Gaming Conclusion

In situations where a game is available in both the iOS app store as well as NVIDIA's Tegra Zone, NVIDIA generally delivers a comparable gaming experience to what you get on the iPad. In some cases you even get improved visual quality as well. The iPad's GPU performance advantage just isn't evident in those cases—likely because the bulk of iOS devices out there still use far weaker GPUs. That's effectively a software answer to a hardware challenge, but it's true.

NVIDIA isn't completely vindicated however. In Apple's corner you have Infinity Blade 2 and the upcoming Infinity Blade Dungeons, both of which appear to offer a significant visual advantage over the best of the best that's available on Android today. There are obvious business complexities that are the cause of this today, but if you want to play those games you need to buy an iPad.

The final point is this: Tegra 3 can deliver a good gaming experience on Android, we've already demonstrated that. But as a GPU company NVIDIA should know that it isn't about delivering the minimum acceptable experience, but rather pushing the industry forward. Just last week NVIDIA launched a $500 GPU that is overkill for the vast majority of users. But NVIDIA built the GeForce GTX 680 to move the industry forward, and it's a shame that it hasn't done so in the mobile SoC space thus far.

Controller Support: An Android Advantage

With Honeycomb and subsequent versions of Android, Google baked in wired and wireless controller support into the OS. NVIDIA worked with game developers to ensure proper support for these controllers made it into their games and as a result there are a number of titles available through Tegra Zone that offer support for external gamepads. Logitech's Wireless Gamepad F710 comes with a USB nano receiver that can be plugged into the Transformer Prime's dock. It's using this controller that I played Shadowgun, GTA 3 and Riptide. Out of the three, the ability to use a gamepad made GTA 3 much more enjoyable (and it made me much better at the game as well).

Although many casual Android/iOS games do just fine with touch, some are certainly better suited for some sort of a controller. While controller support in Android in its infancy at best, it's more than iOS currently offers. I know of an internal Apple project to bring a physical controller to market, but whether or not it will ever see the light of day remains to be seen. As smartphones and tablets come close to equalling the performance of current game consoles, I feel like the controller problem must be addressed.

There's also the chance that physical controls will lose out entirely with these devices. A friend of mine in the game industry once said that we are too quick to forget how superior input devices don't always win. The keyboard + mouse is a much more precise setup for a first person shooter, but much FPS development these days is targeted at gamepads instead. The same could eventually be true for touch based devices, but it's too early to tell. Until then I'm hoping we see continued controller support in Android and hopefully that'll put some pressure on Apple to do the same. It is an important consideration for the future of gaming on these platforms.

A5X vs. Tegra 3 in the Real World WiFi, GPS & AirPlay
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  • Jamezrp - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Didn't want to cause Verizon too much trouble? Heh, very funny. I am amazed at how the iPad ends up being an amazingly good Wi-Fi hotspot. It almost seems like business users should opt to get an iPad for that function alone. I know plenty of people who would be happy to keep it in their bag, with the hotspot feature enabled constantly, while travelling about. Even for the price there is nothing even close that can compare.

    Plus, you know, you get the tablet too.
    Reply
  • supertwister - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    "It’s a quantum leap from the noisy, 0.7MP mess that was the iPad 2 camera."

    Interesting choice of word considering a quantum is the smallest possible division for a quantity...
    Reply
  • omion - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Quantum leap:
    (n) an abrupt change, sudden increase, or dramatic advance

    The phrase comes from the ability of particles to make a sudden jump between two energy levels. It is a leap (of any amount) between two quantization levels, not a leap of the smallest possible amount.
    Reply
  • drwho9437 - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    A large fraction of the die doesn't seem to have a known use? Wondering what could be taking up all that area if not GPU, CPU and memory interfaces/caches... Most other I/O would have small footprints... Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    The 4S had a larger than usual die for its voice cancellation features that were needed to make Siri work well, the iPad does't have that but it does have voice dictation so some space is probably for that. Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    A big chunk of it is probably the ISP they talked about when the 4S debuted. Reply
  • Lucian Armasu - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    So this is how I assumed. The new iPad is in fact slower than the iPad 2, if games actually start using the 2048x1536 resolution for their apps, which everyone seems to be encouraging them to do. But once they do that the graphics will either look poorer, or they will be slower than they were on the old resolution, even on an iPad 2.

    Add that to the fact that apps are much bigger in size with the retina resolution, and the CPU is the same as last year. The new display might look great, but it's obvious that the new iPad is absolutely a step-back in terms of performance, whether it's GPU or CPU we're talking about. Hardly worth an upgrade, especially for iPad 2 owners.
    Reply
  • xype - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    Blah blah blah performance blah not worth it.

    I don’t give a shit about theoretical performance that I might be getting if DNA folding software was available for tablets. I really, really give a shit about being able to read website and ebook text without my eyes straining after an hour.

    One would think that 10 years after "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame." and Apple raking in millions and billions of profit, those Geek Metrics™ that people are so fond of here (nothing wrong with that, it’s interesting stuff!), would be recognized as completely and utterly worthless to the average population. But apparently not.

    The iPad was never ment to replace PCs and Consoles as a hardcore gaming device, and it was never ment as a render farm server replacement. It would be really nice if people realized that, at some point. In the next 5 years, perhaps.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    It seems a bit like the 3GS-4 transition, it used the same GPU despite higher resolution and so performed worse at native, although in this case the CPU is unchanged and the GPU is "only" 2x better for 4x the pixels. Developers got around that on the 4 by making games for the old resolution and using upscaling mode. I'd imagine they will do the same here once games hit the limits of the GPU at native. Games like Infinity Blade 2 also use separate resolutions for things like the menus vs shadows vs terrain textures. Reply
  • darkcrayon - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    I guess if the only thing you bought an iPad for were games, and you could only consider a game to be worthwhile if it were drawn directly at 2048x1536, you'd have a point. But of course the new iPad could play games at the "iPad 2" resolution at much higher detail, or at a slightly resolution with the same detail, etc.

    It doesn't make sense to say it's a step backward in performance overall- it simply has the option to display much higher resolution graphics that the old model didn't have. The iPad 2 displays 2048 x 1536 text at "0 mhz" so to speak. It's not like you are losing anything by having the option of ultra high resolution if the type of game (or app) can use it within the hardware capabilities.
    Reply

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