2011 Winter Game Grab Gab Part 2: iOS Crap!

Here’s a bunch of games I’ve picked up over the last few…somethings. It’s hard to tell with iOS, a few of these I picked up without actually getting a chance to play for a while or just completely forgetting that I downloaded them. Damn this crazy app market.

Bug Princess (aka Mushihimesama)

Well it’s another Cave shooter port, not sure how much else there is to say about it. It doesn’t have full manual control options like Deathsmiles did which is a bit of a disappointment, but otherwise it appears solid. Original, Maniac, and Ultra are there (latter two have to be unlocked), and if you want the arcade bullet patterns and speed you can pick “Hell” difficulty, although I don’t know if the leaderboards take that into account.

Unlike the previous ports this one is a universal app, but not “HD”, which means it can run on the first iPad (unlike Espgaluda II HD). It’s still an improvement over playing the iPhone ports since the control extends fullscreen, and if you use something other the smallest scaling mode you’re only going through one resize vs the previous resize plus 2x resize.

It could use better quality sound though. And an option to get rid of that damn OpenFeint crap.

Bug Princess, $4.99:
HIPPOTROUBLE


SpellTower

It’s a nice little word game from Zach Gage, the Unify and Bit Pilot guy. You have a grid of letters and you drag (or tap letters) to make words in any which way. There are special blocks you have to deal with to mix things up. One of them is a letter with a small number on it, with which you have to make a word of at least that many letters…which is a pain if it’s like a Q6. You can get around those with other special blocks that clear lines, or making a long enough word which clears out surrounding blocks.

Those blocks kind of limit it for trying to play long games, since you eventually get into a survival mode with whatever regular blocks you have left. On the plus side it has leaderboards and multiple modes to mess with. It has nifty little sounds that work nicely, but feels a bit sterile without music, disappointing considering the music in Gage’s previous games.

SpellTower, $1.99:
HIPPO


Async Corp.

IT IS FANTASTIC JUST BUY IT NOW!

It’s a great little unique puzzle game with polish out the ass, about the only thing it doesn’t have is multiplayer. You have two sides of blocks and can only move pieces from one side to other, and this can only be done if the move results in a 2×2 block or more can be made.

Async Corp., $0.99:
HIPPOTROUBLE


Major Mayhem

If you ever thought to yourself, “man I really want something like Time Crisis but third person and side scrolling” then this game is for you, cause really that’s the easiest way to describe the game. When you do nothing you’re (generally) hiding behind cover and shooting exposes you to enemy fire. And like Time Crisis, most enemy fire doesn’t hit you, you only have to watch out for the particular highlighted red shots. You go from post to post doing this, sometimes with activities in between like light platforming or shooting and dodging on the run, and occasionally bosses.

Overall it’s a nice package, but gets repetitive. Not that my nephew noticed, he played through it on Thanksgiving rather than interacting with anyone.1

Major Mayhem, $0.99:
HIPPO


Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner

Do you like Star Wars and augmented reality and/or gyro controlled games? Cause this is a pretty good example of either one of those things. The last update finally brought iPad compatibility and gyro control with the Star Wars backdrops (vs camera only before). It’s gimmicky sure, but it’s a hell of a gimmick.

The biggest issue with the game is simply that it takes a while to load. Well that itself wouldn’t be a big deal, but it doesn’t support fast app switching so just switching out and back results in starting over from the splash screens. It does save your play and resume once you get going again at least.

Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner, $2.99:
HIPPO


King of Dragon Pass

Well this one is pretty old but it’s still great, kind of a choose your own adventure storybook mixed with light strategery in terms of decisions to make here and there. Like what action should you take when one of your clan leaders says someone’s wife has a fat ass and her husband gets offended?

And one little tip, don’t try making an alliance with the ducks. They’ll just laugh you out of town.

King of Dragon Pass, $9.992:
HIPPOTROUBLE
Rating system guide

  1. He eventually played with the other kids…in Scribblenauts, where they found out animals can carry guns.
  2. On sale for $7.99 right now!

2011 Winter Game Grab Gab! Part 1

First Zelda: Skyward Sword came out. Then Black Friday/Cyber Monday/[fill in the blank] Week happened. Then a 3DS deal and multi game deals out of nowhere. And of course iOS crap all the time.

