I don't exactly remember when I stopped using the iPad, but it wasn't without me trying to use it. We reviewed the WiFi version on AnandTech last year but it was the AT&T 3G version that I ended up using most of the time. For short trips around NC I'd carry it with me. It was the perfect car companion. Smaller and lighter than a notebook but functional enough to get me through any short trip. I tried carrying it to lunch and meetings around town but for the most part it wasn't portable enough for that to make sense. A smartphone was a far better companion.

For several trips around the country I remember trying to take just the iPad, but I always needed to work on an article or publish something extensive while I was gone. For months I boarded every plane with the intention of bringing only the iPad but I always ended up bringing a notebook as well. Even when I went on vacation last year I had to finish a review and ended up bringing a notebook just for three days of use. Eventually I just gave up completely and left the iPad at home. As I mentioned in our review of the first iPad last year, this is a device that augments your existing setup - it replaces nothing. You'll still need a computer of some sort and you'll still need a phone, you just get to have another device that's more convenient than both of those occasionally.

These days my iPad sits docked at my desk doing nothing more than charging and receiving updates. Yet every time I'm at an airport I look around and see tons of passengers with their iPads. It's the new ThinkPad. I see it everywhere and people seem to be happy with it. In fact, last quarter 17% of Apple's total revenue came from iPad sales.

AAPL Revenue Sources - Q1 2011
  iPad iPhone iPod Mac iTunes Store Software/Services Peripherals
Percentage 17.2% 39.1% 12.8% 20.3% 5.4% 2.9% 2.2%

Clearly there are some users who love tablets and can use them on a regular basis, I'm just apparently not one of them. That's not to say that I don't like the iPad, in fact there are a number of things I still love about it. In our original iPad review I wrote about the more relaxed computing experience the iPad offers for those of us who work at a computer during the day. It's fun to just sit on a couch and surf the web on a tablet. It's easier to show your friends web pages and videos on the iPad than it is on a notebook. You can pass a tablet around like a pad of paper while a notebook is far more clunky. The overall experience is just so much more intimate. In using the iPad, Xoom and iPad 2 for this review I even found myself missing parts of the experience that I'd forgotten about. Overall my stance hadn't changed. While I enjoy using a tablet and find it to be a more relaxed way of computing, it's the lack of performance, still not quite perfect ergonomics, the clunky multitasking UI and the lack of a convenient physical input devices that keep the iPad from being a part of my daily life. Don't get me wrong, I do believe there's clearly a future for tablets - the present day sales alone are proof of that. It's just that I believe tablets are on an evolutionary course towards perfection.

I'm currently typing this paragraph on an iPad 2 connected via HDMI to a Dell 24" display. If I wanted to I could even push the iPad to the side and use a bluetooth keyboard. This thing could easily replace a mainstream PC, it's just missing a few features.

There's no support for Flash. Like it or not Flash support is still an important part of the overall PC experience. Eventually Apple will either cave, become irrelevant or HTML5 will replace Flash entirely on the web. One way or another, this problem gets solved.

Multitasking is a pain. When the iPad first debuted there was no hope for multitasking, but now with the feature it's still far from magical. I need to tap the home button twice to bring up a task switcher, then tap or swipe/type before getting to the application I'm trying to switch to. There's no alt+tab (or cmd+tab) and no immediately visible task/dock bar of my currently running apps. Copying data between apps is a pain as I can't physically look at two things at once, there's just constant switching required to get things done. When I get a new email on the iPad I have to stop what I'm doing, go read the email and then switch back to what I was doing. The same goes for if I need to respond to an IM quickly while writing in Pages. With apps only running full screen and no support for windows, using a tablet can often times seriously reduce productivity. These are solvable problems. Apple and Microsoft figured out how to do it on the desktop after all, but we're just not there yet with tablets.

Alongside multitasking is the performance problem. With the original iPad even deleting several emails at a time was a bit choppy, and web page rendering performance needed tons of work. As always Apple does its best to hide the limitations of the platform but I must point out that even the iPad 2 with a pair of ARM Cortex A9s has lower CPU performance than a netbook with a single core Atom. The fact that you can't really tell most of the time is a testament to Apple's software engineering, but it doesn't change reality.

Ergonomics aren't perfect either. Brian Klug actually helped me realize this next point but the iPad and other tablets aren't great on-the-go devices. Tablets work very well when you're stationary but if you're up and about, moving around, a smartphone is a much better fit. Even when you're stationary there are issues. You have to be in the right physical position to comfortably use a tablet. Simply plopping it down on your lap like you would a notebook won't always work.

There's also the idea of synergy among devices. Even if you play within the Apple universe and own a Mac, an iPhone and an iPad, there's no magical way of sharing data and applications between them. I should be able to work on my Mac, step away and have my apps/data come with me. Your best bet is something like Dropbox but that's no where near the type of cohesive solution I'm talking about. Think HP's webOS touch-to-share but on steroids and you're on the right track.

The list goes on and on. If you've ever spent sufficient time with a tablet you'll quickly be able to add to this list. The tablet is still in its infancy as a computing device and as successful as the iPad may be, it still has a long road ahead before it's anywhere near perfect. Just the items I've mentioned above are too much to address with a single product update, but remember that revolution comes about via constant evolution.


