Home Editorial Reviews iPad 2 Review: a gamer’s perspective

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I’m not sure why you’re reading this. By now, you either have an iPad, want one, or despise everything it stands for and think that anyone who owns one is a dark herald of Steve Jobs and his Apple cult of doom. But for those two of you who are still on the fence about it, here’s a review of the device with gaming in mind from a man who hates Apple, yet bought an iPad 2 on launch day. On a side note, if any of you happen to die in the next few days, please send me an email and let me know if hell has in fact frozen over, or if the world has just gone upside down.

Apple has an interesting way of creating products. When they release a new product, it always seems to be built by lazy fuckers to give you the bare minimum required to reach the market, but they polish those few key elements to the point where a few dozen of them could be used to create a solar death ray capable of starting a war with Mars. Then each year they think to themselves, “Hey, what can we tack on this year to make everyone buy it all over again?”

Or at least that’s what everyone likes to think. In all honesty, Apple doesn’t expect you to upgrade every year, and they shouldn’t. A $500-$829 device shouldn’t be thrown in the trash after just one year. As such, I’m not going to compare the iPad 2 to the iPad 1. I’ve never owned the original, and if you’re the kind of person who buys a new iPod and/or Macbook each year, you’re already beyond help. For those of you looking for a tablet in the next year and are wondering if the iPad 2 is the way to go, read on.

iPad 2: Hardware

First, let’s take a look at the workhorse in the iPad 2. Apple’s very descriptive tech specs list it as having an A5 CPU and a Superfast 9x GPU. For those of us who want to know some specs that aren’t just bullshit hype terms, the CPU is a dual core Arm A9 processor, clocked at 900MHz, and the GPU has been determined to be a PowerVR SGX543MP2 which is apparently an advanced dual core version of the GPU used in the original iPad. The A5 is a System on a Chip so all this is on the same die.* The end result is a stupidly powerful computer inside a ridiculously small space; this thing is capable of rendering graphics on par with current gen consoles with ease. At this point, not many developers have taken advantage of the power in the iPad 2, but after playing Infinity Blade, which runs on the Unreal Engine 3, I’m impressed.

In fact, I’d wager to say if you put this and an Xbox 360 in a boxing ring, you should slap whoever organized it for being an idiot because inanimate objects can’t fight. But the iPad could probably render pictures that were just as pretty. If Microsoft isn’t shitting themselves at this already, they should be.

The iPad’s screen is 9.7 inches and has a resolution of 1024×768. Hooray, it is still the 90s! I would have liked to see a higher resolution then what my CRT monitors ran more than 10 fucking years ago, but it does make sense for them to leave it the same as the first iPad. For older apps to scale up nicely, they would have needed to quadrupole the resolution and 2048×1536 seems a tad bit ridiculous. Regardless, the screen is pretty sharp. The density is 132 ppi as opposed to the 72 or 96 ppi found on most monitors. So, even at such a shitty resolution, your images won’t look too jagged. Games like World of Goo look better on this than on my PC.

The battery life on this thing is ridiculous. Apple claims 10 hours, and they aren’t kidding. I’ve been fucking with it non-stop for three days now, putting it through heavy use. 3D rendering, data transfer over wifi, constant screen use… all the major battery drainers. I’ve had to charge it once. The battery meter barely goes down to half after a full day of use, and it blows my mind.

I hate Apple. I hate Steve Jobs. I hate everything about how they do business. I hate not knowing how the hell they made this thinner than the iPad 1, added more hardware, and a way more powerful CPU and have the same battery life. But they did a damn good job.

Apparently Apple is too scared to actually tell us how much RAM is inside. And since geekbench reports 512 MB, I can understand why. Why on Earth Apple wouldn’t put at least 1GB in a device like this is beyond me. Regardless of whatever stupid decisions and/or cash grabs Apple made with the RAM here, I haven’t noticed any serious memory issues. My guess would be it’s just one more checklist item they can add to next year’s model. Overall, the new iPad is surprisingly powerful. I highly recommend you check out this anandtech spec article to see the numbers for yourself.

