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Apple iPad 3G 32GB

Wandering star

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Review The problem of choice when buying an iPad is compounded not just by the size of the storage, but the issue of whether or not to shell out an additional hundred quid for the 3G version. It's not as simple as the choice between an iPod Touch and an iPhone, since the iPad 3G doesn't include phone capabilities: it all depends on where and how you want to use it.

Apple iPad

Apple's iPad 3G is unlocked, and 30-day contracts exist so you can choose the cellco with the best coverage

And that's the cruncher. Unlike a laptop or a phone, the iPad is an unknown genre of device: you can't run desktop applications on it, so it's not a laptop substitute. As a wholly new type of machine, you don't really know how you're going to use it until you've had one for a while. Register Hardware has already reviewed the entry-level Wi-Fi-only 16GB iPad, so now it's time to find out if a 32GB 3G iPad is worth the extra.

The limitations of the Wi-Fi-only version are clear – use it for web browsing, email, Twitter and YouTube only when at home or in an area where there’s free Wi-Fi. Unless you plan to spend afternoons sitting over a coffee in MacDonalds or Little Chef, you’ll soon discover the Wi-Fi version’s limited capabilities. Indeed, connectivity, rather than game playing, music and photo browsing, is really what the iPad is all about.

The Wi-Fi reception of the iPad is notoriously variable in quality: even in an upstairs bedroom where I get a decent Wi-Fi signal on a laptop, the chances are that the reception on the iPad will drop off more drastically, the further away I am from the base station. Often, the 3G reception will give a better signal, even at home, which means pages and videos will load quicker and more reliably.

The good news is that with a decent signal, 3G on the iPad is really snappy. The speedy A4 processor means that web pages and videos load fast and run smoothly. It's noticeably faster than 3G on an iPhone 3GS, even though it’s loading higher resolution images and video content due to the higher pixel resolution of the screen.

Pulse

Pulse presents news feeds in a beautiful and highly visual way - and it's very quick to load

Having the 3G iPad means does allow you stay in touch more effectively when on the move. On the iPhone, you want a newsreader to deliver the raw text as quickly and efficiently as possible - there just isn't room for eye candy. But on the iPad different rules apply with newsreader apps such as Pulse, which displays a graphical view of all the news feeds with its large-scale thumbnails for each news item delivering a wholly visual sense of what's new and of interest.

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