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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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    The Xoom review was really written from the perspective of an iPad alternative, while I felt like we covered much of what made the iPad 2 different in our preview and wanted to focus on the bigger picture in the review.

    The Xoom's multitasking and notifications I believe make it easier to integrate into my workflow, but still not perfect. However Apple has been ergonomics than the Xoom, seemingly better (non-Flash) webpage compatibility, better stability and a smoother UI so it's a tradeoff.

    Personally, I'd probably carry the iPad 2 thanks to improved ergonomics (especially with a smart cover) and non-smooth UI frame rates do bother me. But given my workflow neither is sufficient for me to use exclusively when traveling. That's why I mention that both camps have things to work on, whichever gets there first should get your money if you're really on the fence.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    How do you get to the number in the chart? It would make sense to use the average of all 4 displays, but you don't seem to do that:
    406 + 409 + 352 + 354 = 1521
    1521 / 4 = 380,25 ~ 380
    Am I missing something here?
    Also, the contrast should be 861:
    966 + 842 + 778 + 859 = 3445
    3445 / 4 = 861,25 ~ 861
    Black levels should be better however:
    0,42 + 0,45 + 0,49 + 0,41 = 1,77
    1,77 / 4 = 0,4425 ~ 0,44
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    The point of having the numbers separate was to show the difference between the WiFi and "WiFi+3G" versions. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    And my question wasn't about that at all. The numbers in the actual charts they use for comparison against the iPad1 and the Xoom are not corresponding to any of the 4 distinct iPad2s. So I was wondering where they got the numbers from, if they averaged them or whatnot. If they did average them, then they made a few mistakes in the process. :-) If they got them through some other means it would still be interesting to know which they used. Reply
  • buff_samurai - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link


    speaking about workflow.

    I am running a small consulting company for food/pharma industry, my expertise is in analytical instrumentation. Right now I'm using a beefy PC for CAD/backups and IP4/ipad for everything else: emails, project management, crm and documentation all squeezed into a small and portable device (terminal).

    Although I am not 100% happy with exchange support in iOS, security, syncing etc I see myself more efficient then ever and that simply means more time/money in my pocket.

    Lets try a common scenario: in a car, take a call, pull over, grab a laptop from a bag, power up, check some details, email couple of pdfs and do all that with customer hanging on the phone. Repeat the whole thing 10 times or more - you will see where I am coming from. Or try to carry your laptop around any mid size production line, control room and boardrooms and impress other engineers with questions like: 'where can I plug my laptop' at the same time.

    I can understand that for most of heavy laptop users ipad is just useless but lets face the fact that there are millions of professionals on the road and all they care for is better response time and flexibility.

    I could spend hours listing applications where no PC (portable or not) can match a tablet but the bottom line is: when moving to new tech we need to overcome our habits first. ipad, xoom and other are like a nice and shiny screwdriver but you will never find a use for it with pockets full of nails. That means no reviewer should ever comment on any device without actually making it a primary tool for couple of months: and if there is no time/money for it - just focus on things that are traceable or you may use your reputation.
    Reply
  • darwiniandude - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    I always love Anandtech reviews, they cover 'everything' really well, advantages and flaws with equal gusto.

    Thanks!

    Two points:
    1) Page 19 I think you're referring to iDisk, not iDrive. Doesn't really matter unless someone trys to Google it.

    2) With regard to web browsing, I know you're comparing these units as shipped, but I strongly recommend pro users consider 'iCab' from the AppStore, I don't use Safari much anymore. Propper tabs, full screen, downloading, browser user agent ID spoofing, way more powerful. Scroll pad to quickly navigate huge pages, gestures etc. Tt's very anti-iOS in that it's insanely powerful rather than designed to be simple, but I love it, specifically options like 'open bookmark in new tab' and 'open links from different domain in new tab' very customisable, plugins, blah blah blah. Anyway. It has Desktop style tabs. I wouldn't suggest you change the article, or review this or other 3rd party browsers because it's kinda beyond the scope of the review of the device, but it would be nice if people knew there were alternatives to give a more desktop style (still sans-flash) browser.
    Reply
  • pja - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    I have really wanted an iPad ever since they were released. Several months ago I had the money (the previous barrier to acquisition) so I went looking. I didn't want the 3G version, WiFi would be fine. But I knew I would not be happy unless I got the one with maximum ram. Well in Australia that was going to cost me over AUD1,000 (I thought they were much cheaper :-( ).

