Cheat Sheet: Apple iPad

Update: How commanding is Apple's shiny new tablet PC?

iPad you say? Is that some new brand of feminine hygiene product?
Haha - very funny. The iPad is the latest slice of hardware from Apple - a multitouch tablet that resembles a supersized iPhone or iPod.

It runs a version of the iPhone OS, rather than the full OS X operating system used by Macs.

The iPad is designed to do a range of things, with Apple flagging its potential for web browsing, email, viewing photos, reading e-books, watching videos, listening to music, playing games and using apps to name a few. It doesn't (yet) have the ability to multitask, however.

There are two varieties of the iPad: wi-fi only, and wi-fi-plus-3G. The latter - in the US at least - has a slightly higher price tag, and obviously requires a data plan.

What about prices and release dates? When's iPad coming to the UK?
The wi-fi only iPad was released in the US on Saturday (the wi-fi-plus-3G version is coming to the US later this month) but UK shoppers won't be able to get their hands on either for a little while yet.

Apple has named late April as the release date for the wi-fi-only and wi-fi-plus-3G models in the UK, along with some other international markets.

It has not yet announced UK pricing. In the US however the wi-fi-only model costs $499, $599 or $699 for 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB versions respectively; while the 3G model costs either $629, $729 or $829.

So what other vital stats can you give me?
Dimensions of the rectangular iPad are 9.56 x 7.47 inches - roughly the size of an average paperback book held open - and half an inch thick at its widest point. The back is aluminium, the screen is glass.

The touchscreen device has just one physical button on the front - a home key below the screen.

The 9.7-inch widescreen display has more than 1,000 multitouch sensors, a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating and an LED backlighting system. The screen also uses IPS (in plane switching) technology to enable off-angle viewing so people can gather round and see what's on screen from different viewpoints.

The iPad's screen resolution is 1024 x 768 pixels at 132 pixels per inch (ppi). By contrast, the iPhone has a 3.5-inch screen with a resolution of 480 x 320 pixels at 163ppi.

The wi-fi-only iPad weighs 0.68kg, while the 3G iPad is slightly heavier at 0.73kg. Wi-fi is 802.11n. The 3G model has UMTS/HSDPA and GSM/EDGE. Both models have Bluetooth 2.1.

There are three storage options - none removable: 16GB, 32GB or 64GB.

Like the iPhone, the iPad has an accelerometer and digital compass. There's also an ambient light sensor too.

The device has a 1GHz processor custom built by Apple called A4: a chip the company says has been designed for high performance, low-power consumption.

Apple claims the device offers up to 10 hours of battery life - for web surfing on wi-fi, watching video or listening to music. Expect to get less juice on the cellular model when using 3G.

So it's basically a medium-sized piece of touch-sensitive glass?
That's right. But, like all things Apple, it's also all about the software, stupid.

Apple has built several custom apps specifically for the iPad - such as a calendar program, two-panel email client and of course iBooks, its e-book reader app. The latter app is currently slated as only available in the US, however, so it remains to be seen whether other markets will be able to get e-book functionality.

Apple iPad New York Times app

The New York Times app running on the iPad
(Photo credit: James Martin/CNET)

How many apps are there for iPad?
According to Apple there are currently more than a thousand apps specifically made for the iPad, including Apple's own.

Cupertino's iPad app efforts are already outnumbered by third party apps which include news apps from the likes of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times (pictured above), games - from board games like Scrabble to racing games like F1 2010 - plus textbook-style information apps, along with a Marvel Comics app and a recipe app called Epicurious to name a few...