5 awesome iPad features no one saw coming

Now that the iPad is out and into the hot little hands — or surprisingly cool hands, as you'll find out on this list — of the masses, Apple's much-anticipated tablet is getting put through the paces: displays are getting tapped, apps downloaded, pictures pinched, movies watched from laps.

What surprised folks? Continue reading to check out five awesome things about the iPad no one saw coming.



1. The battery lasts longer than expected

Apple's official battery life estimate for the iPad clocks in at 10 hours, though many reviewers are finding that even when actively browsing the web via the Wi-Fi, keeping the brightness for the screen high and watching movies, it will keep going and going. AllThingsD's Walt Mossberg managed to squeeze over 11 hours out of the device's battery: "The iPad lasted 11 hours and 28 minutes, about 15% more than Apple claimed. I was able to watch four feature-length movies, four TV episodes and a video of a 90-minute corporate presentation, before the battery died midway through an episode of 'The Closer.'"

He wasn't alone, either. David Pogue writing for The New York Times had similar results: "Speaking of video: Apple asserts that the iPad runs 10 hours on a charge of its nonremovable battery — but we all know you can't trust the manufacturer. And sure enough, in my own test, the iPad played movies continuously from 7:30 a.m. to 7:53 p.m. — more than 12 hours. That's four times as long as a typical laptop or portable DVD player."

2. The built-in, sorta-stereo speaker works surprisingly well

Speakers — and ones that work — probably aren't the first thing on your mind when you think about the iPad, but it has them. The two speaker grills aren't far enough apart that you'll be able to discern between the two different channels, but it does mean that the iPad plays through more than one channel, rather than trying to cram it down through mono and distort the sound.

"The built-in speaker surprised me--not with its excellent quality, but with its ability to get fairly loud and not sound horrifyingly awful," wrote PC Mag's Tim Gideon, though after trying Knife's "Silent Shout," he added, "The song's deep bass was too much for the built-in speaker, which distorted a bit at times, but through a good pair of headphones, I heard no horrible defects."

3. Wide viewing angle for movies and video

This is something I was personally wondering about. Sure, you could watch a movie in your lap, but why sit the iPad up in its stand? It's 9.7 inch display is no big-screen TV, but it's more than decent for a casual viewing experience. Well, turns out you could share said experience with some friends pretty easily.

"The fingerprint-resistant screen has an exceptionally wide viewing sweet spot for a movie and is terrific for showing off most of a Web page," Ed Baig wrote in his review for USA Today. That means you could be flanked by your friends and they should be able to enjoy the same quality you do when watching a movie — though the iPad probably won't be taking over any living rooms.

4. The iPad doesn't run hot

Apple has a reputation for burning laps. The newest generation of the company's laptops fare a little better, but let me tell you: my 3-year-old MacBook Pro can be downright scalding at times. That's why it's nice to know that the iPad won't melt any fingers.

"It's great in the lap," writes Tested's Will Smith. I love that the iPad doesn't get hot, even after hours of use. I love that I'm writing on the iPad right now, and I've been using it since 4PM nonstop, and I'm only down to 54% battery life."

5. Comic books look amazing

Everyone always touted the iPad's ability to represent magazines and newspapers faithfully, in color and in a more complex format than an e-reader can. There's one more class of printed periodical the iPad is perfect for: the comic book. Marvel has a free app for the device that'll let you buy comic classics, as well as newer titles.

Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin took it for a spin, offering up some early impressions: "I like it. Scrolling is intuitive, brisk, and elegant. I'm amazed at how smooth. The store interface makes sense to anyone familiar with iTunes and App store. Flipping and reading, one luminous full-color page at a time, I do not miss paper."

There did appear to be one drawback to reading comics on the iPad, however: "Unless I'm missing something, no way to view two pages at a time, as you might with a paper comic."

Bonus: 6. The iPad makes an amazing calculator

As tweeted by Conan O'Brien: "Just got the new iPad. This amazing device has already revolutionized the way I use a calculator."


So that's what wowed critics. Now take a look at what has them complaining.