Apple's iPad plays games, surprise!

Yes, Apple's iPad plays games, including anything already on Apple's App Store, and the entry-level model's just $499.

The App Store will be the only distribution method for games on Apple's iPad

The App Store will be the only distribution method for games on Apple's iPad

Call Apple's tablet the iPad, because that's what Steve Jobs does, and hey, it can play games! Thank goodness, right? Apple's iPhone didn't for years, and even Apple probably realizes what an embarrassing mistake that was.

It also packs in 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a speaker and mic, a compass and an accelerometer, and retails in its most basic configuration for just $499.

So while my colleagues are poring over its ramifications in dozens of other areas, let's talk about the iPad and gaming, or at least what Apple wants us to take away from the media circus that's wrapping up as I type this. For starters, it's extremely thin and light, which means three things: It'll be a delight to tote, perhaps a trifle vulnerable if dropped or caught between heavy objects, and--yep, it'll have pretty abysmal battery life.

Apple claims 10 hours battery life, which you can already assume is like the EPA's mileage estimates for cars (read: Not so much). In fact at least one beta tester who had the thing for the last 10 days apparently estimates it's more like three hours if you're running a game full-out.

That's still notably better than a serious gaming laptop (by comparison, my eight-pounder runs for an hour, cordless, tops) but dramatically less than the Nintendo DS or Sony PSP, which can either approach or exceed 10. For example, my PSP 3000 with the 2200 mAh battery upgrade almost gets me across the pond and back--Detroit to London to Detroit--on a single charge.

Under the iPad's hood, you're looking at a 1GHz Apple A3 chip, basically an all-in-one processor that handles core crunching as well as audio-video math processing typically reserved for discrete silicon. You don't get much in the way of storage, though. Apple says between 16 and 64 GB of flash storage internal, which means--sorry Blizzard wonks--you won't be running anything like World of Warcraft on it.

As for how you control the thing, it's gesture-driven, just like the iPhone, so think "super-sized" mobile and you've got the essence of what Apple's up to from a gaming angle. In fact the iPad can download and run nearly any iPhone app out of the box. Apple demonstrated an iPhone racing game running at a 1-to-1 pixel ratio center-screen (about a quarter active space, the rest framed by black) then showed how the iPad could interpolate the pixels to run at about two-thirds screen size. It looked a little blurry, and harked back to what console gamers were doing a generation ago, but I'm convinced Apple's not courting the high end at this point.

How does it handle in games? As noted, it's basically a giant iPhone, so you're using gestures or tapping on hot points to execute actions. Imagine swishing your fingers across the screen to fling a grenade, or using three fingers on screen at once to open a door. (Apple's apparently familiar with sci-fi author Orson Scott Card, since they're describing more or less how the school tablets work in Card's Hugo and Nebula winner, Ender's Game.)

The screen sounds like the sweetest aspect, an in-plane switching 9.7-inch LED, which makes for a brighter, better display, but uses more power than a standard TFT setup. Form over function? Maybe. It wouldn't be the first time Apple swapped substance for style.

The bottom line? If you're a casual gamer, say someone who fiddles with stuff on your iPhone between meetings (or during them) or on planes or in line waiting for movie tickets, think of this as a kind of middle-ground between your phone and your laptop. You want to play slightly more sophisticated games on a multiple-use computing device and don't mind using a gesture-driven, non-deterministic interface to do so? Here's your new toy.

The rest of you? Wait for someone to bring the killer apps, because at least from a gaming angle, what Apple demonstrated at today's show was just an evolutionary extension of its i-brand family.

Connect with me on Twitter @game_on

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags iPad

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Peckham

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?