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Should Gamers Buy an iPad?

Some of you have probably noticed that I post a lot less these days. Lately a perfect storm of distractions has cropped up to steal my time and make me less productive. The biggest reason is my new iPad. Sure, I could blame other things like midterms/work/Mass Effect, but the iPad is the real problem. It's just that addictive.

I don't think I have to explain an iPad to anyone. Everybody's at least seen Apple's premier tablet somewhere. It's widely applauded (and hated). The funny part is that I used to be one of those iPad haters. As someone who owns a powerful PC, I saw absolutely no reason to buy a tablet. Anything a tablet can do, a PC can do better.

Then I bought an iPad... which has not changed my mind in the slightest. I'll explain why below.

I decided to take a look at it from a gamer's perspective. What makes it special? Is it worth buying? What games can it play? These days you hear a lot about how mobile apps will surpass traditional handhelds like the Vita and the 3DS. After extensive testing with my very own iPad, I can safely say I know the answer to whether or not that's really true. Take a look to see if, as a gamer, the iPad might work for you.

That'll Be An Arm And A Leg, Please

The first major hurdle of buying an iPad is price. Like every Apple product ever made, iPads are expensive. Buying any form of tablet (new or used) will hit your wallet pretty hard. If money is short around your house, don't buy a tablet. There are more cost-effective ways to get some electronic entertainment. Seriously, the latest model of iPad is $500 at the absolute minimum.

However, prices have fallen a little. Right now there are three models of iPad. None of them are very different from each other, truthfully. The iPad 2 has a camera on the front and the 3 has an HD screen. Aside from that and improvements to the processer, Apple hasn't changed its tablet much since the original iPad from 2010. So, if you decide to buy an iPad 1 instead of a 3, you're not missing out on much.

That's what I did. For $300, you can get an iPad 1 with 32 GB of storage. Thirty two gigabytes is enough memory for all the games and movies you could ever want. Buying an old iPad will save you a little money, but it's still very expensive. You can get an Xbox 360 or PS3 for less than an old iPad and way less than a new one.

But Can It Game?

This is the million-dollar question for hardcore gamers. No matter what else the iPad might do that's cool, can it do gaming? Are the denizens of the App Store worthy competitors to the Xbox 360 library?

In a word, no.

The iPad cannot do hardcore gaming. It's as simple as that.

Dead Space for iPad.

The problem is the controls. When all you've got is an accelerometer and a touch screen, there's not much you can do. iPad games are still a ton of fun, don't get me wrong. Plants vs. Zombies and Infinity Blade play amazingly well on the large screen. However, there are no apps that can compare to the sheer majesty of Mass Effect 3 or the complexity of a full console game.

Let me reiterate that- the iPad is not meant for hardcore gaming. Some apps have tried to be hardcore (see the ports of Mass Effect/Call of Duty/Dead Space), but they control poorly and are not fun. The fun games are the ones built for touch screens, games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Unfortunately, those games also tend to be casual.

Think about it. The iPad lacks analog sticks, buttons, and triggers. A touch screen can simulate those things, but not well. Nobody could ever play a console game on a touch screen.

There's Other Stuff Too

While the iPad can't do serious gaming, it can do a whole lot of other things really well. Netflix is awesome on an iPad. I also enjoy ripping my DVDs and copying them for car trips. The large tablet screen is perfect for watching movies. Again, Netflix streaming is amazing on the iPad.

That goes double for reading. I do a lot of e-reading. Reddit, GIO, Engadget, The New Yorker, Cracked, Popular Science, Wired, Instapaper, Reason, and The Huffington Post are sources I visit daily for news and entertainment. Throw in apps for my RSS feeds and the iPad is suddenly the ultimate e-reading machine. That's not even counting my collection of novels in iBooks. Reading full-length novels is super easy on the iPad's gigantic screen.

And comic books... oh god, comic books look amazing on an iPad. On the recommendation of a commenter at GIO, I started reading the critically acclaimed comic Scalped. It looks fantastic and feels just like the real thing on an iPad. I re-read one of my favorite books ever (Watchmen) with no difficulties. Comic geeks, the iPad is the future of electronic comics.

Worth Buying?

Should you buy an iPad? Depends. If serious gaming is most important to you, no. Get yourself a 3DS or Vita for a fraction of the cost. Both are strong systems with infinitely more hardcore games than the iPad. Hell, buy yourself an Xbox. That's cheaper than an iPad even when you throw in Kinect.

If (like me) you spend a serious amount of time doing things other than gaming (like e-reading), then the iPad is an absolutely awesome toy. Over the past few days I haven't been able to pull myself away from its addictive blend of magazines, Netflix, and iBooks. iPads are expensive toys, but man are they fun.

What do you think? Are iPads worth it? As a gamer, would you ever buy one?

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