Now I have a crapload of stuff that I’ve only partially gotten into and will take a while to finish, so I’m just posting what my initial impressions for now. They’re turning out longer than I expected so this is suddenly a multi post effort. First up:

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Well it has a tutorial that takes a while, but from what I’ve heard it’s not nearly as bad as the one in Twilight Princess. Ran a bit long and treated the player too much like an idiot for my tastes but wasn’t too bad otherwise.

A few dungeons into the game my gripes are unskippable dialog (particularly with characters that say the exact same thing, let me skip!), camera control at times, and a few annoying locked animations (opening doors, jumping into water). It’s easy enough to turn and Z-target the camera around usually but being able to move it around on the run would help greatly.

The MotionPlus control is fantastic, if a bit awkward at first. Things that would usually use the IR camera and sensor bar use the M+ instead, so you can enter whatever mode and just angle the remote to the direction you want without worrying about the sensor bar. The awkward part that takes getting used to is that there’s no true calibrated center now, it’s just when you enter the mode or manually recenter with a button.

For swordplay it can range from “what the hell *waggle*” to great. The main thing is that you have to be deliberate with your movement, you can’t just swing wildly because it goes into a full strike if you swing fast enough (locks into 45˚ increments when Z-targeting, any angle otherwise). And that could be fine, but the enemies are designed to force you to make controlled swings.

Speaking of enemies, I even died already cause I was playing recklessly! Multiple times along with other close calls! Granted part of that is because I sucked, but the combat is great fun and a nice challenge when you meet a new enemy you haven’t figured out yet.

The hub world of Skyloft doesn’t feel as big as Wind Waker’s, but part of that may have to do with the faster travel with the bird, for better or worse. The good is that you can get around decently quickly and it’s an active journey (completely motion controlled with waggle to flap)/climb)…the bad is that you lose part of that feel of cruising a great expanse and finding random crap in the middle of nowhere. Then again this may change later in the game for all I know. For now it doesn’t feel all that crazy to fly all the way around the map. One annoying thing that’s still around is the limited dialog from everyone outside of random side quests.

Another reason it probably doesn’t feel as large is that the uh, gamey game world is completely separate from Skyloft. These worlds are decently sized and provide enough stuff to do, at least until you obliterate all life in the area. The dungeons appear to be small, but they’re dense and make good use of the space

The aesthetic is a nice change and done pretty well, if handicapped by what the Wii can do. I’ve heard some later stuff gets pretty wacky (and have seen some instances myself already) so that’s something to look forward to.

So basically it’s good and Zelda-y, with the general good and bad that that implies. But that’s not including the swordplay which makes puts it over the top for me. I had fun with the simple Zelda combat before but the required amount of control here makes for a massive improvement.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, $501:
HIPPO
Rating system guide

  1. If you can find it, the MotionPlus bundle is $70

Fat Riker? Fat Riker.

I forget how, but I came across a site called Fat Riker. I didn’t read the site at the time because I was so distracted by my disappointment at the lack of a fat Commander Riker photoshop.

I have taken matters into my own hands:

Fat Jonathan Frakes

Number One + 100 pounds

If you read this Mr. Fat Riker person, feel free to use the picture as long as you just link here.

Now with that distraction out of the way I can now see that Fat Riker has an interesting premise:

“need band member. fat riker. call now. free chips? maybe”

Intrigued? I know I am.

Crown their ass

Ever thought there was a team that beat your team, and they were exactly who you thought they were, but your team let them off the hook?

There are many ways of dealing with this dilemma besides crowning their ass. One would be taking out your frustration in Madden, but if you’re on the go, the iPhone one is a bit…lacking. So what’s a frustrated fan to do?

PRO STRATEGY FOOTBALL!

Damn Tebow

Sure the interface is clunky at best so it’s kind of annoying, but it’s worth it cause there’s nothing else out there like it, at least right now. It’s basically turned based strategy…BUT FOR FOOTBALL. And it plays out in 16-bit looking glory and vaguely NFL Films-y music.1

As if the Raiders would play any other defense

And look at this realism:

Their reputation precedes them

…even if it’s not the Raiders. There’s no NFL license so there’s no NFL teams, but the cities and team colors are there, although I haven’t checked to see if they’re all there.2 And as you probably guessed, there’s no NFL Players Association license either, so instead of say, Janikowski kicking 60 yard field goals, you have “PLAYER”.

What else is missing? Online play, but that’s coming! If the dev can fix up the interface, and even if they don’t to be honest, just being able to play against another human will be huge for this game. Graphically it has the old school feel down I think, sure as hell doesn’t have high res graphics, but it could use some cleaning up of the artwork or scaling, it all looks a bit blurry.

