We're just one day away from the iPad 2 launch, as every schoolchild knows, but early reviews of the unit have already begun to appear, and they all indicate that the iPad 2 is notably faster than its predecessor. No surprise there, given Apple's claims that the iPad 2 features "up to 2x faster CPU" and "up to 9x faster graphics," as compared to the original iPad.

But, how fast is it, really?

As gamers, we're quite anxious to see just how well Apple's new tablet can push the pixels and polygons with its A5 processor. This new system-on-a-chip features 512MB of RAM, two (dynamic-stepping) 1GHz CPU cores -- ARM Cortex A9-based -- and a new graphics subsystem, which almost certainly utilizes at least one Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX543 core, the same GPU used in Sony's upcoming NGP (in quad-core GPU configuration).

Until game developers widely get their hands on the new device, we can only look to early benchmarks taken on the few press evaluation units Apple has provided to key media, in order to try and glean a feel for the iPad 2's performance as a game platform. Happily, developers will be able to grab their iPad 2 just over 24 hours from now, but as those are going to be a long and painful 24 hours, let's take a look at some benchmark data.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball has posted one of the aforementioned iPad 2 reviews, in which he shares his reactions to the device as well as some benchmark numbers. And, Gruber's suite of benchmarks is a little more interesting than most that we've seen so far.

He posts the results of the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark that everybody with an iPad 2 has been running, for both the iPad and iPad 2, showing the latter to come out on top due both to improved hardware and, more directly, iOS 4.3's bundling of Apple's Nitro JavaScript engine into the iOS 4.3 version of Mobile Safari. He posts Geekbench results, as well, which show the iPad 2 performing 159% faster than the original iPad, overall. But, what's rather more interesting are the results of a benchmark custom-coded by Guy English of Kickingbear (who did some work on Tap Tap Revenge), written to measure specifically the graphics capabilities of the iPad 2, from a developer's perspective.

The custom benchmark in question renders thousands of sprites moving about the screen, with gravity, while tracking up to three touch points. The results show the iPad 2's graphics improvements to go well beyond simply those of the dual-core CPU.

For example, on my original iPad, with 200 on-screen sprites, the framerate dropped to 45 fps. On the iPad 2, with 400 on-screen sprites, the framerate remained at 65 fps. On the iPad 1, Guy’s demo app dropped below 60 fps with about 100 animated sprites; on the iPad 2, it didn’t drop below 60 fps until there were over 750 animated sprites.

After I showed him the results, Guy told me, “The results show that the iPad 2 is easily about twice as powerful as the original and that this speed gain is a freebie — you don’t need to change your code structure in order to see significant gains. The differences in the amount of time spent rendering indicates that the GPU is really much faster than the original."

English indicates that the original iPad has a comparatively weak fill-rate and that the new device's much more powerful graphics subsystem should allow for some really incredible visuals in games and applications written (or updated) to take advantage of the native hardware.

"Up to 9x faster graphics"? Based on what these benchmarks are showing, it doesn't seem that Apple's claim is too wide of the mark. And, I'm guessing that there's more than one PowerVR core in that A5. (I tried, but was unable to squeeze any clarifying info out of the Imagination Technologies folks on the GDC expo floor.) We'll find out soon enough. But, whatever the case, it's clear that the iPad 2 is going to be an iOS gaming powerhouse. Developers, your work is cut out for you.

  • Anonymous

    It might be 9x as powerful... but if all the good games are as simple as Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds, nobody will notice/care :P Here's hoping for more than ONE Infinity Blade-quality game this generation.

    • Mikey

      Firemint already announced that they are working on an iPad 2 optimized Real Racing 2 HD. And IMHO Real Racing HD was already a high-quality game.

    • LordG

      Dead Space? RealRacing 2 HD? Dungeon Defenders? perhaps Perfect Cell....

  • bomber

    Wondering how our full-shader game Adrenaline Golf is running, on original iPad it has around 20 fps in the start screen.

  • Jason

    Now its up to some studios to really bring the heat.. my iPad 1 dominates all available games...

  • natcha

    Doing a little maths on the 9x claim would suggest it's dual core - SGX543MP2 . Also Imagination said somebody would ship a multicore version "in the next 3 months" about a month ago.

  • Anonymous

    I would go along with a multicore version of the SGX543MP2 chip also. Half the power of the NGP in an iPhone (I hope) but then again I have no idea the clock speeds of the NGP??

  • Thor

    Just leaves us with the question - where is the Apple iJoyPad?
    I love the iPad but touch controls suck. Thats a simple fact.

    • xStatiCa

      "I love the iPad but touch controls suck. Thats a simple fact."