The cameras are not so impressive. You’d think since Apple touted the cameras as one of the selling points of the iPad 2, they would have actually included a camera that could take pictures worth a damn. The rear camera is 720p both for pictures and videos. That’s less than a megapixel. On the front is an 800×600 camera. For anything other than video chats, these are both pretty much useless. Pictures taken with these cameras are grainy and blurry as all hell. The front camera more or less serves its purpose well, but the back one shouldn’t have been added at all. It’s almost an insult to people who wanted to take pictures with this, and it’s probably a bullshit move that was made so Apple could tell its investors it’s competing with products like the Galaxy Tab and the Xoom on every front.

Last, we have the speakers. There’s not a whole lot to say about them; they’re crisp and clear, but far too quiet. If you want sound in a place that isn’t totally silent, you’ll need to pick up a pair of headphones.

iPad 2: Accessories and Aesthetics

The iPad is a sexy looking device, there’s no doubt about it. I know I’ve wanted to plug my headphones into its jack on more than one occasion. Apple products have a strange effect causing them to appear to be extremely high quality and luxurious, while any other brand that tries to go the same route has the opposite effect. I remember reading a study a few months ago: when comparing the iPad to the Galaxy Tab (which has almost the same design) people said that the Galaxy felt cheap compared to the iPad and guessed a much lower price tag.

What can I say? People are idiots. I’m sure we’ll see the same effect with the iPad 2 and the Xoom.

While I don’t think one looks pricier than the other, there are a few differences that cause me to prefer the iPad. For one, the Xoom is widescreen, which means it’s a major pain to use in portrait mode and looks ridiculously tall. Secondly, iOS is just more established than Honeycomb. The Xoom also feels rushed in many ways: things like the MicroSD slot don’t work at all because they need Google to release a software update. And if you want LTE on it, they expect you to mail it into them so they can add the hardware! I think someone was high when they made that call. It’s one of those sticking point where just not including it at all would have been a better choice. Though the iPad has neither of those features, the fact that it didn’t include them saying they’ll work “at some point” makes it seem better thought out.

Now that I’m done rambling off topic, let’s talk about the the iPad 2 design. Apple has done something really interesting with the layout of the device; other than the screen, the front camera, and the home button, nothing else is visible. The volume buttons, lock buttons, and mute/screen orientation switch are all slightly back on the rear bevel, making them slightly annoying to find when you want them, but making the device look even better from the front. At times, it feels less like you’re holding a tablet and more like you’re holding just a touch screen which I’m sure is what Apple was shooting for. We are living in the future.

I’m not sure why Apple made a white iPad. I’m also not sure why, at the last second, I bought a white one instead of a black one. You don’t see very many TVs where the screen is surrounded by white instead of black. And when you shrink down a picture, it gets letterboxed with black. The white iPad gets almost distracting at times, and makes it very hard to elicit the sensation of not really holding a tablet. Still, I suppose it’s good they actually managed to get the white ones off the factory line (who thinks the white iPhone 4 will come out just a month before they announce the iPhone 5?).

The other unique feature to the iPad is the “smart” cover. While it is in fact dumb as a doornail and incapable of winning at Jeopardy, it is a damn cool accessory. It’s a flat piece of leather or polyurethane with a microfiber back. It has four panes that fold into a triangle and stay together with magnets to either prop the device up to watch videos, or slightly incline it to type. And if you want to just hold it in your hands, the hinge also detaches magnetically and comes right off. But because I wasn’t asking myself “fucking magnets, how do they work?” enough, there are even more magnets on the right side of the screen to keep the cover attached when it’s closed. It also automatically locks and unlocks when you open and close the cover. The hinge has some particularly strong magnets in it. If you hold the cover up to the left side, the smart cover aligns and attaches itself really well. You can also lift the cover up by holding the case, and the iPad won’t fall off. Though I’m slightly terrified the magnets are going to wipe the iPad’s hard drive, it’s a really impressive, if simple, addition.

iPad 2: Games

And now for the shit you actually care about, vidya games. I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask me if they should get an iPad since I’ve gotten mine, and I’ve said no to all of them. A tablet is not something that everyone needs and a lot of the people buying them don’t have a reason or a real use for one. That’s why so many people say it’s useless. But gamers have  good reason to buy one. A lot of people are dismissing things like the iPad and Facebook as legitimate gaming platforms; those people will soon  find a swarm of Rabid Ferrets entering their house while they sleep. There are a lot of great games coming out for the iPad, and I think that most of the innovation we’ll be seeing for the next few years will be on emerging platforms like tablets, not on the consoles or on PC. But that’s another article.

