Review: Apple iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G (16GB/32GB/64GB)
Pros: An impressively built tablet computer, featuring a clean industrial design borrowed from Apple’s MacBook Pro computers, internal components derived largely from its iPod touch and iPhone pocket devices, and stable, multi-touch software. Runs over 150,000 applications, thousands of which have been optimized for this device, offering iPod-equivalent sonic performance, better than iPod- and iPhone-quality visual performance, and 10+ hour video/Wi-Fi battery life unmatched by any current-generation Apple product, or most competitors. Superb for book and periodical reading, strong for web and video viewing, more capable of content creation than iPods and iPhones. Supports 720p HD video playback. Unlike standard Wi-Fi version, connects to 3G cellular networks and requires no long-term contract. Achieves nearly 9-hour battery life under 3G torture test conditions, and offers assisted GPS for enhanced navigation capabilities.
Cons: Cannot serve as a standalone computer; in addition to iTunes dependence, horsepower is presently shortchanged by limited, iPhone-class multitasking that forces all third-party applications to occupy and waste entire screen; lack of camera similarly limits value for video communications. Screen dimensions are sub-optimal for movies, including HD content. Confusing battery charging requirements and slow iTunes synchronization. Initial iPad-optimized applications, as well as Apple’s strategy for performing and selling color digital publications on the device, need additional work. In addition to anti-glare, anti-fingerprint screen film, most users will need new in-car, docking, and/or speaker accessories. AT&T network substantially underperforms relative to device’s speed capabilities, making uploading sluggish and limiting data capabilities for both audio and video streaming purposes. Rather than supporting inbound or outbound tethering, cellular data plans are sold separately from iPhone data services, forcing most iPhone users to choose between one device or the other.
As much as iLounge’s editors loved the iPad with Wi-Fi (iLounge Rating: A-)—Apple’s first tablet computer—the version we all wanted for ourselves was the more powerful iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G ($629-$829), which was released on April 30, 2010. Though it shares the same physical dimensions and 16/32/64-Gigabyte storage capacities, the Wi-Fi + 3G version adds a major new feature: like Apple’s iPhones, the more expensive iPad uses 3G wireless hardware to access cell phone towers, radically expanding the iPad’s on-the-road utility. Need to use a big-screen map in your car? Check a restaurant’s menu, send e-mails, or reach friends through Facebook on something larger than an iPhone but smaller than a laptop? The possibilities seemed endless—anything you could do from Wi-Fi, you could do with your 3G connection, right? Well, not exactly: as is commonly the case with Apple’s cellular devices, the reality of using the iPad in 3G mode falls a little short of the marketing. But the experience is still very good, all things considered.
As expected, the two iPad versions are nearly identical in hardware and iPhone OS system software, details that we previously discussed comprehensively in our review of the iPad with Wi-Fi. We won’t revisit all of the numerous similarities here: both versions have the same external buttons, ports, speakers, microphone, and screen, ship with the same applications, and perform identically on Wi-Fi networks. But there are some noteworthy differences between the models in pricing, cosmetics, and internal hardware—changes that potential iPad customers should know about before they choose between the two iPads, or decide to hold off on a purchase altogether.
This supplemental review of the iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G discusses all of the new model’s unique positives and negatives in separate sections below. Those looking for common features between the iPads, or details on the standard iPad with Wi-Fi can check out our prior review. Everything you need to know about the new iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G can be found on pages of the drop-down menu below. Enjoy.