iPad Touch (review as an ereader/tool for academic purposes)

A beautifully styled machine, lightweight and incredibly tactile. With a touch screen, a case is really a must, and would encourage more use.

Clarity 10/10

Incredibly clear full-colour screen, easy to read in any light (the brightness is set to auto-adjust). Images appear on the screen in a similar brightness to DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, and text is very sharp. Beautifully clear screen shots can be taken and embedded elsewhere.

Usability 7/10

Setting up the machine is a bit of faff [“has a sub-optimal configuration procedure”] in the first instance, requiring syncing with iTunes – clearly designed as a personal machine. This is problematic for a machine potentially intended for shared usage, as all apps already existing on iTunes are downloaded (potentially with data). Unlike the iPhone, apps can’t be put into folders, with new apps filling spaces/going to the last screen, so can take a while to find amongst multiple apps. They can be moved across screens, but it’s a painstaking process. I’m not sure if there’s a limit to the number of apps (10 screens so far).

A number of features that I am used to from the iPhone are not available in this 16GB wi-fi only version. The larger screen is obviously much preferred for reading, but not for tucking in the pocket! The lack of camera and 3G are functions that I miss (although of course there are 3G options, on payment of a data plan, and a camera is expected on the iPad 2). Excellent battery life, although the 3G option would likely hamper this option. I much prefer carrying this at conferences, rather than a laptop/netbook, but we need to find the right apps to substitute for Office applications. James Clay indicates that with Citrix Servers, the University could set up systems by which we could access [all?] docs/platforms (including Flash, on which Prezi runs), but I’m still seeking more information.

Intuitiveness 8/10

The machine itself is very intuitive to use. I could say that as an iPhone user for the past 1.5 years (as this behaves like a large iPhone), it was always going to be an easy transition, but the iPhone was also intuitive to use. The applications themselves can lack intuitiveness, but that’s down to the application developers.

Range of docs to read 8/10

The iPad comes with the iBooks app, and Amazon Kindle has also been downloaded. Documents downloaded on one app are not visible in the other app. A wide range of documents are available in the two separate shops.

Ease of download and borrowing from online library stocks

With instructions as to the path to follow within the Library, very straightforward as can access through the internet (assuming in a wi-fi zone).

Editing, notes etc 5/10

There are multiple apps on the iPad which can be used for editing, from the basic notepad, to QuickOffice (which I transferred from my iPhone, the iPad specific version looks more functional, but was £12). There are multiple apps which allow you to display Office files, but QuickOffice looks as though it has good functionality for Word and Excel, but nothing for PowerPoint. Documents To Go Premium (£10) claims to be the only programme to allow editing of PowerPoint, but user feedback indicates that this functionality is poor. iAnnotate PDF (£6) has strong reviews for allowing annotations on iPads. Further research required!

Audio abilities 9/10

Audio is clear from the iPad, although headphones can be used. There’s no default audio recording app on the iPad, but there are plenty of (paid) options to download which have had good reviews, I tested with Audioboo, worked well.

Overall

A beautiful machine to hold, and with a case and 3G (or always used in a wifi zone), a highly usable machine with lots of options. If the right apps could be found for presentations, writing, etc. this would have a wide range of uses, but as a personal machine, or with University specific iTunes accounts.

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