You’re going to find a lot of games for literally any price on the App Store. You’ll see 2D indie titles like Wispin and Angry Birds;**  you’ll see big names like Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space, and you’ll see ridiculously rendered games like Infinity Blade. And believe it or not, a lot of these are really good. Surprisingly good, even. And you’re not going to have to pay 60 fucking dollars for a 6 hour long game. Some of the games are way too short to justify their price, but for the most part I’ve been noticing that I’m getting more bang for my buck on the iPad than on traditional gaming platforms.

Believe it or not, most games aren’t using the touch screen as a gimmick, and they aren’t just overlaying buttons on the screen. I’ve seen a lot of really creative, interesting, and fun control schemes for different games. And for some games like World of Goo, it feels better than it ever did with a mouse and keyboard. At the same time, it’s a good idea to try and find a review or two that aren’t in Apple’s app store before you buy a more expensive game. Some developers pay people for downloads and 5 star reviews, so you need to be wary.

I’d also like to say something to Electronic Arts: Fuck you. I bought your franchise tie-ins thinking they’d be terrible, terrible cash grabs that I could rip apart hilariously in reviews. Instead, I discovered they were damn good games that took the core concepts of their console parents and translated them creatively to a new input scheme. And now this paragraph which could have been dedicated to my hilariously making fun of you is instead boring. So fuck you for not giving me anything to work with, other than fun games based on beloved franchises. I’ve also played 2K’s Civilization Revolution for the iPad, which was solid but not exactly unexpected. Activision hasn’t released any iPad games yet, but I’d be a bit more wary of them.†


Verdict

There are plenty of things I hate about the iPad. I hate how many apps completely restart themselves when I hit home. I hate the terrible, terrible notification system. I hate the lack of widgets. I hate how many settings there are that you can’t tweak (though less so than with my now-ditched iPhone from last year).

But there are a lot of things going for the iPad 2 as well. And there are three points that make it unarguably the best tablet on the market. First off, the price. For a 32GB model, it’s $200 cheaper than the Xoom. That’s a third of the price, and the biggest hurdle for the Xoom in my opinion. Second, the battery life. I’ve seen some tablets advertise 10 hours, but I’ve yet to see one deliver, other than the iPad. Finally, there’s the maturity of the market. iOS has a lot of solid iPad apps available. By contrast, Honeycomb has just come out and Google made the mistake of not providing devs with time machines to make tablet apps in time for launch. And platforms like Blackberry and HP Touchslate haven’t even come out yet. Also, when you buy one, there’s a crowd of Apple employees that cheer for you as you walk out. Granted, people do that for me no matter what I buy. Maybe that was just at launch for the rest of you.

Despite my cautious approval, don’t just buy into the hype. Don’t buy a tablet if you don’t have a use for one. However, if you do, the iPad is the way to go… at least for this year. I’m rooting for the competition to win, but they’ll need to reverse engineer Apple’s voodoo magic and perform a bit of their own before I can justify buying a competing tablet product.

*If you’re interested in some benchmarks and exact numbers on the iPad’s performance, check out this page.
**Please for the love of god, do not buy Angry Birds. It’s a shitty clone of a flash game that’s been made 100 times and isn’t worth your money.
†Fuck Activision ~WiNGSPANTT

30 replies to this post
  1. Nice Article! I love the fact you hate apple, and express this here, even though you bought the Ipad, and I’m not even being sarcastic. I hate them too, but giving the fact that (uber cliche coming) a stopped watch is right twice a day, they might in the future make something even I would want to purchase. Also “In fact, I’d wager to say if you put this and an Xbox 360 in a boxing ring, you should slap whoever organized it for being an idiot because inanimate objects can’t fight.” I laughed HARD. Good Job.

