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The Apple iPad's Green Grade: B

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So it’s official. Today, Steve Jobs took the stage and held up the iPad, Apple’s (s APPL) long awaited tablet. Last week, we took the best information surrounding the iPad and made predictions about the device’s eco-attributes, and we ended up being pretty spot-on. So how did the iPad fare in terms of a green grade?

Here’s our take post-iPad launch. Recently, it has become custom for Apple to extol the eco-friendly virtues of their gadgets, and sure enough, Jobs took the time to discuss the now-familiar environmental checklist slide. As expected, the iPad is free of the toxic chemicals that have bedeviled the electronics industry. So say good-bye arsenic, BFRs, mercury and PVCs.

The Case:

We predicted glass and aluminum enclosure, and sure enough, Apple is sticking with its signature materials. That means that the little slab will likely have the same solid feel of the newest MacBook Pros. Glass and aluminum also happen to be easily recyclable, so Apple gets to keep the grade we awarded it last week.

Grade: A

The Screen:

Sorry, but for a device that starts at $499, OLED is simply a non-starter. As expected, an LED-backlit LCD drives the display. Apple points out that it’s a 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768 IPS screen, which stands for in-plane switching, a type of LCD screen technology that offers better viewing angles over common twisted nematic (TN) LCD displays. Mercury-free too, so it carries forward the same grade from last week.

Grade: B

The Battery:

The good news is that the 10-hour battery will last you from the moment the planes take off in San Francisco until the wheels touch down in Tokyo. The bad news is that you won’t be swapping in a battery if you happened to have played one-too-many graphically intensive games. During the reveal, the lack of telltale seams and hatches hinted at a non-user-replaceable battery. The iPad’s spec sheet confirms it with this bullet point: “built-in 25Whr rechargeable lithium-polymer battery.” Emphasis, of course, on “built-in.”

Grade: C

Our predictions were pretty good. You can also add other energy-efficient components like Apple’s own ARM-based A4 processor and internal flash storage to its green credentials. However, as an e-book reader, the iPad is far from the greenest device out there. While Apple’s iBooks store may one day help dematerialize an entire forest worth of books, battery life simply can’t match that of the Kindle, which can go several days without recharging thanks to its electronic ink display. Fortunately for Apple, it’s also marketing the iPad as a device built for the consumption of multimedia, games and rich Web content. E-books just happen to be a big, although not necessarily primary, part of its repertoire.

All things considered, and given the laundry list of things it can do, the iPad is a pretty green little machine. Maybe even green enough to impress Al Gore (who was in attendance at the launch today).

Grade: B

23 Responses to “The Apple iPad's Green Grade: B”

  1. Thinking beyond just the device, but what it actually facilitates — A+

    Considering that the iPad is going to do for the printed page what the iPod did for CDs, I’d rate it a very green machine.

    Ultimately, devices such as the iPad, low cost digital storage and increased bandwidth will help people break their habit of collecting physical media such as books, magazines, cds and dvds. Think about how much paper & fuel would be saved by issuing just one college text book exclusively digitally. Not to mention all the sore backs from lugging the things around. And if every text book that could go digital, did — how many trees are you saving?

    Pile up every book, magazine, comic, cd, dvd you’ve ever owned — the fact that that raw material need to have never been used to store that information, imho gives the iPad a big fat green A+.

    As far as the battery issue, the iPod didn’t have a “user replaceable battery” either. It’s tricky work. I’ve done it but the battery wasn’t as good as the apple one. What’s the big deal about taking it in to get it replaced at the store? That’s the cost of slick design.

  2. Cascades 2004

    I’ve been using computers (and Apples) since the 80s. I don’t own an iPhone because AT&T, poor battery life, and their finger only touch screen don’t cut it for me.

    As a whole, there IS a market for the arm chair/kitchen table as well as travel/car scenarios. Doing this already with my laptop, a few things concern me that give me pause to wait for iPad 2.0 if at all:

    • Multitasking: WTF?!? Is this Windows 1.0? Of course you want email notices to IMAP down and not have to exit web browsing, ebooks, or whatever else you’re doing. People will go nuts if they can? Fine, limit it to 5 apps.

