The Apple iPad's Green Grade: B

So it’s official. Today, Steve Jobs took the stage and held up the iPad, Apple’s 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


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