  2. first paragraph of the hardware section: Infinity Blade*.

    And speaking of infinity, Infinity Gene is one of my favorite iOS games, and Infinity Field looks promising.

    Great review :)

  3. You have wounded me, Sir. I bout an iPad 1 and I lurve it vewy vewy much. That said, I am somewhat perturbed about the somewhat tacked on upgrade for the iPad 2.

    However, the iPad, when used correctly, as an assistant but not replacement for a full PC/Mac, as well as an organizer of many thing, is useful, fun, and, dare I say, immersive.

    I heard an opinion once that Apple doesn’t really innovate, but instead are just really, really good marketers of their products. The iPad, for me, is a slight rebuttal of this, but the fact that people are constantly buzzing to one-up Apple products supports it more.

    The divide between Mac and PC people is, for now, an uncrossable one, but the fact that a staunch PC user finds something good in an APple product gives me hope.

    And peanuts.

    • I agree with you on the usefulness of the device, but there’s a lot of people who that doesn’t apply to. As for innovation, I both agree and disagree with you, many of their products begin as improvements on a market that hasn’t gained viability (the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone but it was the first that gained a real market share outside of corporations) but they tend to do so in a way that is in itself innovative.

      Also for the record, I’m a staunch Linux user, not a PC user. And that’s an even bigger divide. ;)

  4. Personally I think apple was right on with their choice of cameras going for the kind that are super thin vs the high res.

    No one is going to replace their freaking Digital SLR with a pad.

    They did not lose fact that THESE are the reasons you want a camera:
    1) Video Chat

    2) Enhanced reality (eg use the camera to overlay things like starmaps on the live video of you holding the pad up in the air)

    3) and the other cool thing I have seen done on iOS devices, scanning barcodes and stuff like some of the cool apps that you can use to maintain your DVD or Book library by waving the books or dvd’s under the camera and it automatically grabs the barcode and indexes it all.

    With those type of uses, the cameras on the ipad are 100% right on target.

    • Other than video chat, I disagree. AR apps and barcode scanners both lend themselves to hyperportable devices like cell phones, you aren’t exactly going to run into many QR codes laying around your house.

      And why does higher resolution automatically mean thicker? The iPhone 4 had an amazing camera and it’s not SLR sized.

  5. Is the foul language really necessary? All it does is reveal your limited vocabulary, your lack of respect for the reader and your disregard of decency.

    • As someone who is both a proud grammarian and hobbyist linguist, I contest your assertions. I assure you RF has quite an extensive vocabulary, but words carry more information than simple definition or even connotation.

      Words also carry emotional and cultural context. For instance, if you tell someone “Go fuck yourself,” what exactly would be the non-foul way of communicating this? Is it something like, “I disrespect you to a degree that is not equaled by other insult. I wish upon you death, pestilence, and poor luck, and likewise wish those things upon your family. I wish no further to speak with you now, and may opt to avoid contact in the future.”

      You see, profanity, like all language, is not just a word with a single meaning one can look up. It has weight to it that is tied to its etymology, its popular use, and other factors. What you may regard as disrespect may be instead interpreted as familiarity or even congeniality by others.

      As for decency, decency is just a social construct that has no meaning outside of persons who are familiar with one another. Since RF has no previously agreed upon social rules established with you, why should he attempt to guess them or placate you, not even knowing you’re reading this site?

      Your argument carries no weight. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

      • In fact, “fuck” really means to smack something with a stick.

        “I fucked that tree really hard”. I guess the today’s meaning implies that you smack things with another object . . .

      • In fact, fuck really means to smack something with a “stick”.

        I fucked that tree really hard, I guess today’s meaning implies that you “smack things” with “another object”

        Fixed your inuendo.

  6. Dear WingspanTT, I was commenting on your article – IPad 2 Review. I didn’t read any other posts before I made my comments. That is quite a web of justifications you weave. So every person’s belief is of equal value to every other person’s belief. Based on your reply above I see you have picked one that absolves you of any and all responsibility. This shows why all souls need God’s mercy that you wished on me. We, (you, me and every other soul) are capable of devising any justification for anything we do – from the smallest, little white lie to the most evil abomination imaginable. I have already received God’s mercy and grace through His Son, how about you?

