I've never been a fan of hardware reviews. A device could have everything -- a great screen, fantastic speed, perfect form factor, superb build quality -- and it still could be worthless if its ecosystem is flat or nonexistent. Content creators need to be around. If they aren't, a new feature is just that; a feature. Who wants a tablet that has a crazy good GPU but no games that actually take advantage of it?

I'm more interested in how many apps support a device and how many content creators will continue to use unique features over the long haul. You can't review that in any traditional way.

You see where I'm going, hopefully. iPad with Retina Display is cool. It's faster, as heavy, and just as solidly built as its predecessor, but it's hard to even begin to evaluate the device. All we have to look at are older games.

Adding to this is just how iterative iPad with Retina is. Outside of its new GPU, this iPad doesn't have a lot differentiating features. The most notable for me is the lightning adapter add, and that's not exactly exciting.

 

One thing I've noticed so far? Games load times are slightly faster on iPad with Retina Display compared to iPad 3 or iPad 2. It's a matter of seconds. You can jump into FIFA 13 about two seconds before someone with an iPad 3 can, for example. The game doesn't look any better on iPad 4, but it is snappier. Other games like NFS Most Wanted, Infinity Blade, The Room, and Epoch seem to also see better loading times on iPad 4.

What I'm not seeing is a game that totally takes advantage of the A6X. And it's hard to tell when  that game will happen. There's a lot of iPads out in the wild, and most of them are not iPad 3s or iPad 4s. Rational game companies are probably going to spec their games for the older selection of devices out there first, and then maybe consider throwing some cool extras for people with newer devices -- you know, bonus textures, shaders and stuff like that.

That's not to say things like advanced lighting, increased frame rates, better aliasing and options like vsync aren't  a big deal. They can be. If you've recently played a PC port of a console game, it's easy to see what these things bring to the table: more immersive, better functioning experiences. But it's not like you're missing anything mechanically if you choose to play a game like, say, Borderlands 2 on 360 instead of PC.

It'll be interesting to see what developers do down the line, when we'll see that oh my god you need to buy an iPad 4 or you're an idiot kind of title. Will we see it in a few weeks? Months? Next year? Is it even financially sound to make a game that'll push the limits of iPad 4? The expectation of consumers is that a game should cost almost nothing. Creating high-functioning, high-resolution games most certainly does not run a developer $0. I wish I had a crystal ball.

iPad 4 is definitely a capable iPad. It's big, fast, has a beautiful screen, and all of that kind of stuff -- but who didn't expect that? The support is what's up in the air, and that's been kinda informing my opinion on the device as a whole so far. My impression is that it just feels really, really similar to iPad 3. It has potential to be something more, but at the moment it's not.

A side-note: if you don't have a retina iPad and iPad 4 might be your first, there's a lot of exciting games on the App Store. NFS Most Wanted is probably the craziest looking one we've seen so far. Anomaly Warzone Earth, Real Racing 2 are also crazy. These titles do a great job stretching the known limits of games on iPad. If you're upgrading from an older non-retina device these are titles you need.

  • jindofox

    If Moore's Law took a holiday, and iPad games just ran in place for a while, I don't think that would be a terrible thing for us. The iPad Mini is a small iPad 2, so it's clear that the 2011 hardware spec iPad is not going anywhere. I expect software to do the same thing. 

    This isn't 1993 and iOS is not DOS. Chris Roberts may be pushing a new Wing Commander that requires a $3000 PC, but what we have right here right now with the current iPad line is pretty cool as is.

    • MidianGTX

      I'm with this dude. Let's all stop feeling pressured to upgrade for a bit. and when we finally do decide we need a new device, let it be one that boasts exciting new features as well as a mere component upgrade.

    • http://twitter.com/UsherCool1 UsherCool

      George responded I didn't even know that a student can profit $8382 in a few weeks on the network. have you seen this(Click on menu Home)   

    • http://twitter.com/UsherCool1 UsherCool

      .....goo.gl/1BCEv

  • Solidfart

    Boy such a useless post n review. Thanks for telling us pretty much nothing new!

  • http://twitter.com/ezonecom Simon Edis

    Speaking as a developer, it doesn't make any economic sense for us to target the iPad4 - unless we are angling for an Apple feature.

  • ltcommander_data

    Taking some advantage of the A6X shouldn't be too difficult for games that were already heavily taxing the GPU. The A5X in the iPad 3 was only 2x more powerful than the A5 in the iPad 2 even though the pixel count increased 4x. This meant that graphically intensive games either ran with all graphics effects on but at a sub-Retina resolution using only 2x the pixels of the iPad 2 instead of a Retina 4x in order to match the A5X GPU capabilities such as Infinity Blade 2 or ran at full Retina resolution with 4x pixel count but with graphical effects turned down such as NOVA 3. With the A6X and the iPad 4, developers can now enable full graphical effects at Retina resolution which improves image quality over the iPad 3, but isn't a lot of work since they are just rendering existing iPad 2 level quality at higher resolution.