      The first part about love might be a fact but the second part that they suck certainly isn't. Some actually like the customization and accuracy of the touch controls even with dual stick shooters (such as myself). I was always against touch controls 2 years ago BTW when I only had pressure sensitive touch tables to base my opinion on and laughed at the thought of them. I certainly like the capacitive touch controls now.

      I am not saying that I could not do better with physical controls. I can see that as valid for some game types but they certainly are not needed and I can do very well with the touch controls after practicing awhile and I have a ton of fun with them. I hope apple keeps to touch controls in the future. The customization of controls on screen is a very powerful feature.

  • http://twitter.com/highlightshadow Jamie Wallis

    Hoping that some nice looking but frame-rate challenged iPhone games will get a 'free' boost in June when iPhone5 comes out ... thinking things like GT Academy ... just struggled at times ...
    Been trying to figure a way out to get iPad2 upgrade but not looking likely but the evidence of the A5 being in the iPhone5 is at least one upgrade i'm all over.

  • YoureAMessy

    That's pretty cool.

  • PhillyX

    Sounds like this was designed to be able to handle the rumored retina double resolution display that ended up being punted.

    The iPad2 could be the ultimate platform for emulators.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Grant-Butler/529725117 Grant Butler

    The CPU is clocked in at 800mhz and the GPU is only 5 times faster, though that isn't very impressive seeing as the resolution hasn't changed. It only has 512mb of ram, the cameras are piss poor and it doesn't support flash or have camera flash.

    Why on earth would you buy this over a Xoom that you can easily clock to 1.5Ghrz.

    • http://twitter.com/NoSuperMan ImNoSuperMan

      "only 5 times better"

      ONLY 5 TIMES BETTER!! WTF were you thinking apple!!!!

    • Yyyy

      Good luck with those 1.6 ghz with to apps

    • JuLieN

      Then go get your Xoom, Grant, and be happy with it ;) As for us that'll be an iPad 2 :)

    • Anonymous

      Hey, where's the android version of "toucharcade"?

      I hear you can use your camera flash to play really fun games on you tablet.

    • Anonymous

      The 'no flash' response is so tired, it makes Rip Van Winkle seem like he was on amphetamine.

    • Frumius

      I don't miss all the Flash junk on the web one iota.

      I would NEVER buy the xoom. No ecosystem. It's a piece of hardware sitting alone in a desert compared to the iPad.

    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      The A5 is a dynamically scaling CPU (re: clockspeed) - it seems to max at 1GHz and I've seen it as low as 800MHz. I'd not sweat this, given the 10hr battery life and the benches I've reported.

    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      The A5 is a dynamically scaling CPU (re: clockspeed) - it seems to max at 1GHz and I've seen it as low as 800MHz. I'd not sweat this, given the 10hr battery life and the benches I've reported.

    • Benito Mussolini

      Hey Grant,
      You fail to understand that it's not always performance that makes the machines. Flash won't ever be in the iOS so long as it drains battery life. It's buggy and Apple doesn't want anything to do with it. Get over it. What do the cameras have to do with your gaming? Not much with the exception of a few shovelware games.

      Why on Earth would I buy an iPad2 or iPhone 5 over a Xoom or Shaddendroid? Because Apple has a vast network of games and screens out buggy games and malware. Get your Xoom and enjoy 10 games.

    • Jaison13

      i have yet to see a great review of the xoom. most say constant crashing. that doesn't sound fun!! $100 more for half the hard drive and less than half the apps.

    • Anonymous

      1. iPad 2 CAN play videos without flash.
      2. iPad 2 has better performance per mhz.
      3. I bet that SGX543MP2 is 5 times faster then xooms gpu.
      4. Even with 1gb ram xoom isn't faster...
      5. You are stubit now enjoy your droid crap with 10 apps support and instant crashing!

    • LordG

      Because of the AppStore developers would develop more games for the iPad than others, and also remeber that Xoom uses Android, which is a lot worse than iOS

      • http://twitter.com/Inaba_kun Phil Baxter

        Rather controversial opinion there. Honeycomb is in many ways far more advanced than the current version of iOS. At the moment it lacks tablet apps, but it's only just come out, so give it time.

        Only a fool would write of Honeycomb given the success of Android in phones.

  • Brementer

    I hope Dungeon Defenders will run smoother.

  • FreeFrog

    Hopefully more Galaxy on Fire 2 style space games will arrive and be jaw dropping visually. Then again, with the graphic glitches and slowdowns on Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD, 9x faster graphic performance won't hurt that title right now. :D

  • cottonburning

    The A5 is bound for a refresh in a few months' time.
    Oh wait. This isn't a car blog.

  • Anonymous

    What do the cameras must do together with your gambling? Not much with the exception of a few shovelware games.

  • Asd

    please give us transperancy and soft particles