Digital Foundry on how Apple has defined the mobile market and the generational hardware leap ahead.
Mobile processing and graphics power has increased by orders of magnitude over the last few years and few companies have done more than Apple to showcase the gaming capabilities of this exciting, powerful, energy-efficient hardware. Remarkably, we're now months away from a generational leap in mobile performance even more radical than the 5x jump in GPU performance we saw with the arrival of the iPad 2.
Next year, everything changes: new architectures roll out and there's a strong possibility we will finally see mobile parts theoretically surpass the performance of the current generation of HD consoles - and Apple will almost certainly be at forefront of this revolution. However, the recent release of Apple's "New iPad" is best described as the last great hurrah for the current generation of ARM and PowerVR hardware - this year the focus is clearly on the new Retina display.
In terms of overall form factor, the latest iOS tablet looks remarkably similar to the existing iPad 2, which continues to be sold alongside the new one at a $100/£70 discount. The overall design aesthetic is effectively identical with the only noticeable changes being that the new tablet is noticeably heavier and slightly "fatter". When the new A5X processor is put through its paces with challenging 3D content, you'll also notice that the tablet can get rather warm too, something that can become much more pronounced if you have the iPad inside a case.
All of these compromises are present in order to accommodate the new Retina screen supplied by Samsung, which quadruples resolution from the iPad's traditional 1024x768 up to an extraordinary 2048x1536. The screen almost certainly sucks up a lot more juice and the A5X processor also adds a significant hit to battery life. Apple's somewhat expensive solution is to seriously beef up the battery power provision - the 25 watt-hour batteries of iPad 2 give way to 42.5 watt-hour lithium-ion cells in the new tablet.