The iPad is a harmonious combination of hardware and software. Here, you can take a brief look at the hardware — what’s on all four sides.

1

On the top of your iPad, you find the headphone jack, microphone, and the Sleep/Wake button.

Sleep/Wake button: This button is used to put your iPad’s screen to sleep or to wake it up. It’s also how you turn your iPad on or off. To put it to sleep or wake it up, just press the button. To turn it on or off, press and hold the button for a few seconds.

If you use an Apple Smart Cover or Smart Case (or any of the third-party cases that use the Smart Cover mechanism), you can just open the cover to wake your iPad and close the cover to put it to sleep.

Headphone jack: This jack lets you plug in a headset. You can use the Apple headsets or headphones that came with your iPhone or iPod. Or you can use pretty much any headphones or headset that plugs into a 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack.

Strictly speaking, a headset includes a microphone so that you can talk (or record) as well as listen; headphones or earphones are for listening only. Either type works with your iPad.

Microphone: The tiny dot in the middle of the top is actually a pretty good microphone.

2

On the bottom of your iPad are the speaker and dock connector.

Speaker: The speaker plays monaural (single-speaker) audio — music or video soundtracks — if no headset is plugged in.

30-pin dock connector (second and third generation) or Lightning connector (fourth generation): This connector has three purposes:

Recharge your iPad’s battery: Simply connect one end of the included dock connector–to–USB cable to the dock or Lightning connector and the other end to the USB power adapter.

Synchronize your iPad: Connect one end of the same cable to the dock connector and the other end to a USB port on your Mac or PC.

Connect your iPad to cameras or televisions using adapters: Such connectors include the Camera Connection Kit or the other adapter cables. Make sure to use an adapter that is appropriate for your dock or Lightning connector.

3

On the right side of your iPad are the Volume Up/Down control and Mute switch.

Mute switch: When the switch is set to Silent mode — the down position, with an orange dot visible on the switch — your iPad doesn’t make any sound when you receive new mail or an alert pops up on the screen. Note that the Mute switch doesn’t silence expected sounds, which are sounds you expect to hear in a particular app.

Therefore, it doesn’t silence the iTunes or Videos apps, nor does it mute games and other apps that emit noises. About the only thing the Mute switch mutes are unexpected sounds, such as those associated with notifications from apps or the iPad operating system (iOS).

If the switch doesn’t mute your notification sounds when engaged (that is, you can see the little orange dot on the switch), look for a little Screen Orientation icon to the left of the Battery icon near the top of your screen.

When you flick the Mute switch, you may see this icon for two possible reasons. The most likely reason is that you’ve selected the Lock Rotation option in the Settings app’s General pane. Another, far less likely reason is that your iPad is running an older version (version 3 or earlier) of iOS.

Volume Up/Down control: The Volume Up/Down control is a single button that’s just below the Mute switch. The upper part of the button increases the volume; the lower part decreases it.

The Camera app uses the Volume Up button as a shutter release button as an alternative to the onscreen shutter release button. Press either one to shoot a picture or start/stop video recording.

4

On the front and back of your iPad, you find the touchscreen, two cameras, and several buttons.

Touchscreen: The iPad’s high-resolution color touchscreen is gorgeous. Try not to drool all over it.

Home button: No matter what you’re doing, you can press the Home button at any time to display the Home screen.

Front camera: The front camera is serviceable, and delivers decent-enough video for video chats and such, but it’s not particularly good for taking still photos.

Application buttons: Each of the 20 buttons (icons) shown on the screen launches an included iPad application.

Rear camera: iPads have a better camera (than the one in front) on the backside, just below the Sleep/Wake button. The iPad 2’s rear camera captures decent video at 720p and shoots fair-to-middling stills; all other iPads have better rear cameras that shoot nice HD video at 1080p and very nice stills.