For now it’s only free with ads, a pay version/ad removal option isn’t available yet. I wish there was cause damn, I want to give this guy money:

Pro Strategy Football on Facebook

On a personal note, November 7th will mark the one-year anniversary of the day that our oldest son was in a horrific accident and suffered traumatic brain injury, beginning an amazing adventure in all our lives. His fight to come back (which is still ongoing), along with the faith of my family, was a big factor in my deciding to stretch myself and write this app. Life is sure interesting.

See, there’s even an inspiring story behind it too!

FOOTBALL

Pro Strategy Football, Free:
HIPPO
Rating system guide

  1. Check out the top song, OH YEAH!
  2. As in, I only played with the Raiders Oakland team.

What if Al Davis were black?

Honestly I had never thought of the question before, not even after seeing ESPN’s greatest story ever1.

After Al died it was hard to imagine the Raiders being the same ever again. While the last decade of crap was frustrating, some entertainment could still be had cause you never knew what the hell they were going to do. And more amazingly, the last few years of seemingly insane (at the time) moves are actually working out. Turns out crazy old Al still knew what he was doing.

Which brings us to the post Al era. Fake punts, playing a man down on the last play of a game, trading for a bust then starting him a few days later, fake field goal pass on 4th and 20, then going for it on 4th down when a chip shot field goal would seal the game.

Hue Jackson’s reign of terror has been nothing if not interesting. Ultimately his moves have all been in the name of trying to just win, baby, and realistically they’ve just been ballsy moves and nothing too crazy.

Until now.

Not even White Vick shocked me as much as Hue’s latest move. Following the Raiders for many years has dulled me to seemingly crazy moves, but this, this is a whole new level of flabbergastation. The phrase “crazy enough to work” has never seemed so apt.

Welcome back Al. It’s like you secretly escaped into a Lazarus Pit while everyone thought you were dead, and came back stronger than ever. And apparently black.

  1. As fun as a Photoshop would be I’ll hold off on my own…at least for now.

NFL Week 6 Recap

Well the Raiders defeated the Browns of course, a costly loss that will be addressed later. As for the rest:

Correct:
Colts at Bengals
Jaguars at Steelers
Rams at Packers
Cowboys at Patriots

Not:
Bills at Giants
Eagles at Redskins
49ers at Lions
Panthers at Falcons
Texans at Ravens
Saints at Bucs
Vikings at Bears
Dolphins at Jets

5-8

Damn, I gotta pick more home teams and less upsets.

NFL Week 6 Preview

First a little primer on where I’m coming from. I’m a Raiders fan. There, done. I have Game Rewind and watch every game, and try to watch as many games as I can of their upcoming opponents1 and will make a prediction based on that. I’ll predict the other games based on voodoo magic and wild assumptions. With that out of the way:

Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders

First of all, what the hell:
Source: the506.com
Does anyone in southern California give a damn about the Bills vs Giants?

Anyway the Raiders are coming off an emotional last second win over the Texans after the death of dear leader Al Davis. This week they face the Browns, whose only wins are over the 0-5 Colts and 0-4 Dolphins, but they’re coming off a bye week which can do wonders. They may have a decent defense, but stats can be deceiving.

Their pass numbers are good, but poor against the rush, which tends to indicate that teams don’t pass because they don’t have to2. This plays right into the Raiders’ hands. Their pass offense can be dangerous at times, but ultimately they’re a strong running team.

On the other hand their pass defense has been getting shredded, and McCoy has been doing pretty well for a young QB. If the Raiders’ line can’t get to him it could be a long day.

Add all that up for a big day for McFadden (and Bush to finish it off), then some success by McCoy against a maligned pass defense you get:

Raiders over Browns, 73-27

X-Factors
Injuries: Raiders are missing key players in versatile fullback Reece and strong defensive lineman Shaughnessy.
Plagues: The Browns seemed to have a staph problem for years. Now runningback Peyton Hillis has strep throat. What’s next?


The rest of the week 6 games

Colts at Bengals – Bengals win a close one against PAINTERMANIA.

Jaguars at Steelers – Jags manage to keep this closer than expected with MJD as Big Ben gets distracted by cheerleaders more than usual.

Bills at Giants – Victor Cruz bobbles this away to an opportunistic Bills defense while making amazing catches to keep the Giants in the game.

Eagles at Redskins – TIE, YEAH I SAID TIE.

49ers at Lions – I can’t bet against names like Megatron (nickname) and Ndamukong (real name!).

