Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why the new third generation iPad might not really be faster than the iPad 2

During the launch of the new Apple iPad, Tim Cook highlighted the new display and quadcore graphics chip. 

Quick Comparison: 
iPad 2: Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9 processor, PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics processing unit and 512 MB or RAM.
Third generation iPad: Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9 processor and PowerVR SGX543MP4 graphics processing unit. The amount of RAM is not yet confirmed but we do expect it to be 1 GB.

Mike Capps of Epic (developer of Infinity Blade and Infinity Blade Dungeon) in an interview with The Verge did make a notable comment. "When you think about it, they increased the resolution of the screen by a factor of four and they doubled the graphics performance, that wouldn't make you think, Great, we've got tons of extra graphics performance."

While I would think it is to early to say that the graphics performance is doubled, afterall Tim Cook did say it is four times faster, it really would have to be four times faster. 

The new 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution screen has four times as many pixels as the older 1024 x 768 resolution on the iPad 2. So in order to maintain the same performance in games as the iPad 2, the new PowerVR SGX543MP4 would have to be four times faster. RAM would have to be at least 1 GB to be so it could cache the larger files.

Another issue will be space. Infinity Blade takes up about 700 MB of storage. Games supporting the higher resolution will take up much more, which means where 16 GB may have been sufficient for the iPad 2, with the new iPad you may want to get the 32 GB or 64 GB model instead of the 16 GB model if you are a gamer.

Basically, I am not expecting the new third generation device to be more powerful than the iPad 2. It has a better camera, but in terms of performance for graphics intensive apps, the new hardware will not make it faster than the iPad 2. The hardware upgrade is needed to be able to use a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution screen and keep the performance of the new iPad on par with the iPad 2.

Still, that is not a bad thing, at least not in the short term. Since developers like to build for backward compatibility, most apps and games for iOS run fine on a single core processor and developers will continue to build apps that run fine on single core processors well into 2013 I think.

Still, it is a bit disappointing from a gaming standpoint. While the specifications of the new iPad will be enough for console quality gaming, a quad core processor would have gone a long way in bring PC level gaming to the iPad. 

Still if you think you can look at the 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution display, I don't think you can call this an incremental upgrade. This display is likely to be the iPad standard for years to come.

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