According to Rumors, The iPad 2 Could Potentially Be a Beastly Gaming Machine

Before I get started with this, please take everything in this post with a grain of salt. The accuracy of the Apple rumors community historically has varied widely between spot on, and, well, about as good as the ancient art of Tyromancy. That being said, because of how secretive Apple as a company is, following these rumors sure is a lot of fun– Regardless of whether or not they turn out to be true.

First off, since we learned about the Retina Display of the iPhone 4, the Internet has been rumbling with the potential of a similar “Retina" display in the successor to the iPad. According to Mac Rumors, this might not be as far fetched as originally thought. Apparently, version 1.1 of Apple’s iBooks [Free] “accidentally" included some graphical resources that are twice the size of the ones currently in use on the iPad.

Now, depending on how you read these virtual tea leaves, this could mean one of two things: Someone at Apple knows that rumor hounds will dig through absolutely everything they can for any kind of hint, or the screen resolution of the iPad 2 will be double that of the current iPad. This would put the screen resolution at 2048×1536, sporting 260 DPI. It’s not quite the pixel density of the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, but you typically hold the iPad much farther away from your eyes. This means that even at a lower DPI this screen could potentially provide a similar “Retina" effect. (I suppose there’s a third alternative that this means neither of these things, but how much fun is that?)

Things get even more interesting though when you consider that Global Direct Parts, the guys who had the “iPhone 5" parts video (which actually turned out to be the CDMA Verizon iPhone), also have their hands on a screen that fits the previously mentioned description. The price of this part? $218.19, compared to the original $144.99 the original iPad screen cost at launch from the same site.

But what does the higher price of the components have to do with anything? Well, as appleguy123 points out on the Mac Rumors forums, according to Apple’s 2010 Annual Report:

The Company expects its gross margin percentage to decrease in future periods compared to levels achieved during 2010 and anticipates gross margin levels of about 36% in the first quarter of 2011. This expected decline is largely due to a higher mix of new and innovative products that have higher cost structures and deliver greater value to customers, and expected and potential future component cost and other cost increases.

Whether this refers specifically to the increased cost of the components in the iPad 2, or something else entirely is anyone’s guess, but it is a curious coincidence. If the screen does turn out to be 2048×1536, there’s an entirely new issue to be addressed: The sheer number of pixels the iPad GPU is going to have to push. For the sake of comparison, the resolution of a 30" LCD is only barely higher, at 2560×1600. Gaming at that resolution is a formidable task for even dedicated gaming PC’s, much less a mobile device. That’s higher resolution than what we consider “HD" these days as well, which only weighs in at a paltry 1920×1080 in comparison.

Mac Rumors has an answer to this too, courtesy of Apple Insider. If these rumors turn out to be true, both the iPad 2 and iPhone 5 will use a dual-core SGX543 GPU from Imagination Technologies. What makes this rumor hold more water than your typical bean spillage by an “industry insider" is the fact that the iOS 4.3 beta already includes drivers for this GPU. Odd coincidence, eh? What’s even cooler is that not only do these GPUs boast some incredible performance figures, they also support anywhere between two and sixteen cores handled entirely by hardware, without a single change to any software required to scale performance.

Again, I’m not entirely sure how true these rumors are, but there is something strange afoot. It would make the most sense to double the iPad screen resolution, as it would allow graceful upscaling via pixel doubling much like running a non-Retina Display app on the Retina Display of the iPhone 4. If Global Direct Parts’ pricing can be trusted, the component cost of the screen doesn’t seem that far out of line. On top of all that, it’s really hard to deny the coincidence between the GPU rumors and Apple actually including the drivers for that very GPU inside of their own operating system.

We’ll have to wait and see what Apple reveals as the inevitable iPad 2, but if the Apple rumors scene is to be believed, it has potential to be an insane gaming machine.