A No Holds Barred Review of the (3rd Gen) iPad (2012)

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Performance: Graphics and Battery Life

GLBenchmark is new to our 3D performance benchmark set. The test suite is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark with a number of performance metrics incorporated in it. We specifically use the Fill Texture Fetch suite to measure raw texture fill rate of a graphics core and the Egypt Off Screen test to measure 3D performance in frames per second. The Off Screen test renders workloads at 1280x720 for all devices, but off-screen, so Vsync and screen refresh are not limiting performance.

Graphics Testing
OpenGL 3D Rendering Performance

And boom goes the dynamite. Apple's A5X processor and 1GB of RAM didn't yield much improvement in the way of Web browsing, but gaming is another story entirely. Armed with a quad-core graphics engine that Apple claims is four times faster than NVIDIA's Tegra 3 processor, the new iPad got right down to business. It performed nearly twice as well as the iPad two in GLBenchmark's Fill test and was more than four times faster than the Tegra 3-equipped Eee Pad Transformer Prime from Asus. Perhaps this is the benchmark Tim Cook was talking about when he claimed a four-fold increase in performance compared to Tegra 3 but it's just one data point.

Graphics Testing
3D Graphics Testing

It's weird seeing Apple slap around the competition, especially NVIDIA, a company entirely focused on graphics, yet the new iPad bends Tegra 3 over its knee and spanks it, albeit the performance disparity with the Eee Pad Transformer Prime is closer to two and a half rather than the advertised four times performance boost. Still, it's a convincing victory.

A Few Words on Battery Life:
Apple had to cram a beefy 42.5W-hour battery into the new iPad in order to maintain the same 9-hour (4G) and 10-hour (Wi-Fi) battery life that the iPad 2 enjoys, and after spending a few days testing the heck out it, I didn't notice any difference in uptime between the two tablets. Battery life is, once again, nothing short of superb for a 9.7-inch tablet, though it comes at the expense of a slight weight and size increase.

The next logical step for Apple is to go with a quad-core CPU while perhaps not upgrading the GPU at all next year with all the headroom it provides. Between now and then, Apple will have to figure out a way to further optimize the hardware and software to keep battery life the same without resorting to an even bigger battery.

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