Rams at Packers – QB that looks kind of asian (but apparently Cherokee) against one that has a championship belt? No contest.

Panthers3 at Falcons – CAM!

Texans at Ravens – Upset special? Both teams have good defenses but the Texans have a decent offense…although with the injuries realistically they’re probably screwed here.

Cowboys at Patriots – The Pats managed to kill off Al Davis, the Cowboys won’t be able to stop them.

Saints at Bucs – I figure the Bucs keep it close while Brees scores like crazy to win it in the end, or just blows them out entirely.

Vikings at Bears – Vikings figured out that Peterson is allowed to play in the second half, and Bears are determined to set the sacks allowed record.

Dolphins at Jets – Another upset! Two teams with issues, division rivals, anything can happen.

  1. …except this week cause I didn’t have enough time.
  2. I know this because that’s how the Raiders’ defensive rankings worked for years.
  3. Also my Eliminator bet.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Patrick Dempsey is a Douche)

First off, a disclosure about my history with Transfomers. I grew up obsessed with them, not as crazy obsessive like some people, but I was a pretty big fan. That said I can recognize that the original series probably doesn’t stand up well at all, but I’d probably still enjoy them for one reason or another. I didn’t even know about the existence original (animated) movie until my college years but enjoyed it…even if it was essentially a vehicle for new toys (boo, Rodimus Prime).

As for the modern movies, I kind of liked the first one even if it was mostly Autobots hiding from everything (including humans), a few scenes of awesomeness, then Autobots getting beat down with the US military and a human coming to save the day by doing exactly what everyone was trying to prevent in the first place1. Revenge of the Fallen was better in the sense that they threw all sense out the window and was basically “screw logic, TRANSFORMERS! Unfortunately it also had way too much forced comedy and as action packed as it was, it didn’t mean much because it was confusing as hell visually.

Now with that out of the way, on to Transformers: Dark of the Moon (in 3D! I’ll get back to that later). The best way I can describe it is less ridiculous than Revenge of the Fallen, but still satisfactorily crazy, while shot and cut better so you can actually tell what the hell is going on in action scenes. There’s still random comedy bits spread throughout but it’s not shoved down your throat like in Fallen.

Basic summary of the movie (light spoilers ahead) is that the moon landing way back was all to check out some alien ship that crashed into the moon. Turns out that this was an Autobot ship that was thought to have failed when attempting to escape Cybertron. On board was another Prime, Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy!2), who apparently has some powers or knowledge to control rod thingys that can open space/time bridges which would transport all the bots and/or planet all over the place. Some tightwad government woman says this is bad, Sentinel says it’s a way to get off the planet. Decepticons want this power for obvious reasons, and chaos ensues.

As for the humans, Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is job hunting and has a new girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) that Michael Bay exploits of course, while his parents have two or three short scenes (while visiting Sam during their road trip). Simmons (John Turturro) is now rich off exploiting alien bot stories/conspiracies and has a badass/comic relief assistant in Dutch (Alan Tudyk). Lennox (Josh Duhamel) is still doing the fight with Autobots thing, while Epps (Tyrese Gibson) left and is doing shuttle maintenance with some “asshole” Autobots. There are also a crapload more, including John Malkovich as Sam’s wacky department boss, Patrick Dempsey as the douchey company boss (who Carly is an assistant to), Ken Jeong as a crazy coworker, and Terry Tate: Office Linebacker Lester Speight as one of Epps’ buddies.

Put it all together and it’s just as ridiculous as Fallen’s plot but I think it was handled well and turned out ok (this is all on a relative scale of course). I don’t want to get into too much detail with it, god knows it’s wacky enough, I’d just prefer to focus on the really stupid details here and there:

  • Transformer hair. I think Fallen may have had this too, regardless even if it did it’s still ridiculous here. Sentinel has some thick strands that are somewhat metallic at least, but there’s also bots with really thin human like hair (one of which seems to be balding).
  • Transformer blood. Fallen may have had this too, but if it did I don’t think it was as overt. Blood just spews out in many scenes. I guess you could argue that it’s oil…but it has a red tint and just looks like regular blood.
  • Scottish and Italian Transformers. I forget what car the Scot was but the Italian was (drumroll) the Ferrari3, and had an Italian accent. The Scot had an accent too of course, but the real atrocity/triumph was that in robot form he appeared to have somehow formed a robot kilt. I think he was a NASCAR car which just makes it all even more confusing.
  • Hobo Megatron. This is a good thing and I don’t have to explain why beyond “Hobo Megatron.”
  • Optimus trapped by some cables. This is during the main battle of the film, he flies through a building and gets caught in some crane cabling. And he’s stuck. A multi ton giant robot with glowing laser sword and axe and jet engines. Stuck enough that the movie goes off to other fights for a while and comes back to him still tangled in there, and only gets out when some other bots come to cut him free.

