However, there are limits in how much data can stream over 3G cellular wireless, since several apps streaming unlimted HD videos could bring down a network not meant for that. Therefore the streams are downsized and the viewing quality is noticeably lower.
MacWorld's Dan Moren also has some cautions reported on the performance of video streaming over 3G. First, he reminds buyers that the costs of a 3G iPad are ultimately a bit more than some have realized, as the $500 price for the Wi-Fi-only low-storage iPad has been the most quoted as representing iPad pricing.
" 3G models command a $130 premium over their Wi-Fi-only siblings, making the price tags $629 for the 16GB version, $729 for 32GB, and $829 for 64GB. And keep in mind that the higher price covers only the 3G hardware inside the iPad. In order to actually use the 3G service, you’ll need to pay for one of the two monthly plans that Apple and AT&T have teamed up to offer: a $15-per-month plan that allows you 250MB of data transfer or a $30-per-month plan that allows you unlimited data. And unlike the iPhone service agreement, which requires a two-year commitment with AT&T, you can cancel your 3G plan for the iPad at any time. "The focus of the article though, is the 3G experience when it comes to streaming video, relative to what it is with most WiFi setups -- and I'll stress that you can still choose to use the WiFi which is included in the 3G iPad also, and you can shut off the 3G when you want to use the WiFi. In other words, Moren is discussing an added capability that does not have to be the option used when you're around a WiFi network but will give you access where there is no WiFi network or hotspot available:
" Given that the iPad also boasts the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi specification, there’s no contest between the two: Wi-Fi will beat 3G every single time. I ran a few speed tests using the Speed Test iPhone application and, though unscientific, Wi-Fi’s superiority was readily apparent—in one test at my home, Wi-Fi was an astounding 70 times faster at downloads and 30 times faster at uploads. Other tests (such as the one pictured here) showed less of a disparity, but still universally deemed Wi-Fi the winner.However, he says that if you have solid 3G access where you are, you'll find this access "perfectly serviceable" for reading email, websurfing, RSS feeds, and checking into Facebook and Twitter.
Of course, such performance varies widely depending on the quality of the AT&T network in your location. And given that poor performance on AT&T’s 3G network has been one of the major complaints with the iPhone, don’t expect magically better performance on the iPad. "
With more data-intense tasks like video streaming though, Moren considers the performance "sometimes subpar," with Netflix's iPad app "mostly watchable" though there were frequent pauses in playback for them as the video re-buffered. YouTube over 3G is "substantially lower quality" than when over WiFi.
He confirms that Netflix down-samples the video but finds it "passable," and when he tried the the AirVideo video-streaming app, which offers a choice of a variety of data rates, he still had trouble with pauses in playback.
With the ABC Player update, the performance really varied depending on location, with streaming impossible at his home but better elsewhere.
" Most perplexingly, I found that YouTube videos streamed over 3G were practically unwatchable, due to their low quality—you appear to get the same videos that the iPhone gets over the 3G connection, which look terribly pixelated on the iPad’s higher resolution screen. "Moren also points out that when you're out and about and no WiFi is available, these flaws won't bother you much (which is the way I feel about the no-cost Kindle 3G for B&W text and still-images when I'm roaming the streets).
Moren writes TONS more and has lots of good advice about the $15 or $30 payment options as well as how to get the most out of the 3G iPad. He also compares battery usage between the choices of WiFi and 3G.
Even though I personally have no need or desire for an iPad because my Samsung Netbook (same size screen, with no reflections, 2.7 lbs, terrific keyboard, lots of great features and even the basic ones :-), and excellent video streaming under WiFi though the price on this model keeps going up), my advice has always been to pay the extra $130 for the flexibility of the 3G iPad when there is no WiFi available -- all of this depending on whether that's important to you and/or your pocketbook. His final take is similar. I wouldn't like to pay that much money and find myself needing access and not having 3G (and I'm spoiled by always having that (free) text-lookup capability on the streets with the plain-jane Kindle, which is otherwise just a dedicated B&W e-reader).
When iPad availability is nil in some areas and you don't mind quite exploitative pricing by marketplace stores at Amazon, there's a link in the right-hand column for those.
But me? I'd wait until they become available again. Most of us have plenty of access with other devices, and most don't see this as a 'need-' but a 'want-' item and friends love it for that aspect. As has been said, it's a beautiful consumer device for consuming info as compared to one you create work or long pieces on. But MacWorld's cautions on expectations for the 3G video-streaming are good to consider when deciding which iPad would be most worth the investment for you.
Interesting info from commenters to the article there also.