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It’s the most hyped gadget of 2010 and has shifted over a million units in under a month over The Pond. This Friday sees the launch of the iPad here in the UK. So is the Apple tablet the revolutionary device Steve Jobs says it is? Or just a big iPod touch with a hefty price tag? Read our in-depth review and all will be revealed.

First impressions

Pull the iPad from its box and you’ll be wowed. This is a seriously slick piece of kit, with Jonny Ive’s skills put to amazing use to make a design-led and uniquely brilliant device. Fire it up and the touchscreen feels every bit as responsive as the iPhone and iPod Touch. It’s almost overwhelming when you first use it: you don’t know which feature to try out first, but after a few minutes of playing, you’ll be bang up-to-speed. Once again, Apple has produced a product that has virtually no learning curve. This is a gadget aimed directly at those who don’t want to spend hours reading manuals.

9/10

Design

The design is incredibly sleek, with the tapered aluminium back sitting comfortably in your lap while you tap out emails or flick through websites. However, it is hard to escape the feeling that this is an oversized iPod Touch, what with the same lock button up top and home button in the centre down at the bottom of the device. That’s not to say it’s ugly, just that it follows a very similar line to Apple’s smaller PMP. However, we challenge anyone to find a rival tablet that looks this good. Ive remains the very best industrial designer on the planet, and the iPad is achingly cool. Some tech heads might argue that the specs aren’t up- to-scratch, but there’s no escaping that this really looks the part.

8/10

ipad keyboard dock

Features

Where to start? The 9.7-inch screen is gorgeous, even if it does pick up fingerprints quicker than stolen brass. It helps to render web pages fully and there’s something truly enchanting about seeing a whole website in your lap on a tablet rather than on a web screen. This is especially true in landscape mode and means pared-down mobile sites aren’t necessary on a touchscreen device.

The iBooks store is fairly bare at the moment, but reading is actually a real pleasure on the device. The fears we had about the LED backlit panel straining our eyes were not realised and flicking through books using the screen to push through pages is thrilling. We did have our reservations, but after a couple of hours reading, we’re convinced that this is the future of e-books, largely because there’s so much on offer other than reading. Dedicated e-readers don't have any like the breadth of features.

The touchscreen isn’t just great for viewing. Typing is surprisingly easy on the glass, even without haptic feedback. It does take some getting used to, but it’s fine for pulling together lengthy emails. Longer docs will require you to resort to your laptop or invest in the keyboard dock. The email app is great, with the pop over menus and split-screen functionality making the iPhone’s somewhat shonky Mail app look poor by comparison. The only issue we do have is with the inability to attach files while in Mail. To send a pic or doc, you need to create the email from the dedicated app. It’s an annoying kink.

We gave an Wi-Fi model a go, but we suggest that if you can afford it, get a 3G model. 3’s new £15 a month deal for 10GB is astonishingly good value and will make the iPad even better. Having it at home on the sofa is great, but web access on the move makes it a real winner.

9/10

kindle ipad

Software

The iPhone’s software is lightning quick thanks to the A4 chip inside. Apps like YouTube and Marvel Comics handle brilliantly and zip along at a fair old lick. However, there are some issues. Multitasking is not here yet, although it is set to land as part of the iPhone OS 4.0 upgrade, due in the autumn, according to Apple. It’s infuriating that you can’t do it now, but we’ll be intrigued to see how it affects the speed of the device. The closed nature of the OS also means there’s not as much scope for making other gadgets play nice with the iPad, but it’s a price worth paying for such a sleek experience.

8/10

Ease of use

Apple’s notorious for making easy, breezy gadgets and the iPad is no exception. It couldn’t be easier to use and if you’ve ever had a play with an iPhone or iPod touch, you’ll get to grips with it in minutes. Even if you haven’t, this is a truly self-explanatory device. From the YouTube app to Mail, through photos, videos and iTunes, everything is so straightforward, you’ll never go wrong. Apple has made a real winner again.

10/10

Overall: 9/10

Specifications

  • 9.7-inch LED backlit screen
  • 1024x768 screen
  • 0.68kg (Wi-Fi model)
  • 0.73kg (3G model)
  • 16, 32 and 64GB models
  • 10 hours battery life (Wi-Fi)
  • 9 hours battery life (3G)
  • 1Ghz A4 chip
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Microphone

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