Back to earth, some basic cool points:

  • Laserbeak is pretty awesome.
  • If you’ve ever seen that web comic where a Transformer crushes the guy inside on accident after transforming, well they handle that situation pretty nicely.
  • Continuing from Fallen, Prime is still a ridiculous badass. Other than that whole stuck in cables thing.
  • All the effects are as crazy/good as ever, particularly now that you can see them.
  • The 3D is done mostly well and provides noticeable depth.

And not so cool:

  • Soundwave doesn’t seem to have much of a part, would’ve been cool to hear his voice more often, particularly considering Laserbeak was featured so much.
  • One of the things Fallen really got right was Starscream, like his high pitched screechy voice and hilarious sycophancy to Megatron. Moon sort of keeps the latter, but changed the voice so he wasn’t as recognizable.
  • Decepticons still have the samey look going on…but on the plus side it’s handled better so there’s not much confusion based on it (unlike Fallen).
  • While the 3D and depth were mostly good, there were still things here and there that just felt weird like the depth was exaggerated too much at times, and/or the depth of focus felt wrong.
  • It was pretty damn long, mostly due to the action scenes. If you like crazy spectacle and don’t tire of it, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

All in all if you like wild movie spectacle and can forgive incredible stupidity, it’s pretty good. Or at least better than the previous two.

HIPPO
Rating system guide

  1. Giving Megatron the Matrix.
  2. Who voiced Galvatron in the original animated movie.
  3. If you’re a car nut and curious, it was a 458 Italia.

Backing up the HD Era

I have no HDTV1, Blu-ray player/PS3, and the only display I have that can show 1920×1080 is the one attached to my computer…and that one doesn’t support HDCP so I couldn’t even play Blu-rays on it if I had a player. But luckily through the world of computer parts and piracy “backup” focused apps, I can now play them.

Well, sort of.

By “play” I mean I can view videos on them, I can’t actually play the disc and get menus and easily accessible extras and random online crap. The key to everything is a $50 app called MakeMKV, which thankfully has a decent demo period to see whether it actually works, and it does for me. Unfortunately nothing on OS X supports BD playback, so basically you have to rip a disc to play it, or do this convoluted setup to play straight off the disc. I’ve been doing the long rip and convert method because my computer is old and slow. It can play off the disc, but just barely.

I’m using this LG “SUPER MULTI BLUE” drive, does 12x BD-R and has USB and eSATA connections, although for all I know the BD burning capability and eSATA ports are broken since I don’t have 50 gigs to burn or eSATA ports. I’ve only tested BD reading and just recently, CD writing.2

It uses a fairly fat power brick with detachable prongs (international ready I assume), the connection seemed fine enough, but the fatness was annoying. That could just be a sign that I have way too much crap plugged in.

fat plug

The drive itself seems huge, but comparable to other older or larger 5.25″ enclosures. Here it is devouring an iPad 2 with Smart Cover:

fat drive

And one last fun/incredibly obnoxious at first feature, see this eject button?:

stupid eject

Well it’s not a button, it’s a touch sensitive piece. Took me a while to figure that out for some reason, the tray motors got a nice workout from me not knowing what the hell was going on with it. If the drive is located in an area with some high finger traffic (such as some front USB ports) I could see it becoming a massive pain in the ass, but in my case it’s sort of out of the way so it’s not a big deal. And it’s not just because OS X has a convenient soft eject key on the keyboard, cause that doesn’t appear to work with it. Luckily the other manual methods of ejection in the Finder work (contextual menu, sidebar, etc).

Info according to System Profiler:

HL-DT-ST BD-RE BE12LU30:
Firmware Revision: 4261
Interconnect: USB
Burn Support: Yes (Generic Drive Support)
Profile Path: None
Cache: 4096 KB
Reads DVD: Yes
CD-Write: -R, -RW
DVD-Write: -R, -R DL, -RAM, -RW, +R, +R DL, +RW
BD-Write: -R, -RE
Write Strategies: CD-TAO, CD-SAO, CD-Raw, DVD-DAO

All ho hum stuff, but note the “Burn Support: Yes”, because here’s what Disk Utility has to say:

Burn Support : Unsupported

From what I can tell (from my single burning experience), is that this basically just means the Finder doesn’t support it. The blank disc I put in didn’t show up in the Finder, but everything else like whatever burning apps knew the disc was there and writable (I ended up burning it with…Burn).

