Digital Foundry vs. iPad 2 • Page 4

Why you should upgrade and how the A5 tech could power a new home console.

Eat Sleep Play's David Jaffe may well have let the cat out of the bag last week, speculating that Apple could well become the dominant force in video games.

"I heard somebody the other day say AppleTV, which I love, they're going to start putting the App Store on AppleTV with games," he told Eurogamer's Johnny Minkley. "I'm like 'holy s***'. So yeah, it's possible... I'm so excited about NGP, but of course Apple's a player now. And that has to be respected and countered and adjusted for."

Of course, this approach has its challenges too - an AppleTV "console" would require some serious work on the controller, which currently takes the form of a very basic remote. Bluetooth connectivity with current iOS devices could work, but it would be highly unusual for any kind of home console to launch without a viable controller in the box.

In addition, any App Store hook-up begs for some kind of flash storage or mechanical hard drive to be incorporated into the unit - elements that would undoubtedly add to the current build cost. There are other issues too, such as a more impressive and robust online presence, as it's clear that Game Center isn't anywhere near being a contender to the likes of Xbox Live. Interestingly, there would be nothing to stop Cloud game streaming services working on AppleTV.

The core operating system may well require some additional work though, as some features that are essential for a tablet or smartphone could bring about noticeable performance issues on a home console. Multi-tasking, for example, has an interesting impact on the way technologically challenging games play on the iPad 2.

Our initial Infinity Blade performance tests on the new tablet were carried out on a freshly rebooted system. We came back to the game later having used it for light browsing, Skype and other tasks and found that the performance level of the Epic game was nowhere near as consistent as it had been before. Historically, iOS has had memory and resource management issues to the point where games like DOOM Resurrection actually recommend that you reboot the device before playing to guarantee performance.

The more apps you run, the bigger the impact on gaming performance. Even terminated apps can still impact memory allocation. Here we see how light usage hits Infinity Blade frame-rates.

Technical and hardware challenges aside, there's no doubt whatsoever that Apple is extremely well-placed to expand its reach in the games market and launch a new, disruptive assault on the status quo every bit as effective as its mobile offerings have been. There have been plenty of creditable attempts at claiming the multi-purpose set-top box market, but there has been no outright winner. Arguably, Apple has the brand presence, the games, and the music/video services to actually make it happen.

This week, Eurogamer discussed whether console gaming is dying in the wake of the success of mobile mega-hits like Angry Birds. However, it may simply be the case that the medium is diversifying and expanding in exactly the same way that video and music have. A revamped, games-capable AppleTV won't spell the end of the Xbox 360, PS3 or their successors - it would simply be a new offering aimed at a different market in the same way Wii was.

This doesn't suggest that there won't be elements that won't appeal to core gamers, however. A network of connected devices that allows you to take the same game experience from the home out onto the road (or into the toilet) with a seamless wireless sync opens up a huge range of potential. With A5 - and indeed A4 - featuring HD h264 hardware encoding, perhaps AirPlay could be expanded to feature real-time gameplay over IP. The possibilities are tantalising.

"In the years to come, we want playing experience for users to be seamless so you don't have to jump between mobile, console and whatever other device you might have," says Firemint's Rob Murray.

"We want it to be invisible and natural. One minute you might be hooked up to your big screen at home, iPad 2 in hand speeding along in Real Racing 2 HD. The next you're disconnected and on the go, playing the same race - and all you had to do was unplug a single cable. We don't want users thinking about connectivity, it should just happen."

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