Reviews

iPad review

iPad is Apple's attempt to define something between the smartphone and laptop, to give the masses silky-smooth software and multitouch glass all wrapped up in unibody aluminum and complete ecosystem control -- to make mainstream the computing appliance starting at just $499. To do this, to justify the iPad's existence, to make us buy a device too big for our pocket and too small for our server room, Steve Jobs said it had to do several things better than either of the categories so well established before: browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and eBooks.

Given the companies and products that have tried and failed before it, that's audacious even for Apple. Especially for a first generation attempt. How close did they get? Did they get close at all?

Dieter goes hands-on with the iPad hardware and Rene dissects the iPad software after the break!

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Quick Review: Twitteriffic on iPad

Twitteriffic on the iPad is straight-up elegant and clean. Although it's not quite the powerhouse of Twitter mania that is Tweetdeck on iPad, it makes up for it by having a nicer and more intuitive layout.

In portrait mode, you get a large list of tweets, but the real excitement comes in landscape. Twitteriffic uses the now-familiar setup of a list of options on the left, the main window on the right. Your options are simple and straightfoward - viewing recent tweet, messages, direct messages, favorites, a search bar, and so on. I'm especially happy to see lists on the sidebar - that's a feature that's been lacking on many other Twitter clients. The app offers a $4.99 in-app purchase to enable multiple accounts and eliminating ads. Twitteriffic also does a great job with links - photos appear in a small pop-up and web-links appear in a large pop-up browser that's very usable. Tapping a profile brings up an iPhone-style pop-up that lets you browse that user's tweets.

I do sort of wish the lefthand bar was customizable - I'd rather see multiple accounts listed there rather than Twitter trends. You also can't change accounts on an active tweet you're writing - instead you have to back out of one account and into another.

Video and gallery after the break!

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Quick Review: Mirror's Edge or iPad

Mirror's Edge is flat-out fun. More than any other game I've tried on the iPad so far, it shows what the potential for gaming on the platform can be. The basic mechanics of the game are simple: you control Faith, sending her running over the city and through tunnels to, well, do something that clearly has The Man unhappy. Whatever, the story is secondary. You control the game with a series of simple gestures - swipes left, right, up, and down - with the occasional tilt here and there. There are no health indicators, ammo bars, or anything else to get in your way.

I think it's a great game for iPad because you can perform these swipes without covering up half the screen - you can always see the action and it really does feel pretty immersive.

The game is relatively simple to beat in story mode, but there's plenty of extras to keep you in the game - including speed runs, going back to find hidden bags, and even a multiplayer option. It's a little pricey at $12.99, but it's addictive enough that I've lost a solid two hours to the game just toda. It's only through great force of will that I was able to stop playing long enough to write this quick take.

Video and gallery after the break!

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Quick Review and Give Away: PAC-MAN for iPad

Namco brings the classic arcade game PAC-MAN [$4.99 - iTunes link] to iPad.

PAC-MAN for iPad is a great remake and include three game modes: easy, normal, and classic. Easy mode comes with an extra 2 lives, normal is slower than classic, and classic is just like arcade version. To control PAC-MAN, you just swipe in the appropriate direction anywhere on the screen or you can limit yourself to using only the joystick. Playing PAC-MAN for iPad brought back some childhood memories of playing this classic in the arcade room of pizza parlors!

Now for the giveaway! Let us know in the comments below why you enjoy PAC-MAN and where you first remember playing the original game. We'll randomly select one of you and send you a promo code. (Note: promo codes only work in the US App Store, so if you don’t have access, you won’t be able to claim a prize. They also expire so if you get one, use it fast!)

Video and screenshots after the break!

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Quick Review: Dungeon Hunter HD for iPad

Dungeon Hunter HD [$6.99 - iTunes Link] brings Gameloft's popular iPhone game to the iPad in beautifully rendered, HD splendor.

The story unfolds as our hero uses the dark arts to resurrect his beloved wife only to have her turn against him and plunge a dagger into his heart (women!). You play the hero and get to choose between three classes, wizard, rogue and warrior. The inventory menu and manner of choosing skills is intuitive and enjoyable to navigate.

For more on Dungeon Hunter HD and screen shots continue with us after the break!

The main difference between the iPad and iPhone version is the crisp HD graphics and the absence of long load times between zones, which afflicted my iPhone 3G. Thanks Apple A4! The iPad version also allows you a choice between using the circle pad to control your characters movement or to place your finger where you want it to go.

If you enjoy real-time RPG games than this is a must-have for your collection.

Video and screenshots after the break!

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Quick Review: iBooks on iPad

iBooks on the iPad is the best ebook reading experience I've ever had (though to be fair I only have compared it to the Kindle 2nd Gen, Kindle on iPad, Kindle on iPhone, and various ebook readers on webOS and PalmOS).

Although initially I was a little concerned that reading on an LCD for extended periods of time would cause eye strain, reading for a couple of hours last night wasn't a problem at all. I will have to wait and see if even longer sessions cause problems, but my hunch is that won't be the case. You can adjust the brightness of the screen, the font size, and even the font type right from inside the app as you're reading to ensure that you're not squinting into some insanely bright screen.