With all that out of the way, lets move on to the exciting world of BD ripping. As mentioned MakeMKV works, but it’s not exactly a pretty Mac app. Not horribly ugly but just weird looking and out of place I guess:

ewww

But again, it works, and is the only native option that I know of right now. At least it’s pretty simple to use. Stick a disc in, press the big button, then wait as it scans the disc, then presents you with this screen:

lots o crap

Usually you have a big ass title and a bunch of smaller ones, but there are many cases like this where there are multiple similarly huge ones. I know on some other discs I have they are alternate versions, but honestly I have no clue most of the time and just pick the first one, it’s worked out so far. The other titles tend to be other special features, or just filler stuff like trailers or backgrounds for menus.

To rip the selected titles you press that “Make MKV” button and let it go for a while. Around half an hour later you’ll end up with each title as its own fancy MKV file. From there you can watch them directly if your computer is fast enough and/or have hardware acceleration, or transcode to another format for whatever reasons. I do 720p h.264 to watch on my iDevices and eventually Apple TV…and cause it’s much smaller. You can use MKVtoolsto rewrap 1080p h.264 encoded movies, but I’ve had bad luck with them (video corruption, like they’re missing key frames).

Congratulations, you have now entered the seedy world of Blu Ray backups!
Well, 2D backups at least. I haven’t tried ripping the 3D discs because I sure as hell don’t have the equipment to watch that stuff. The only 3D I’m experiencing is the lenticular covers on those.

I should probably just get a PS3 sometime.

LG BE12LU30, MSRP $200:
HIPPO

MakeMKV, $50:
HIPPO

Rating system guide

The drive is nice, albeit huge with a touch sensitive button, but mostly it’s just held back by OS X not being able to play BDs. MakeMKV works…it’s just that it’s kind of ugly and feels like an obvious cross platform app.

  1. Well my family has a few, but none of them I’d consider “mine”, none in my room at least.
  2. Yes, I still burn CDs. It’s for security camera footage I give to police or victims, I ain’t wasting no USB flash drives on that stuff.

Evolutionary Schmevolutionary

Berge Heston

If it ain't white it ain't right

Instead of waiting in line for hours like a sucker, I ordered online at just before 1:00am…and waited four days, like a sucker, but from the comfort of my own home. At least I didn’t have to go through the line wait (again) and/or fail and continue to look every day for one in vain.

Anyways it’s awesome, throw your old iPads in the garbage, because that’s what they are now.



Design

The new form factor is getting a lot of attention, and to an extent the ever so slightly lighter weight (as weighed by this food scale):

Weight (oz) iPad 1 (3G) iPad 2
iPad 25.16 21.12
Case/Cover 6.04 4.90
Total 31.14 26.04

I know the total iPad 1 weight is wrong, but that’s what the scale said (hard to balance large objects on that thing and still see the readout). Whatever the case it’s enough that you can tell the difference, but just barely. Another way to look at it from those numbers is that they basically shaved a case’s weight off the iPad.

The big difference in physical feel mainly comes down to the shape, both with the bare iPad and more so with the original case vs Smart Cover:

Fatter than pre-Subway Jared

Ok maybe that’s a bit exaggerated cause the little holder cutout raises it up, here they are face down:

well it's still fatter

It just feels nicer in the hands and easier to hold. The slanted edge (or lack of edge) has a nice design effect of hiding the buttons when viewing the iPad head on. This can make it difficult to spot the location of the buttons quickly until you get used to it, particularly when it’s bare (with a case you tend to get used to having a “standard” orientation). Another quirk is that it feels sort of weird to press the buttons, probably more so if you’re used to the original iPad. Instead of pressing straight in from the side, you kind of squeeze the buttons in since they feel like they’re almost on the back of the device. The Mossberg had some connectivity issues with the dock port due to the slanted edge, but I haven’t had a problem.



SPEED!

