Top 15 Essential iPad Apps for Play

Whether you want to race, play with angry birds, or read, these iPad apps will keep you tapping for hours.

iPad Apps to Keep You Entertained

The iPad is meant to be a fun device, and you can find plenty of entertaining apps out there. Whether you're looking to play some cool games or read the news in style, we've got you covered. We selected 15 great iPad apps that will keep you tapping for hours on end or help you sit back and relax. Enjoy!

VLC Media Player | Free

Say good-bye to lengthy file conversions: the VLC Media Player app for iPad is the ultimate video player for the tablet. You can throw a multitude of popular file formats (AVI, MPG, MKV, MP4) at it. The app will tidily arrange your videos on a virtual glass shelf; simply tap on one, and it plays. To transfer videos into the app, you just sync the iPad with your computer and go to the File Sharing section in iTunes' Apps tab. The app can theoretically play high-def videos, too, but its lack of access to iPad's hardware video-decoding chip makes the playback stuttery and basically unwatchable. Nevertheless, VLC for the iPad is a one-of-a-kind app that unleashes the iPad's video capabilities.

Air Video | $3 (Full), Free (Lite)

Using a smaller-capacity iPad and running out of storage? Why not stream video straight to your tablet? Air Video installs a little app on your computer (PC or Mac) that can stream video files to your iPad via Wi-Fi or 3G. The live video conversion is smooth, and the app supports most video formats (as long as you have the codecs installed on your computer). Intuitive and easy to use, the app also packs some nifty extras such as subtitles, video zoom, and audio-levels boost.

Flipboard | Free

Flipboard is beautiful iPad app that combines your feeds from Facebook, Twitter, or other sources into a smart magazine-style layout. You can customize the "magazine" with content from Twitter accounts, blogs, or lists curated by various people. Flipboard offers a unique browsing experience on the iPad, and is one of the most innovative reading apps for the platform so far, alongside Pulse and Reeder.

Pulse News Reader | $2

Another cool app for keeping tabs on news and blogs on your iPad is Pulse News Reader. The app lets you add sources (up to 60) and arranges them in a mosaic with sliding rows for each source, providing a lot of eye candy. Playing around with Pulse is a great pastime, and an easy way to monitor the latest news from multiple sources. Also, if you are a serious RSS addict, check out Reeder ($5).

Cut the Rope | $2 (Full), Free (Lite)

In Cut the Rope your mission is simple: Feed the little monsters with candy. But it's not that easy. This beautifully designed puzzle game has fantastic visuals and funny sound effects. You need to swipe your finger across ropes and collect stars by touching them with the candy before feeding it to the monster. An addictive brainteaser and time waster, the game gets more complicated each level.

Angry Birds | $5 (Classic), $2 (Halloween)

In Angry Birds--a game that got even heads of state hooked--green pigs have stolen the birds' eggs, and the flock is out for revenge. The game is challenging and addictive, with great graphics and audio, and almost 200 levels for you to plow through. And if you happen to finish the game (some of the levels are really hard), you can get the sweet Halloween edition, which is cheaper. (That version can also give you a taste of the gameplay if you haven't tried it yet.)

FarmVille HD | Free

Many have tried to imitate it, but FarmVille is still the best game in its genre, and you can play it in glorious high resolution on your iPad. Plow your patches and fertilize your crops on your tablet, in a game experience more enjoyable than that on your desktop. The app even supports new features in FarmVille such as co-op farming, and you get a few exclusive items for the iPad. Best of all, it's free.

Brushes | $8

Turn your iPad into a 10-inch digital canvas with Brushes. This artistic app is simple enough for your kids to practice their doodling skills, but powerful enough for pros such as Jorge Colombo to use it to paint four New Yorker front covers. Brushes comes with 19 brushes, and you can output your drawings live on an external display or send them straight to Flickr. For a more-basic alternative, you can always try the free Adobe Ideas app.

The Photo Cookbook | $5

Fancy some dinner tonight but don't know how to cook it? Use your iPad. The Photo Cookbook marries gorgeous photography with a simple and sleek layout, full of recipes that take less than a half hour to prepare. Each recipe starts with a photo of all the ingredients, and the app guides you through every step of the cooking process with a photo--all the way to the finished dish.

Friendly for Facebook | $1

Facebook doesn't have an official iPad app, which left the door open for other developers to chip in. Sure, you can use Safari to go on Facebook, but in most cases the buttons are too small. Friendly for Facebook comes to the rescue. It's a sleek app that offers access to most Facebook features, including chat, photos, and Places. If you share your iPad in your household, Friendly works with multiple accounts. It also lets you browse photos in full-screen mode.

Netflix | Free

If you have a Netflix unlimited membership (a free trial is available), you can access the service's entire on-demand video library straight from your iPad. The interface is simple and straightforward, and you can stream over Wi-Fi (recommended) or over 3G, though the latter will compromise video quality and possibly your monthly data bill (1 hour of a Netflix video streamed over 3G equals about 250MB of data). Regardless, the app is a great complement to your Netflix subscription. It also lets you resume watching where you left off on your TV or computer.

N.O.V.A. HD | $7

The closest thing to Halo that you can get on an iPad is N.O.V.A. HD--and the game is stunning. It has great graphics and sound, and aside from controlling the gameplay with your thumbs (the settings are customizable), you can perform several multitouch gestures on the screen. You can play N.O.V.A. HD against your friends online on five different maps, against the world through Gameloft Live, or by yourself on 13 levels. If you excuse the corny sci-fi story line, you'll have a great time with this game.

Need for Speed Shift | $13

If you're a fan of high-speed racing games, you'll like Need for Speed Shift for its amazing graphics--and you'll also find that there's no better way to play such a game than on an iPad because of the tablet's built-in accelerometer. The big screen and graphics are immersive, and you basically use the iPad as a steering wheel. The game has plenty of cars and circuits to keep you busy, and you can play with friends on local Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. You might also want to give Reckless Racing ($5) a try for more arcade-style gameplay.

IMDB and Flixster | Free

Any movie buff should have these two apps. IMDB's app is a great way to access information and photos for all the movies, TV shows, and celebrities you can think of, while Flixster's app is the best way to check out what movies are screening near you, keep tabs on the box office, and get Rotten Tomatoes ratings for films out now. Looking for more? Also try the Yahoo Entertainment app (free), which has an interactive TV program guide plus news and celebrity gossip.

Apple’s Own Apps (Beyond the Obvious)

Apple also offers two great free apps that will keep you playing with your iPad. iBooks not only lets you buy books from the iBooks Store but also lets you view and store PDF files saved from the Web or your computer. A great alternative for e-books is the Kindle app (free) from Amazon. Remote, the second Apple app for the iPad, allows you to control your iTunes library, or even an Apple TV, straight from your tablet.

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