    • Display for book reading: I don’t ebooks these days, at least not yet. My job has been too over powering to permit the time. I would think that some some smart person could adjust an LCD to reduce the illumination sufficiently to read well and cut power consumption considerably. I guess that is another opportunity for future competition to hash out.

    • AGPS: So, if I have a WI-FI only iPad and I want to move from my coffee shop to wherever, I have to pull out a smartphone? Or if a passenger is using it to help the driver, no go? It seems an effort to railroad towards the 3G version and that is unacceptable. And, being in a mountainous area (and knowning the problems with cell reception with CA hills too), this seems a poor choice and gives an opening for competitors to latch onto.

    • Portability: I already know that you’ll want the little case that you can get with it. Tilting the screen for optimally while typing or viewing (especially when at a table or on your lap ) is made more difficult without the little folded in tilt.

    • Syncing: better be able to do bluetooth syncing for calendar or other updates. I hear otherwise, but we’ll see…

    • Editing: Can I do more than view commonly used file types? We’ll see…

    • Removable Battery: we all know these type batteries last about 3 years. I ran with my PBG4 for 5 years before a broken hinge severed my video cable – and yes, before that point I bought new batteries – from APPLE. The ONLY reason to seal the battery in my opinion is to force an upgrade of the whole unit when the battery life starts to get annoying. Does anyone smell the American car company business plan on Planned Obsolescence?

  3. james braselton

    hi there you are right i dont see the reasioning give a 25 watt hour battery for 10 hours a b that is eqivalent too 2.5 watt hours and my 24 inch imac is useing probaly 250 watts soo should we use the 24 inch imacs over the ipad instead like that make sence go green buy consuming more energy i also had i ibook 4g also a comadore 64 2 hp netbooks with ssd the comcadore 64 probaly uses 25 watt hours my iphone or sprint instint or ipod touch or iridum satlite phone but i use a solar cell too power small devices i have a 6 watt a 5 watt with 400 watt power inverter and battery and a anouther 5 watt and a 32 watt too power small stuff like my solar cells can power the ipad giving me true 24 hours of non stop computing with zero emissions or negative emissions do the greenies take in acout you can use solar energy with a 2.5 watt computer all i need now is a wind generator beisdes our naborhood use hydro eletric zero emissions too or watter power we are green and power every thing with green energy eletric golf carts soo i culculated that i have a toatal of 48 watts of solar energy when all solar cells are used thats about 20 ipads on solar energy

  4. Unfortunately, many of the latest gen enviros are really stuck into reasonably backwards engineering logic.

    You give the battery life a B because it’s not driving black-and-white epaper? Har! Are you still using a monochrome monitor to write this?

    Apples and oranges ain’t even a close description of such sophistry.

  5. During the reveal, the lack of telltale seams and hatches hinted at a non-user-replaceable battery.

    You had to wait for the reveal to realize this? iPods and iPhones have NEVER come with user-replaceable batteries. I’m not as familiar with Apple laptops but I don’t think they’ve ever done that either.

    As Fish7170 noted, I’m not sure whether that equates to a bad “green” rating, but for some people it’s a dealbreaker when it comes to buying Apple hardware. It’s one of the major reasons I have a BlackBerry instead of an iPhone…

    • Most of Apple laptops comes with user replaceable batteries, up until the late unibody aluminium ones where they come with the in-build battery.

      I have one of the first gen unibody Aluminium MacBook and the battery and the hard-drive can be changed just by pressing a button on the bottom. i’ve had 4 MacBooks starting with the iBook G4 and they all had user replaceable batteries.


  6. Fish7170

    Not sure I understand the “green” rating of C for a non-user replaceable battery. I’d think it would garner a “green” rating of A, instead. Apple ensures the battery is recycled appropriately whereas consumers only sometimes recycle their batteries correctly.

  7. B – I would give it a D since the consumer cannot remove and recycle the battery. It should be illegal to sell a device to consumers where the battery is not user removable. It will end up in our landfills and then drinking water like all the ipod batteries are.

    • Perhaps the batteries would be improperly disposed of if the average user could remove it. This way Apple can ensure every old battery can be recycled as it has to be replaced “in house”.