Another part of the new awesomeness is the performance, which was the main reason I got it. The big (BS) spec being thrown around is the 9X graphics, but the biggest thing I wanted was the raw CPU performance for web browsing. Yes, web browsing. The iPad wasn’t horrible, but out of everything it did it was weakest at browsing. If you’re debating between getting an old or new one, the deciding factor should be how much you browse. That is how much of a difference it is, even with the NITRO CONSPIRACY.1 Sure apps and games will be faster (for the most part…), but ultimately they’re going to be mostly written with the original iPad in mind so performance will be ok for a while. Web pages aren’t, unless you want some crappy mobile formatted pages.

As for that “for the most part” thing, I’ve found a few instances of games that appear to be framerate capped, i.e. they run no better. Super Monkey Ball 2, RAGE, and Reckless Racing are some examples, even NBA JAM, an iPhone game! It is quite obnoxious.

It’s more obnoxious with a regular app…curse you SketchBook Pro! The input sampling is limited or something, so drawing still feels a bit laggy, although performance is noticeably better when dealing with multiple layers and doing transforms and stuff.

And one other little but important thing it’s faster at: the keyboard. With the original iPad the keyboard occasionally lagged. It was never as bad as say, the iPhone 3G’s occasional massive lag, but it happened enough that it could be pretty annoying. It seems like a really minor thing to point out, but if you use it a lot, little details like that matter.



Cameras

I guess another big headline feature is cameras. Well like everyone else says, the quality sucks on both, but hey FaceTime and Photo Booth! One difference between Photo Booth on a MacBook and the iPad is that it’s easier to move the camera around, to do stupid stuff like this:

Dog Booth

I’ve heard some people mention “why have a rear camera at all?” cause well yeah, it sucks, but for video it’s ok enough (even if it’s on the crappy end). The main use of it is plain spectacle though, it’s a live video feed to a relatively big ass screen. For shooting video, indeed it’s stupid, but for something like Star Wars: Falcon Gunner (an augmented reality game) the big screen is stupidly awesome.2

If you were hoping to be able to scan in documents with the rear camera (in conjunction with something like Genius Scan)…well it’s a no go. There’s just not enough resolution there and/or the noise is too much to deal with. The live video feed actually looks ok, maybe some CSI: Miami-esque magic like this stuff is possible down the line.



Screen

About the only thing that wasn’t changed was the screen itself…mostly. I know everyone wanted a new super high res screen, while I would’ve been satisfied with a laminated to surface screen (like the iPhone 4). Well we didn’t get any of that. What we did get were some welcome minor changes: the auto brightness seems just a tad more reactive to environment changes, and it can get dimmer. Not as dim as the iPhone 4, but still noticeably dimmer than the original iPad at least:

Damn, one looks fat here too

Now you'll go less blind at night

Mine also has massive backlight bleeding out the ass3, but I haven’t noticed it in normal use yet. One other change I noticed is that the color temperature is warmer, not a huge deal but I prefer the cooler tone of my old iPad just a bit. They’d never add it, but a basic “cool/neutral/warm” color temperature option would be nice.

Loosely related to the screen, a new feature is full mirroring to an external display. I don’t have the fancy new HDMI adapter, but I do have the old VGA one, and the mirroring seems to work fine with it…for the most part. I have a few apps that actually supported the VGA output (no clue if they work with HDMI though), they seem to use their original external screen drawing methods but there doesn’t seem to be a way to switch to the new built in mirroring (I’m assuming this can be addressed with app updates). Not a huge deal, but in the case of RAGE it’s buggy (nothing output over VGA, and only HUD graphics showing on the iPad), and in others it’s just plain slow (likely originally written to compensate for the original slower hardware).



Sound

One nice change (which may be a 4.3 thing) is that when you hold the volume rocker down it now does two quick stops on the way to zero. This is a nice compromise between the old single drop to zero on the old iPad and the slow linear drop on iPhones. However it also seems inconsistent, I’ve noticed in some apps it does the old single drop without any stepping down.

One not so nice change: since it can “ring” (FaceTime), it now has the dual volume travesty from the iPhone, where you have one volume for “ringer and alerts” and a separate volume for everything else, I’ll refer to that as “app volume.”

If you’re not clear on how that works, when nothing is playing (music or app audio) the volume buttons control the ringer volume, and only4 control the app volume when something is playing. This isn’t so annoying except for the fact that the app volume can be maxed out while the ringer is low…and that you may not realize it until your nephew wants to play Pac-Man C.E. in church…and that apps can ignore the silent switch.

There’s an option to lock the ringer volume so the buttons always control the app volume…but then the only way to control the ringer volume is in the Settings app, and the only way to quickly mute it is the silent switch…which may be relegated to the app switcher if you happen to prefer the rotation lock as the physical switch.

