By now you’re likely aware Apple’s second-generation tablet will be available this Friday, ranging in price from $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version to $829 for the 64GB Wi-Fi + 3G model (through AT&T and Verizon).
You’ve also heard about its better processor, thinner and lighter design and dual cameras.
But what does this all mean for gamers? Yours truly has played around with the iPad 2 for one week, so the following are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about picking up the new tab for gaming.
Sporting Apple’s new A5 chip, the iPad 2 is powered by a dual-core processor — delivering roughly twice the performance over the first iPad — and you will notice the increase in speed when loading and running apps.
Memory-intensive games like Infinity Blade and Back to the Future Episode 1 HD play very smoothly, too. In fact, Apple says graphics performance is up to 9 times better than its predecessor — and while that number seems awfully high, you can see a marked improvement. As a test, I launched and played the same games on the iPad and iPad 2 side-by-side, and there’s no comparison.
One-third thinner than the original, iPad 2 feels better in your hands and is easier to slip into a backpack, briefcase or large purse — not that the first iPad was a chunker or anything. But 33 percent slimmer is something you’ll see and feel immediately.
And while it’s not considerably lighter than its 1.5-pound predecessor, the 1.33-pound iPad 2 (or 1.35-pound 3G versions) will likely be more comfortable in your hands for long-term gaming, as well. As such, the iPad 2 is lighter than some tablets, such as the Motorola Xoom‘s hefty 1.65-pound weight, but heavier than others, such as the upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook at 0.9-pounds (but it’s a 7-inch device).
Apple didn’t ramp up the resolution on its 9.7-inch touchscreen, but it still looks beautiful. Finger taps, swipes and other gestures are just as accurate in games and other apps.
Working in conjunction with the accelerometer, the gyroscope is ideal for, say, tilting the iPad 2 around in a shooter likeN.O.V.A. 2 for greater precision when scoping out and shooting at enemies.
And now that iPad 2 has dual cameras (more on this in a moment), expect the gyroscope to help with manuevering around “augmented reality” games. In case you haven’t yet played one of these before, you’ll see a live view of a real, physical environment on your screen — via the camera — but it’ll be augmented with virtual objects. For example, you might shoot at spaceships soaring down from the sky above your head or interact with virtual pets dancing beside a salt shaker on your kitchen table.
An optional $39 HDMI cable lets you connect the iPad 2 to a video source, such as high-definition television or projector. So now you can hold, press and tilt the tablet on your lap like a controller — but see the action on a big-screen. There’s also a slot on the white cable to charge up the iPad 2 while connected to a source, if needed.
No special setup is required for this. I connected the iPad 2 to my television and immediately launched a game of Infinity Blade, Tiny Wings and Ms. Pac-Man. It didn’t fill the entire 16:9 widescreen television as the iPad 2 has a 4:3 aspect ratio, but I was able to easily stretch the image using the TV remote.
Playing iPad 2 games on a huge television was a blast — but keep in mind it depends on the game you’re running, as you might spend all your time looking down at the iPad (which defeats the purpose). A classic arcade game like Ms. Pac-Manwas especially fun as you can swipe to control Ms. Pac-Man anywhere on the screen without having to look at the tablet, so you can keep your eyes on the TV instead.
Despite the smaller size and faster processor, Apple is correct in its claim the iPad 2 enjoys the same amazing battery performance as its predecessor — more than 10 hours in my testing.
This blows away any other tablet I’ve tested over the past year, and in some cases, better than some smartphones and dedicated gaming systems, too.
Perfect for business travelers or to keep the kids entertained in the backseat on a road trip, the iPad 2’s extraordinary battery is still one of the tablet’s most underrated features.
Finally, because the iPad 2 works out of the box with the App Store, users will have immediate access to more than 350,000 downloadable apps — 65,000 of which were designed or optimized for iPad. Many of these apps are games, of course, and often inexpensive ones at that (if not free), so it’s very tough for other tablets to compete in this space.
Quite simply, gamers in search of a touchscreen tablet to play at home or on-the-go won’t find a better solution than the iPad