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IT Review - The big 'buy or not to buy' question

It's hard to resist but is the iPad useful for work? Dr Stefan Cembrowicz has some minor gripes but is a fan.

If you are a fashion victim or techie nerd, read no further.

You will already have an iPad. Those who have not yet succumbed should read on.

There are 100 or so medical apps - so far mostly from the US and aimed at education, reference and patient information rather than NHS GPs. But why not lounge at home, swooping through your lab results and answering practice mail?

At the surgery, why not show patients anatomical details in colour from Gray's Anatomy? Or study really good dermatology photos, right next to your patient's skin lesion?

The iPad slips into your hand like an oyster from its shell, but there is no instruction booklet, so where do you put your USB cable, Ethernet, DVD or all other accessories that plug into your laptop?

Young people know intuitively that you just plug the iPad into your Mac (or PC), using a white, iPod-style cable.

Any computer running iTunes can be the mother ship as iTunes takes care of charging and set-up, regulates downloads, music, photos and thousands of apps.

There are instructions online, and you simply select which of your photo albums and music files you wish to use on the iPad, plus which apps to buy from the iTunes store.

The screen layout is like an iPhone but larger and crisper. You sweep across the screen with a flick to choose apps, look through photos and zoom in with multi-touch gestures, choose music and download books using the free iBooks app. You can look at emails using the onscreen virtual keyboard. Battery life is excellent: 10 hours-plus for heavy use. You cannot delete or edit from the iPad - do this on your computer before downloading.

Apple regards the iPad as the fourth screen in the home after TV, computer and smartphone. Screen quality is superb; video and still images are great, and the toughened screen feels indestructible.

There are two versions - with and without 3G (communication) functions that you pay a subscription for.

It is slim enough to slip into a largish handbag or jacket pocket and easily big enough to read books, emails, journals or for doing your appraisal online - even for remote access to your surgery desktop.

And the niggles? No camera, so you cannot make Skype calls on the road or email shots of tricky rashes to a dermatologist. There is no Flash support, so embedded video graphics on websites will not play.

The iPad is not cheap but if you buy one, do you still need a laptop or smart phone?

How Much?
  • Wi-Fi-only iPad starts at £429 for 16GB version; goes up to £499 for 32GB and £599 for 64GB.
  • The 3G model adds another £100.
  • Wi-Fi alone gives connectivity at home and anywhere there is a free connection.
  • Dr Cembrowicz is a GP in Bristol

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