It is all quite annoying compared to the previous single universal volume. Please feel free to bitch about it on Apple’s iPad feedback page.

And remember how the sides are slanted? Well it seems like the speakers are as well, or at least the sound comes out that way. Basically it shoots sound out of its ass rather than uh, its soles. On a hard surface I guess the sound reflects more off the surface, but on a softer surface (like a blanket), sound is more easily muffled. In your hands it seems easier to cover up the speaker, but I’m comparing to the previous iPad in the Apple case (which always had at least a little separation because of the case itself).



Fuckin Magnets

They work quite decently.

The main difference I’ve noticed between the old case and Smart Cover (other than bulk) is that the case cover was more or less secured when you stuck it in the little holder flap, while the Smart Cover triangle kind of flops around until you place it down (on the other hand its magnets hold it on the screen, while the old case cover was free to flop around). Obviously the solution is more magnets.

Unfortunately more magnets wouldn’t fix the color of my cover (blue, polyurethane). It’s not so bad in natural (or bright white) light, but my room’s warm fluorescent lighting makes it look really bad. I wake up and think “hey it looks pretty nice!” but end up thinking “man, that kinda looks like ass” by the time I go to bed. I’ll exchange for green or orange if it ends up bugging me too much.

On the plus side, in the raised “movie viewing” angle it’s much more stable than the old case was. Granted that doesn’t say much considering how bad the old one was in that position, but it’s pretty solid now. With the old one you also had an unofficial in between angle, where you could flip it over and prop it up on the flap in a floppy yet solid two legged position. Because of the extra segments in the new cover and lack of casing on the opposite edge for friction this isn’t really possible with the Smart Cover and iPad 2.

Ultimately I like the cover, even if it is only a cover. That is both its strength and weakness really, and if anything I don’t feel like a cover is necessary (glass is quite scratch resistant, and I’m not sure how much it’d protect against impacts), its main use is as a prop/stand. The cover form factor makes it into a compact easy to carry design. It won’t protect against drops (vs the original case with its tiny crumple zone) but it won’t burden with extra size and weight either. And a huge difference is that you can just yank it off if you don’t want to deal with it at all (like I did while drawing), vs struggling with the original case’s tightness.5

And if the back gets all scratched up I can hopefully get a replacement because of that light bleeding I have. Or just design some really tacky Gelaskin.



Evolutionary!

So to sum up, again, awesome. Yes the update is “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary”…but that tends to be the nature of hardware updates. If you want revolutionary, get the original iPad.6 You can find them in the trash these days.

Boxypad

This is how thick7 they would've been 20 years ago

iPad 2, $499-829:
HIPPOTROUBLE

Smart Cover (polyurethane), $39:
HIPPO

iPad (3G), worthless:
BERGE

Rating system guide

For a ridiculously more thorough review, check out Anandtech’s. They review everything, including software. I didn’t bother much with the software side because other than the camera apps (and iMovie and GarageBand in the store), it’s mostly identical to what has been out for months now. I consider the iPad 2 update to be purely a hardware update, while iOS 5 will be the big software brouhaha to talk about. I tend to agree with them on the software issues, basically that it feels too limited for the form factor sometimes. Hopefully iOS 5 brings about some significant changes.

  1. I use iCab which doesn’t benefit from all the new changes, but it’s still a much much better experience because of the new hardware. Something in iOS 4.3 changed the web for all apps for the better (The Big Picture loads fully, even on old devices!), just not the new JavaScript engine.
  2. Sure it looks even more like shit cause it’s an iPhone game and pixel doubled, but the fact that it doesn’t detract from the spectacle shows how awesome it is.
  3. Crotch might be a more accurate description since it’s not actually coming out of the back of the device.
  4. There is one other way, but it’s obnoxious vs using the volume buttons. The volume slider on the left screen of the app switcher controls this music/app volume. It also exists on the iPhone, two screens over.
  5. With the thinness of the iPad 2 you can actually use it in the original case without the tightness. However because of the slanted edges, pushing buttons and inserting cables becomes a pain. And the black case around the white iPad looked pretty bad to me.
  6. Even if it was just a big iPod. I can’t tell if that means it’s evolutionary, or if the new size and software made it revolutionary. Either way it sucked.
  7. See that box? They made the packaging smaller than the original box in every dimension too! Hell the iPad picture on the box face is from the side vs head on to accentuate how thin it is now.