, and presentation apps, which sell for $9.99 each. They're useful, but like the iPhone the real draw of the iPad in the long run will be apps made by third parties. You've got all sorts of games with stunning graphics, video streaming apps like Netflix, a comic book app from Marvel, and tons of exciting apps that are trickling out day by day. All of that really gets to the main appeal of the device. There's no single thing it does that can't be done with a $1,000 laptop, and in some ways done better. But given its size and it's price, the total scope of all of its features and capabilities is fairly outstanding and its design, like most Apple products, puts even its most expensive competitors to shame. So there you go, that's my take on the Apple iPad. You can find more of our continuing iPad coverage at CNET.com