John Gruber has a great follow-up post to his earlier speculation on a small iPad. Interestingly, the new mockups sure look a lot more like a big iPod Touch than a small iPad. It’s almost a certainty that this small tablet will be named iPad something, but after reading John’s excellent (even for DF) post, it seems even more likely that this device steals the marketing slot of the iPod Touch—which means gaming—in addition to its obvious use as a reader.
The key, again if Gruber is right, is in the screen. High end graphics take an enormous hit to performance as resolution increases. To some the difference is subtle—like the difference between Android “smooth” and iOS smooth—but it can make a huge impact on playability.
When the new iPad came out, Real Racing HD supported Retina right away. It looked amazing, sharp, clear, but it was choppy in comparison to the same game on the iPad 2. I found it much less engaging as a long-term gaming interest. The wow factor was cool for a race or two, but the drop in framerate took away the game’s staying power.
Now you might pick up Real Racing HD and think, “Whatever, this is awesome!” But I think that on this small iPad, you’d think it was even better. That’s right, better than on the $500 Retina iPad. Why? Because the device has only to push around 25% of the pixels as on Retina.
What about image quality? Most high resolution games on the new iPad cheat the actual resolution (as they have done on 1080p TV’s for years on the console side. The games are rendered at a lower resolution by the game engine, then upscaled by the device. In that case, the slightly higher screen density of the small iPad might be enough to make images sharp and crisp while retaining much smoother motion. For games it’s just the kind of compromise that brings about the best experience from the available hardware technology.