    • Bsquared,

      While I didn’t write the article, neither did I claim to be a proponent of moral relativism. As a student of the Bible and an active member of the Church for over 12 years, I don’t believe profanity is addressed by the Bible at all, nor was it ever prohibited by our Lord Jesus.

      Yes, the Bible mentions cursing and swearing, but in each instance, it is obvious that these are literal cursing and literal swearing, not the jargon term we use these days for profanity.

      In Hosea 10:4, “They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.” Here we see “swearing” means to literally swear as one swears an oath, not as one says a word that means fecal matter or a sexual organ.

      In Psalms 109:17, “As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.” In this instance, cursing is shown literally as the opposite of a blessing. It is to curse someone in the manner which a witch doctor might cast an evil spell – to wish foul upon someone. Yet even Jesus cursed the fig tree when it bore him no fruit.

      In other sections of the Bible, it is forbidden to use “evil speech.” But the characterization of a word as evil thereafter is subjective. For instance, the common words “shit” and “fuck” come from Old English, and were the normal, everyday terms for “poop” and “sex” in the middle ages. It was only after the Norman invasion of England that French became the noble tongue, relegating most English words to be considered lower class and dirty. Is socioeconomic status equatable with evil? I doubt Christ would say so.

      In summary, your argument may have weight; permitting evil may lead to greater evil. But permitting condemnation of acts that have not been outlined as evil by our Lord is a trifling waste of time. If we use the Lord’s name to cast judgment on others unnecessarily, we are using it in vein, which would make you guilty of the kind of cursing that is actually prohibited in the good book.

  7. A bit late to this but: Brilliant article/review.

    Just what I was looking for, the iPad 2 from a normal persons perspective, focusing on gaming and not comparing it too much to the original.

    I’m really tempted with a ip2 as a chill out on the sofa web browser and light games machine. I’ve a iPhone 3GS and spend too much time on it posting and gaming, my eyes hurt while I get annoyed at retyping for missing, like now…grrr.

    Anyway 400 notes for this iteration seems canny, though if the samsung galaxy 10.1 had a closer launch I’d probably go with that, as it stands June 8th is a galaxy far far away and apples gameplan to take shine off the androids launch by releasing early has worked…at least on me.

    I know ip3 will be around the corner, while I’ll be pissed off everytime I can’t use flash and I’ll be sick of looking at the same icon grid screen I have been doing for the last 18 months, but gaming is a priority and I fear games developers won’t get on board with the andriod as they have iPad due to sales, release dates, continous hardware changes/upgrades and piracy issues.

    • I know what you mean, but with android there’s going to be a better device coming out in the next month or two as opposed to a year. As for flash, I’ve never had it run well on my android device anyway. XD

      The biggest thing that I hate in iOS is the lack of multitasking. But yeah, I’m glad you enjoyed the article thanks for the feedback. :)

  8. Thanks for the reply.

    So if you were in my shoes, what would you do? Wait for the Galaxy 10.1 or ipad in 3 hours time (if my local PCW has it in stock)

    Really the only android which takes my fancy, quite liked the Asus Transformer but looks a little clunky and the addon keyboard is a great idea but i’d not use it, the Xoom sounds rushed and unfinished and anything under 9″ is too small for what I want (cutting out RIM and stuff). It really is for me Galaxy 10.1 for Android.

    I’m not too sure how much multitasking I’d do tbh, but isn’t iOS 5 (I’m presuming ipad 2 will support it) going to offer it with dual core devices like the Ipad2?

    • I’d get the iPad 2, this year iOS has too much going for it over Android for tablets.

      And yeah the iPad 2 will support iOS 5, but no, it’s not going to have true multitasking. Apple implemented sorta kinda multitasking in iOS 4 but the problem isn’t CPU power it’s battery life.

  9. Ah right, cheers for the info and a chat.

    Looks like my local and only place to stock, didn’t get a sniff for some reason, 3-4 week wait over here in the UK if ordering from Apple via the net, so will bide my time now and watch in green envy of those playing with their pads telling me how great it is. lol.

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