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The best iPad news and reference apps

The Apple iPad is one of the most popular and influential consumer electronics devices in history. Its sleek design and great portability have made it an excellent slate for web surfing, movie watching, email checking, and numerous other activities.

That said, the role that the Apple App Store has played in its success should not be overlooked. According to Apple, over 375,000 iPad apps have been released worldwide. That's a lot of apps that run the gamut from the entertaining to the business-centric. You can transform your iPad into virtually anything.

Obviously, you couldn’t possibly install all of these apps due to storage or quality limitations – and picking out the best iPad apps isn’t an easy task. You could scour the App Store for user reviews, but really, do you want to go down that road? First of all, it's an incredible time sink. Secondly, user reviews can be highly biased, and a little-known app may only have a handful of reviews.

That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you, and compiled our own list of top iPad apps.

In fact, this is the final instalment in our series of articles looking at the best iPad apps in a number of different categories – we’ve already covered communication and social apps, along with business and productivity apps, entertainment apps, and creativity apps. This last time, we’re going to be looking at news and reference apps.

Note that our crowning of top apps focuses on native iPad apps that deliver unique and compelling tablet-based experiences all of their own, not iPhone apps running in 2X mode.

Install all the apps that appeal to you (assuming your iPad has the available storage!), and by the time you’ve finished reading this series, you'll be well on the way to an excellent tablet computer experience.

Finally, if you think we’ve missed some classic apps out, please let us (and other readers) know about them in the comments section below.

Right, let’s get on with the show and look at the top news and reference apps apps for the iPad, which include the likes of Reuters, TED, and Wikipanion. Click on the title of any app to link through to download it on iTunes.

Clear Day (£1.49)

Clear Day has the best graphics and user interface of all the iPad weather apps, though it lacks the more detailed statistics, radar maps, and videos that the others offer. Still, Clear Day does the job in the simplest, prettiest fashion.

The Elements: A Visual Exploration (£9.99)

This interactive book shows what happens when you mix imaginative writing, beautiful graphics, and live WolframAlpha data: You make chemistry interesting to just about anyone. Each element gets two main pages – one showing a crisp photo and plenty of live statistics (such as the current price of gold), and another with detailed background, interesting anecdotes, and visual examples.

Epicurious (free)

Nast's first iPad app for foodies is excellent. Epicurious features a gorgeous interface that feels and reads like a luxurious, fully searchable cookbook. You can find recipes by main ingredient, course, cuisine, dietary consideration, and dish type, and even by season or occasion.

Google Earth (free)

Travelling is expensive. The free Google Earth app most certainly is not. By keying in a location such as "Coney Island" or "London," you can zip to the other side of the globe in mere seconds to check out satellite and aerial imagery. Geo-located Wikipedia articles add insight to your journey.

Guinness World Records: At Your Fingertips (£2.99)

Sure, you can read the records online for free or download the whole record book on Kindle for a few more quid, but Guinness World Records: At Your Fingertips lets you flick through the most twisted trivia with your iPad.

Hipmunk Flights & Hotels (free)

Hipmunk’s app delivers what's great about the metasearch site (real-world priorities) in a simple, free, well-designed app for the iPad. Its innovative flight visualisation highlights factors beyond price, such as flight durations, layovers, and the potential "agony" level.

Howstuffworks (free)

HowStuffWorks brings the content of the informative HowStuffWorks website to Apple's slate in an attractive, easy to navigate package. Information is presented in a thumbnail-laden grid that contains links to text, video, and podcasts that are short, punchy, and full of information.

IMDB (free)

Featuring an image-driven interface laden with movie trailers, popular actors, and a list of current theatrical releases, the IMDB iPad app is a must-have for movie buffs who want the latest Hollywood news.

NPR for iPad (free)

NPR went for a magazine-style approach with its iPad app, which emphasises news, arts, and music coverage in three sliding panes. The app delivers hundreds of NPR live station and on-demand streams. In addition, NPR for iPad features photojournalism with full-page zoom, plus the ability to share stories over email, Twitter, and Facebook.

Pyramids 3D (£4.99)

Pyramids 3D is a multimedia journey into some of the most renowned and magnificent structures of the ancient world, the Pyramids, Sphinx, and tombs at Giza. With this beautifully designed app, users can read about early Egyptian history, examine 3D-rendered artifacts, and even take virtual journeys into the Pyramids and tombs while a narrator explains what they are seeing.

Reuters News Pro (free)

Reuters News Pro delivers the venerable newswire's core product, news and market data, with a broader experience than NPR's magazine-style app. The app features dozens of customisable categories, a personalised watch list for business news, and geographic-specific news views.

Solar Walk (£1.99)

While Star Walk (which we cover next) reveals the night sky, Solar Walk focuses on our solar system. It lets you view and scale 3D representations of the sun, planets, comets, and asteroids, view information on, and (in most cases) images of these objects, and view the solar system (or a planet and its moons) in motion. This impressive iPad app provides a good introduction to the solar system for younger students as well as newcomers to astronomy.

Star Walk for iPad (£1.99)

Star Walk is an informative and visually appealing astronomy app that displays a virtual map of the constellations visible in the direction you point your tablet. It's easy to recommend as an astronomy app for casual stargazers and budding astronomers. Note that the app is currently discounted by 30 per cent as of the time of writing.

TED (free)

TED's official iPad app brings more than 1,400 TEDTalk videos (featuring education radicals, tech geniuses, medical mavericks, business gurus, music legends, and more) to Apple's slate. Not only can you stream videos over 3G or Wi-Fi, but you can download them to your iPad for offline playback.

Wikipanion (free)

Wikipanion for iPad sifts through all of Wikipedia's HTML and metadata, sorting it into a beautiful, content-driven interface. The left side displays the table of contents, and the app remembers your font size setting. The app even tracks page history by visit date, plays back embedded OGG audio, and saves images to the iPad's photo library.

World Atlas and Maps HD (£1.99)

World Atlas HD offers stunning executive, political, and satellite-style maps. You can zoom in down to the country level, and then keep going to street-level maps. A pop-up window on the left offers tightly written country histories and basic socioeconomic data. You can get most of this with the bundled Maps app and some Internet searches.