You can search an entire book, look up words in the dictionary, jump to chapters, and so on. Bookmarking seems to only work on specific words, not on pages, but once you figure that out you're set to go. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a way to enter notes, only to highlight text in one of five colors. In other words, academics can add the inability to add margin notes to the other reasons to shy away from ebooks for now (the others including the fact that you can't trade or sell ebooks and, of course, DRM).

The iBooks Store is in-app and ties into your iTunes account, so you won't need to remember a different password to use it. Book selection seems to be slightly worse than what you can find in Amazon's Kindle store - but this early it's not completely fair to judge on selection. As with iTunes, there are plenty of top-charts like the NYT bestseller list, categories, and the ability to download samples of books to see if it's something you'd really like to read.

If you were thinking of buying a Kindle, don't.

Video and gallery after the break!

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Quick Review: Kindle on iPad

Kindle on iPad is, well, not as good as Kindle on a Kindle or iBooks. That's going to be the bottom line for a lot of people. It works in both portrait and landscape - though curiously I can't find a way to get a two-column book view in landscape. You can do most of the traditional ebook things: change the font size, adjust brightness, jump to any point in the book, have your place saved, etc. On Kindle you can also bookmark pages and add your own notes - all of which get synced up to Amazon's cloud so you can see them on other Kindle devices like your iPhone, a Kindle, etc.

Instead of an in-app store, Amazon sends you to Safari to browse and search for Kindle book - which I don't find especially annoying because the iPad's web browser is so good. Amazon has a slightly better selection of books than Apple does too, though in both cases I often find myself stymied when trying to find a particular book.

With both Kindle and iBooks my basic feeling is that they're good for light reading, but the difficulty of entering and exporting notes means that while I'll use them for entertainment, I won't use them for 'serious' work.

Hopefully Amazon will update this app to support two-column landscape mode soon.

Video and gallery after the break!

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Native iPad apps vs. "pixel doubling" iPhone apps

How do native iPad apps compare with "pixel doubling" iPhone/iPod touch apps on the iPad? When Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall first introduced their magical new device, one of the bullet points hardest hit was that most of the (then) 150,000 iPhone apps would "just work" on the iPad -- either letter-and-pillar boxed, 1:1 in the center of the iPad screen, or with 2X "pixel doubling" that made both horizontal and vertical sizes twice as big (480x320 iPhone apps would show up as 960x640 on the iPad's 1024x768 screen).

It looked fine on the videos but people on the scene said there was a little (or more than a little) jagged edged, aliases, blurred chunk going on in there.

So we put some games and other apps to the test to see for ourselves and the verdict...

Eh, they're alright. The looks faired from okay to pretty good, but when compared to native iPad apps you really notice the lack of iPad-ness -- like watching an SD movie blown up to HD, you start to miss the details. It's almost claustrophobic at times because you know a real iPad app could just blow out of those lower-res constraints. And while the sliding screens work really well on the iPhone, once you get used to popovers and sidebars on the iPad, you miss those as well when they're not present.

  • For Universal Binaries (apps with both iPhone and iPad interfaces included), this is a moot point of course. You get the best of both and a consistent experience between devices.
  • For free iPad apps, just download the higher res version. It can be a pain to double-up on your apps but it's worth it.
  • For paid apps, try the iPhone version first but check out the iPad versions and if the extra usability or functionality is worth it to you, get it.

I ended up getting almost all native iPad apps, but I'm a sucker for UI. If you've found any iPad versions you couldn't live without, or any you wish you hadn't spent the cash on, let us know in the comments!

Videos and screenshots after the break!

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Quick Review: TweetDeck on iPad

TweetDeck on the iPad is a mixed bag - most of the contents of that bag are utterly awesome for the power-twitter user. If you need to follow a lot of Twitter streams then there's simply no better way to track them all than TweetDeck. If you use TweetDeck on the desktop, you can set up a TweetDeck account and have your chosen columns synchronized between your desktop and iPad. If you have multiple Twitter accounts, you can send from multiple accounts too.

The not-so-awesome part of the bag comes when you want to view a link from a tweet. In landscape mode you simply can't. In portrait mode what happens is the tweet appears in a at the top of the screen. You can also view profiles, recent tweets, and more. For displaying a single tweet, that area is simply giant. For displaying a web page linked from a tweet, it's maddeningly small.

I said in the video that TweetDeck might my favorite iPad Twitter client, but I'm finding more and more that the portrait mode isn't quite working out for me.

Video and gallery after the break!

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Quick Review: Marvel Comics for iPad

Marvel Comics for iPad [Free - iTunes link] and iPhone [Free - iTunes link] finally brings one of the big two old media giants to the mobile age -- albeit kicking and screaming. And... this is the future of comic books. They look gorgeous on that big 1024x768 screen. There's a ton more functionality shown off in the video below but they get the core experience right and that's the most important thing.

There are other comic book stores and readers for iPad, and we'll be looking at them, but Marvel deserves huge kudos for even entering this space -- unlike DC which continues to sit on the sidelines, treating the digital revolution as confusingly as their cross-over events. (What?)

Now I'm a comic book geek from way, way back. Among my first comics were the now-Classic Dark Phoenix Saga from the X-Men. I love Marvel and I want to love this app. In many ways I do, but it makes me as angry as it does happy.

So if you just wanted to know about the app itself, stop reading and go get it. It's free. If you want to hear me rant because I care, read on after the break!

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