iPad vs. Everything Else

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iPad Gaming: Compelling--and Awkward

As a gaming device, the iPad has lots going for it. The display is large and gorgeous, the processor is snappy, and the multitouch interface allows for innovative ways to play. Plus, the App Store is a model of instant gratification: You can snap up relatively cheap games wirelessly. But don't toss out your Nintendo DS or Sony PSP yet.

Playing a racing game on the iPad for an extended time can get tiring--and using the on-screen controls may be frustrating.
The first question for iPad gamers is this: How the heck are we supposed to hold this thing? At 1.5 pounds, it might seem light, but holding it aloft for extended play sessions can be tiring. Trickier still is playing when you can't get a seat or are in a crowd: Try flailing your arms around to steer that sports car while you're standing on a packed bus.

And then there's the button issue. Steve Jobs hates them, but buttons are an important reason why the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP work so well: If you need to reload your weapon in a first-person shooter, your thumb can find that button easily while you concentrate on ducking behind a wall.

The iPad's controls are frequently just on-screen icons or arbitrary tapping patterns. It's no fun being fragged because your thumb is a half-inch off the trigger.

For some game genres, however, the iPad shines. The de­­vice is big enough to be shared, making board games like Scrabble feasible. Strategy and tower-defense games benefit from the large space; the interface makes it simple to place structures and issue blanket orders to large groups. Micromanagement is still tricky without a keyboard and mouse, but the iPad's implementation of such games is superior to anything that consoles--portable or otherwise--have attempted.

Verdict: The iPad is a game-changer for some genres, but most mobile gamers will still want to hold on to their DS or PSP.

--Nate Ralph

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