Apple products, their annual refreshes somehow both exciting and financially crippling, seem to have managed to grab a lasting hold over tech fans that other brands can only dream of. The oft-criticised ‘walled garden’ approach ultimately meaning that developers can rest easy because there’s only a limited array of devices out there and ever more extensive (and easy to use) application production tools mean that, if you want the widest range of games and apps, for consumers iOS is the way to go.
That small, controlled range of hardware has now increased by one, of course, with today’s launch of the new iPad. It’s not an iPad 3, at least by name, Apple’s intentions made even more clear by the retention of the iPad 2 in the stores, albeit reduced in price by £80 or so.
You can appreciate my line of thought, right?
The problem I have here, though, is that I’ve spent most of today with what I assume must be approaching buyer’s remorse. Compared to the iPad 2, this thing just felt a little less snappy, things felt higher res for the sake of it and – naturally – the things that aren’t currently in ‘retina’ for the iPad stand out like a very blocky sore thumb. And as you’d guess, this is well over 99% of the current content of the App Store.
Sure, Apple’s own applications are now razor sharp and super crispy, but the stuff I use on a daily basis, the music apps, aren’t. The text is, but the graphical elements aren’t, and it’s jarring. I’m hopeful they’ll be updated in time, of course, but as it stands there’s considerable disparity, even within individual software.
That’s a sign that the new iPad’s screen is so damned sharp, of course, the resolution truly mindblowing when you think about it. Indeed, text now looks as good as printed material, comics leap from the display and photos, assuming you can find some large enough, are hugely impressive. The camera itself is much better, too, but it’s hardly bleeding edge, and it’s still next to impossible to not look crazy holding up an iPad to take a shot.
Elsewhere, there’s a weighty battery keeping the improved spec ticking over (although it now takes longer to charge and the cable supplied didn’t work at all for me, forcing me to resort to an old iPhone wire), and if you opted for the 3G version a speed boost when you’re away from a wi-fi router. Other improvements are under the hood: more RAM and a doubled up GPU that now runs at four cores rather than the two core one in the iPad 2.
Whether developers are planning to splinter their processes (and markets) further to provide retina visuals for their games and apps is something we’ll have to wait and see on – current flagship titles like Real Racing 2 HD sport an increased resolution and a bit of filtering but otherwise look and feel indentical, presumably a sign of a forced release date but hopefully token gestures that’ll make way for real gameplay improvements as the months go on.
Going from an original iPad will see users blown away by this new model – no doubt about that – but the changes from an iPad 2 are presently little more than cosmetic nips and tucks. Yes, the screen is stunning but it’s not essential by any stretch, the old resolutions more than adequate for most. Indeed, games that retain the 1024 x 768 resolutions and up the effects will probably look more impressive than those that retain polycounts and shader tech just to meet retina specifications.
We’ll see, of course, and I’m happy to be proved wrong, but right now I’m just waiting to see if Apple’s high res approach this year will really pay off long term.