    Just before this I had built myself a new desktop with an AMD processor and graphics card; see I'm a fan of AMD (but not a bigot). So might I be better off with a netbook rather than an iPad. AMD had recently released the Brazos range. So I started to do some research.

    The result was my purchase of a Toshiba NB550D (the sexy orange one) which is a "little under-done" with the C50 Fusion Processor, only 1 Gb of memory and Windows 7 Starter. I have upgraded the memory to 2 Gb (still not enough) and installed Windows 7 Home Pro.

    The Toshiba is about the same size as an iPad but is much more functional, it has all my desktop PC's apps installed (particularly my favourite text editor (EditPlus), my browser (Firefox) and all the same bookmarks, etc. etc.) so when I travel I have everything I need and I didn't need to learn how to use new software.

    I still think the iPad is a great bit of gear but that's when I use the right side of my brain. My left side says "where's the value proposition?" We are all different but for me the left side of my brain always tends to win over the right side. I am very happy with "my" iPad alternative; more memory and the C-350 processor would be good (but not the larger form=factor that seems to entail). Oh! I forgot to say that the total cost of the Toshiba (including hardware and software upgrades was about AUD675 - more than AUD325 saving!

    Regards,
    Peter
    Reply
  • Deepcover96 - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    Great review. Anandtech's reviews are always well worth the wait. They are always thorough and I always learn something. I agree that it is a luxury device and it is hard to justify it for getting work done. I still purchased an iPad 1. I recently sold it to buy the iPad 2, as soon as I can find one. I do think you downplay how important the app selection is on iOS as compared to Android. Reply
  • name99 - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    Reading the summary of what all three authors think of iPad feels to me like someone who buys an iPod because it has calendar and contact functionality, and then is upset/surprised that it isn't a Palm.
    iPad is not a REPLACEMENT for a laptop/desktop, it is an AUGMENTATION. You use each for what they are good at. If you find yourself spending most of your time traveling and you need a full-featured computer during that time then, sure, adding iPad to the mix is stupid. But if you already have a laptop, and can afford it, iPad makes certain tasks a lot more pleasant.

    For my part, for example, my primary use for iPad is reading technical PDFs using Good Reader. I could read these on a laptop, but the keyboard really gets in the way (not to mention that the aspect ratio of the screen is inappropriate). If you don't do much reading of technical PDFs, this might seem dumb to you --- but I DO spend many hours a day reading these PDFs and I appreciate a tool that does the job properly, just like a professional carpenter doesn't use a $5 saw he bought at Walmart.

    The future of computing is not one device that does everything; it is multiple devices all optimized to a particular human form factor, that all work together --- an iPod nano AND an iPhone AND an iPad AND a laptop AND a desktop. Criticism of something germane to this vision is legitimate and sensible (and Apple's flailing regarding how much of the file metaphor it wants to present to users is a legitimate part of this criticism.) But complaints whose primary structure is "this device doesn't work exactly like a device I already own" is just stupid --- like complaining that a bicycle isn't a car.

    It's perfectly reasonable to say that you don't have a use for a certain class of device, especially because you already use something more powerful. I, for example, have no use for a Tivo or a video streaming devices like WD Live or Roku --- I have a full-fledged computer hooked up to my TV. But it is unreasonable to go further than that, and I've observed plenty of non-techy people who are very happy with their WD Live's or Tivos.
    It's even more unreasonable to complain that "Tivo sucks because it doesn't play DVDs".

    Use some sense. Don't keep trying to use iPad for things it is no good at. Keep in the bedroom, and use it to read, or to look up something quickly on the net, or to play a movie just before you go to sleep. Don't be insane and try to write a novel on it.
    Reply
  • pja - Monday, March 21, 2011 - link

    "iPad is not a REPLACEMENT for a laptop/desktop, it is an AUGMENTATION. You use each for what they are good at. If you find yourself spending most of your time traveling and you need a full-featured computer during that time then, sure, adding iPad to the mix is stupid. But if you already have a laptop, and can afford it, iPad makes certain tasks a lot more pleasant."

    You must have either too much cash or too much time on your hands or both. A good business class laptop is AUD1,500+ while a top of the range iPad is AUD1,000 + here in Australia.

    It seems to me when you think about the iPod with your left brain there is very little functionality that a good netbook does not do both better and cheaper. However, I would agree that when you let your right brain rule then all of a sudden the iPad becomes a irresistible thing that you must possess. Unfortunately for me my left brain clicks in when I pull out my credit card.

    Peter
    Reply

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