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Hardware Review: iPad 2
by Cathal Geoghegan

We have entered a new age of gaming. Gone are the things that I grew up with; cartridges, discs, memory cards and controllers are things of the past. What we now have is a generation of gaming-capable devices, that are completely digital and rely entirely on touch-based input. I am, of course, saddened to see the things I grew up with disappear, but I am a modern person and I welcome these new devices. It's these new gadgets that bring progress and help to extraordinarily change and enolve the industry. If you had asked me ten years ago what I thought the gaming industry would be like, I would almost certainly have described it being essentially the same as it was way back in 2001.

That said, I also thought the Xbox would never catch on as a games console.

So when the iPad 2 arrived on my doorstep, I was prepared for something outside my comfort zone. The first thing that comes to mind when you take the iPad out of the box is how elegant and majestic it looks. It is an extraordinary example of function following form. Compared to the computers of the past 50 years, the iPad is the equivalent of an elegant Georgian building, compared to a modern functionalist one. The iPad is a triumph of minimalism, but also of beauty. It's a slight ray of hope in an an age that lacks beauty.

It's The Four Courts, an opulent Georgian building in Dublin's city centre, compared to the Unité d'Habitation in Berlin.

These things, however, have no bearing on how good the iPad is at gaming. As the subject of this piece is on the iPad as a gaming device, for the time being, I shall henceforth not mention things superfluous to gaming. The first game I tested on the iPad was LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. It's a game which provides two methods of control; the first is similar to the one used in point and click games, whereby you move your character by tapping on the screen according to where you want your character to move. The second method used a virtual D-pad on the screen. Whilst the first method was extremely precise, it felt unnatural in a game like LEGO Harry Potter. The second method had no such problem, feeling very natural, but unfortunately made the iPad very cumbersome and after a while my hand began to get sore. The screen and the touch interface in LEGO Harry Potter are used very well, and the picture quality is superb; it wouldn't look out-of-place on a home console.

The second game that I tested on the iPad was Fruit Ninja HD. Fruit Ninja, despite being a simple game, feels much more natural on the iPad that its iPhone counterpart. The picture quality is somewhat hazy, however, a problem of the game itself, rather than one with the iPad. Aside from that, the game's control scheme feels very natural and responsive. The crowing achievement, though, is the multi-touch functionality of the iPad, which makes stringing combos easy but also somewhat hectic and incredibly enjoyable.

The third game that I tested was World of Goo. This game is a triumph for the iPad. When playing, one would not notice that it was originally a PC game; the control and the visual display are so perfect that I would consider World of Goo an essential application for all iPad owners.

You may be wondering how I can judge a device based on three applications. I haven't; instead, I've tested the iPad with at least twenty other applications and games. The iPad is a fantastic device. The sheer number of apps available mean you can do almost anything that you would do on a PC on the iPad, whilst also being able to carry it around like a book or newspaper. Some other recommended apps that make the iPad useful must be mentioned; the likes of Zinio, Flipboard, the Engadget app, Wikipanion, Amazon Kindle, Photoshop Express, Adobe Ideas, Simplenote and IM+ really deserve a download. In terms of games, whilst the iPad is a fantastic conduit for playing some very intuitive, imaginative games, I don't personally consider it to be the next big gaming device. In my opinion, gaming on the iPad is a frivolity - an entertaining frivolity, yes, but a frivolity nonetheless.

Now that I have assured your 3DS that it's safe, I come to the slightly more boring bits about the iPad. I call these "the boring bits", but - in fact - these are probably the main reasons that would convince you to buy an iPad. The battery life on the iPad is phenomenal; I've used it extensively throughout the past week or so and I've only had to charge it twice since its initial charge. The battery life alone places the iPad above the majority of laptops and netbooks. The picture quality on the iPad is also amazing; whilst not as spectacular as the iPhone 4's Retina Display, an average user shouldn't notice any real difference in quality. The iPad's built-in speaker's audio quality is as expected; it isn't exceptional but it fulfils its purpose. I would, however, recommend you use a pair of headphones if you want to listen to something in its full aural fidelity.

The iPad is superb and it makes some tasks much easier than they would be on a laptop or netbook. It doesn't, however, make gaming easier. There are many superb games on the iPad, but I'd advise against purchasing an iPad on its gaming-based achievements alone. If you want a pure gaming device, I would recommend that you buy a 3DS or - when they release - an NGP, but if you want an exceptional multi-purpose device with gaming capabilities as a sideline, then get the iPad.

As a standalone gaming device: 4/10
iPad in general: 8/10

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- Cathal Geoghegan

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