Apple iPad WiFi + 3G review

Full review: Is it worth investing in the WiFi + 3G iPad?

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Apple iPad Kindle app
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Apple iPad Marvel Comics app
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Apple iPad main
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Apple iPad iTunes

Portable browsing and downloads reaches the iPad

Since the Apple iPad hit the UK on Friday, worldwide sales stand at 2 million in 60 days. But with WiFi and 3G versions available, what should you go for?

Let’s start by saying the iPad is unlike any tablet you’ve used before. The extra real estate the 9.7in screen provides means multitouch gestures, Apple’s excellent UI and the new fast processor work together to create a seamless user experience. In fact going back to your iPhone 3GS is a disappointment because the screen seems so tiny.

Sitting somewhere between a computer and mobile phone, the iPad is a video player, ebook reader, games console and an excellent browser. All tasks it does very well.

Read more about features and usability in T3.com’s Apple iPad Review: Full Test and Apple iPad review: iOS 4.2

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Aesthetically the 3G and WiFi versions are nearly identical, except the 3G version has a micro sim slot and black strip on the back to aid 3G reception. What 3G (7.2Mbps) brings to the iPad is the flexibility to download apps, browse and now use aGPS.

Apple iPad WiFi + 3G: The advantages of 3G

Using a 64GB iPad equipped with a Vodafone micro sim card, browsing is fast inside and out, only once did the signal drop and that was on a train.

Having 3G is fantastic. We got lost while driving down some country lanes without a sat nav, but by whipping out the iPad and launching Google Maps we had our current location and (crucially) directions within a few taps. Reflections do make maps harder to see than on a dedicated sat nav or iPhone though.

Download times are pretty impressive. A 10.8MB download of Harbor Master HD clocked a respectable 57 seconds, compared to 45 seconds on another iPad over WiFi. Elsewhere on the train on the way to work a 1.8MB download of Shazam for iPad only took around 20 seconds.

The 20MB download cap means you’ll have to enter a WiFi zone to download large games like Prince of Persia Retro. Elsewhere some apps can only be used over 3G, such as reportage photo app Guardian Eyewitness.

Apple iPad WiFi + 3G: Ebooks and visibility

Many people will use the iPad as an ebook reader and the iBooks app with its sliding bookcase is certainly slick. While waiting for a family member to finish shopping we flipped out the iPad and downloaded a book within 14 seconds, providing a download flexibility only match by the Amazon Kindle DX.

If you’re thinking of using the 3G iPad to browse outside you may want to think again. In the park on a (surprisingly) sunny bank holiday we could barely see the screen.

Apple iPad WiFi + 3G: Pricing issues

Prices start at £530 (£430 WiFi only) for 16GB, £600 (£500 WiFi only) for 32GB and £700 (£600 WiFi only) for 64GB. Data plans start at £2 a day and around £7.50-£10 a month (see below for the iPad data plans), although most operators offer rolling contracts. The large capacity seems expensive when you consider you can get a basic MacBook for £850, although the iPad certainly isn't designed to be a MacBook replacement.

If you don’t own a laptop or PC, let alone a wireless router, but you want to be able to browse the web, then an iPad WiFi + 3G is worth considering. Apple can set you up with an iTunes account, so you’re ready to start downloading apps without having to deal with Windows error messages and broadband subscriptions.

Many iPhone users will no doubt find their handset’s portable size means they continue to use it for casual browsing on the go, in which case the WiFi-only iPad will be a more than adequate for extended (and enhanced) browsing, gaming and email when at home. The same applies to anyone who will be primarily using the iPad at home or in the office over WiFi.

But if you commute on a train every day or travel up and down the country for work staying in hotels, then the 3G version is a lot more appealing and means you never have to worry about looking for a WiFi hotspot. Having used the iPad WiFi + 3G version for a few days we’d suggest seriously considering where and when you’ll be using it before shelling out the extra cash and ultimately if money isn’t a factor, go ahead and futureproof yourself with the 3G version.

Link: Apple

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iPad WiFi + 3G tariffs

O2
500MB per day1 £2.00
1GB per month1 £10.00
3GB per month1 £15.00

Three
1 GB per month £7.50
10 GB per month £15.00

Orange
200MB per day £2.00
1GB per week £7.50
3GB per month1 £15.00
10GB per month1 £25.00

Vodafone
1GB per month1 £10.00
3GB per month1 £15.00
5GB per month1 £25.00

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