Apple iPad 2 (left), Apple iPad (right)

Meet the iPad 2.

The iPad 2
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  • TareX - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    Irrelevant, but is Anandtech gonna do an Atrix review? Reply
  • name99 - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    "The Digital AV adapter is a bit clunky and I believe the future of this is clearly in some form of wireless transmission, but for now it plugs directly into the dock connector. "

    You mean the wireless transmission that ALREADY EXISTS called AirPlay?

    Apple HAVE a solution to your hatred of wires. You seem to be upset that they don't have a solution that somehow magically transports video from iPad to your (HDMI and nothing else) TV using some non-existent wireless standard that isn't actually built into your TV.

    It's fine to be frustrated at some of the idiocies in tech, but it's truly silly to complain about this one. Apple provides this cable for one, and only one, group of users --- people who actually NEED that physical wire.
    Reply
  • BlendMe - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    AirPlay doesn't mirror tha iPads screen, it only allows you to stream content. For now. And for AirPlay you need an Apple TV or another AirPlay enabled device. The HDMI adapter allows you to hook it up to almost any recent TV, monitor or beamer. Reply
  • ananduser - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    In fact there is a standard already built in in most modern(emphasis on modern) TVs. It is called DLNA. Unfortunately Apple decided that coercing you into using their ecosystem ONLY is the way to go. Personally I find Apple's modus operandi of not giving 2 sh*ts about other 3rd party solutions one of the "idiocies in tech" as you well put it.
    Regardless, the iPad2(or 1) is a cool gadget(emphasis on gadget) nonetheless. Combined with leading parental controls as:no flash(as a porn enabler), no porn(appstore policy), no bloody/gory games(appstore policy) and a damn spartan simple and fast GUI makes it a great basic computing device for the naive crowd(parents, grandparents etc.). IMO it really shines for children as their 1st computing platform.
    That it is also a frequent choice for the tech literate few, good on them... it still is best suited, IMO, for those of the above.
    Reply
  • name99 - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    Can both of you not read?
    I was referring to, as I quoted, "The Digital AV adapter is a bit clunky and I believe the future of this is clearly in some form of wireless transmission, but for now it plugs directly into the dock connector. "

    How do either of your comments have any relevance to that?
    If you want Wifi, you need something that accepts a Wifi signal. Your TV doesn't have Wifi built in, so, yeah, you need some other box.

    And DLNA? Really? You want to go there? Go explore the DLNA web pages (http://www.dlna.org/products is a good start) and tell me this pile of turds is EVER going to be relevant to the real world. For god's sake, man, get in touch with the real world. Compare that web page and everything it implies about compatibility nightmares and technobabble with the Apple TV web page.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    AirPlay is really for specific content at this point. I'm referring to the future of video out on tablets in general. And I didn't mention it as a knock against the iPad today, just a heads up that in some future version of the iPad you won't need a physical adapter (at least not on your tablet). When you have full wireless display mirroring then you can start introducing more interesting usage models - e.g. tablet as a desktop replacement, tablet as a game console, etc... You can do these things without wireless display but they are definitely enhanced by it being there.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Ushio01 - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    When ifixit did there teardown of the first ipad it was shown that apart from the battery and the antennas all the other components were kept up the top so why can't a tablet simply be a dock you slot a smartphone in that supplies a larger screen and additional battery's?
    That to me is a far more appealing device than current tablets.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    makes sense to me. I can't see Apple doing this, but maybe on of the Android makers can come up with something along these lines. I'd love to be able to pop my phone into the back of a tablet and use the bigger screen. I'd just keep it near the couch. Reply
  • zmatt - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    I still hold that the entire market segment (not just the iPad) is a solution looking for a problem. The idea seems cool but in reality nobody was asking for the tablet. And after using them I still can't see what the attractiveness is other than people buying them cause they are "cool". I take calls and get mobile updates on my Galaxy S, which is more than competent enough for light work such as taking down notes or answering emails on the go. Any real work I do with a computer. I'm sorry but you can't make up for the lack of performance and a real keyboard if you are talking about getting work done. The iPad may be nice for mobile entertainment, but if i already have an mp3 player and a laptop what can it do that they can't? For tablets to be viable productivity devices and not just toys i think they would basically have to evolve into laptops. So again i ask, what's the point? Reply
  • cucurigu - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    Thanks a lot for your review, Anand, Brian and Vivek - I was waiting for your opinion on the iPad 2 as it was a gadget most appealing but, as you said, very polarizing for the reviewers.

    There is something I didn't really understand, even after rereading the Xoom review - both you (Anand and Brian) said the first iPad wasn't your cup of tea in the long run and chances are the new one won't change this (but you're giving it another go). The general impression (one which I also got while looking at the tablet segment) is characterized by their unclear niche - where do they really fit ?

    If I understand correctly the first tablet (ipad) didn't integrate with your workflow and the reasons seem to apply to all tablets, however, this sentiment doesn't come off so clearly from the Xoom article - so I wondered : did you have the impression the Android OS was more adequate to your usage patterns ? Meaning, if the Xoom and iPad 2 where left on your desk, which one would you choose to take with you, and for which purpose ?

    Once again, thanks and best regards !
    Reply

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