    The other aspect of the A6X, the 2x CPU improvement will take longer to be taken full advantage of since that'll need engine work and would limit the audience to the iPad 4/iPhone 5.

  • themostunclean

    A perfect explanation for why I still have, and love, my iPad 2. Outside if retina display there is no reason I would want to savage my wallet on a new tablet. The game ecosystem now barely comes close to taxing the power of a device p2 generations old for fear of alienating a huge chunk of the consumer base. Now with the iPad(2) mini that will likely stretch for a few more generations. No developer wants to create a game that can only run in the newest hardware and loose 80% of their potential customers.

    Another thing I notice with all of these new iPads is how shallow most people are about their technology. A device can have the newest and greatest processor/GPU/Display/amount of RAM but if still looks the same, people tend to be less than impressed (reminds me of the Samsung commercial- "But how will people know I have the new one?"). The current launch displays this perfectly, everyone gushing over the mini which has nothing new or special (except an adaptor that makes most of your accessories obsolete) just because it LOOKS different. I can guarantee you if the newest iPad had a skinny bezel on 2 sides and a new back that Apple would sell about 10 million more in the first month.

    • ltcommander_data

      Consumers generally find something to criticize one way or another. Apple didn't make an external change for the iPad 4 so people aren't impressed. However, if Apple had made major external changes to the iPad 4, people would be up at arms over planned obsolescence.

  • grits

    Is it possible to do something like you see on PC where you can select graphic options? So if you have a four it will automatically go to the highest settings?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/42YS2N67LP6IDUKBZUUCMSZW7M Pray For Death

      Some iOS games already do that. For example, Galaxy on Fire 2 HD lets you choose between 3 resolutions, and nova 3 let's you choose between retina or extra effects (or both on iPad 4 heh.)

  • B3nlok

    The a6x will not be pushed till a7(or a7x) make its appearance into the next ipad. By then the ipad will have roughly the processing power of xbox360 and i  wouldnt be surprised if ios starts getting straight console ports. Its a scenario that has been discussed a few times already by some of the big players of  gaming industry, from Epic to Crytek. If this turns out to true, the a6x should be usefull by allowing developers to target a larger user base with downgraded ports.

    • Dpad

      I dunno if iPads have as much power as the x360 how long would battery life be????? Or how hot would it get, next they'll have fans on r ipad 6th gen with A7x...lol

      • DCver3

        Actually iPads are pretty close to being as powerful as a 360. I love my Xbox but it's old tech, built with outdated thinking in terms of ram. The increased ram makes a huge difference in processing capabilities in regards to iDevices.

      • DCver3

        Actually iPads are pretty close to being as powerful as a 360. I love my Xbox but it's old tech, built with outdated thinking in terms of ram. The increased ram makes a huge difference in processing capabilities in regards to iDevices.

    • Superatomic

      Can you imagine full console ports? I don't mean the sonic ports but something like metal gear. Crazy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jose-A-Arroyo-Lopez/534160493 Jose A. Arroyo Lopez

    I say make exclusive triple A games for A6 or Ax6... Or give us the option just like pcs to add of take from game, to adjust to the graphics capability of the hardware.

  • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon't Know

    The iPad 4 is notably faster in day to day use and the wifi is much stronger, it really is twice as fast as iPad 3 wifi as test have shown.  It also has the improved color gamut of the iPhone 5 screen.

  • stormchild

    The product isn't actually called "iPad with Retina Display". No need to keep writing out the entire description every time; it's tedious to read, and misleading as well (since it implies the Retina Display is somehow a distinguishing feature — which it isn't, since the iPad 3 has it too). After the iPad 2, the full-size iPads are all officially called "iPad", period.

    Just say "iPad 4" (as you did in the title); everyone knows what you mean (otherwise you couldn't keep referring to the iPad 3 either).

  • M. Niazy

    No one mentioned Horn. That game is very choppy on the iPad 3. I would love to try it on the new iPad.

  • futuresgreen

    This is such a complex debate, it includes the console wars, Apple politics, media, investors, share price, market share, and keeping the tech ahead of the rivals.

    Last year if I recall, Real Racing 2 was one of the first titles to fully take advantage of the latest tech on the ipad and iPhone and that was released about this time, so it'll be the same this year.
    I wonder if Apple made an error with releasing the ipad 3 without the a6x ? Or was it just to make as much cash as they could. I think with the changes at the top of Apple, we may well see some changes in line ups and the quality, hopefully for the better, this last 8 months or so feels quite rushed and not Apple like, but it does keep the media on their toes.
    It'll be interesting to see the a survey of what %people buying an ipad 4 are new customers or customers upgrading and their expectations.

    Your podcast was spot on this week discussing this and the main point is that all of these products are amazing whether its an ipad 2 or the latest one, it'll be a while yet before they are out of the Eco system.