Why the New iPad 3 May Be Slower than iPad 2. Wait, What?

by: LucianMarch 9, 2012

“Quad core tablet”, “four times the graphics performance of Tegra 3”, “the second coming of Jesus Christ – again”, and of course all the usual “amazing, spectacular, magical and all the other attributes we’ve heard before about any new Apple device, appeared once again in the Apple media a couple of days ago. Except many of those are not exactly true – well perhaps the “magical” one is – I mean who can argue with that?

We don’t have any actual benchmarks done by 3rd parties yet, but from what I can tell, the iPad 3 is first of all not a “quad core tablet”. Every single human that has ever bought a computing device knows that dual core or quad core refers to the CPU, not the GPU – otherwise we’d be calling the Asus Transformer a 12-core tablet, and our PC’s – “500 core PC’s”, since that’s how many cores a high-end GPU has on PC today. So let’s end this shameless misleading by “some” Apple media outlets, here and now: the iPad 3 is a “dual core tablet”, not a quad core.

Second, the “4x the graphics performance of Tegra 3” is extremely suspicious – to say the least. Nvidia believes so, too. But we didn’t really need Nvidia to tell us that. We can think for ourselves, too. It’s true that the A5 GPU tested in benchmarks to be about 30% faster than Tegra 3, but those are only some rather simple tests, and they don’t test the actual performance of a chip in a game.

Plus, a game is also bound to memory bandwidth and CPU performance as well, so for all we know, a game could actually run better on a Tegra 3. And so far I haven’t seen anything to make me decide that the iPad 2 graphics were absolutely better than Tegra 3 graphics. Anandtech also seems to believe that some games may actually run worse on iPad 3 compared to iPad 2 at native resolution.

But now we have the A5X GPU with 4 instead of 2 GPU cores, so clearly the iPad 3 graphics performance must be faster than iPad 2 graphics – right? Well, not so fast. While “theoretically” the iPad 3 GPU has double the performance of the iPad 2 GPU – in reality the tablet itself likely won’t have that kind of performance increase.

Why? Because the new GPU has to push 4x as many pixels on the screen. While this won’t affect regular use of the tablet too much because I’m sure the new GPU can handle normal tasks and apps well, otherwise they wouldn’t have released it, I’m also quite sure that the graphics performance in games will take a very serious hit when the games use the native  2048×1536 resolution and not the 1024×768 one and by upscaling the game.

What’s my basis for this besides normal common sense believing that a 2x increase in GPU performance won’t be enough to beat the older GPU when the number of pixels increases 4 times? Well, remember when the iPhone 4 also got the Retina Display? It actually used a more powerful overclocked PowerVR SGX535 than the one found in the iPhone 3GS, and yet in this test the iPhone 3GS is still faster than iPhone 4 in graphics performance.


I expect something similar to happen to the iPad 3, but even if it doesn’t – in worst case scenario (if I’m wrong) the iPad 3 will still be only just as fast, or slightly faster than iPad 2 in real world graphics performance, and will definitely not have the performance increase they are touting (4x Tegra 3, etc).  But I don’t think I’m wrong, and iPad 3 should actually have slower performance in advanced 3D games than iPad 2 at native resolution.

Also, that 1 GB of RAM? Will not be enough to make up for the increase in resolution. A more appropriate and proportionate increase would’ve been 1.5 GB of RAM, and if you thought the 512 MB of RAM wasn’t really enough for it, then you’ll start feeling the same with the iPad 3 once apps start supporting the new resolution.

Same goes for the CPU, which apparently either got no improvement in performance, or it was only a slight increase so they would rather not mention it. The resolution is not generally bound by the CPU, but at some point the CPU does interact with data that uses the new resolution, so if it’s the same CPU as in A5, then it should experience some performance bottlenecks when dealing with the high-res apps.

My advice for those who are still in the Apple camp, and want an iPad – if you already have an iPad 2, then skip iPad 3 and wait for iPad 4, which might actually have a performance increase over the iPad 2. That’s without even counting the increase in thickness and weight over the iPad 2, which will probably disappoint many who want to switch from iPad 2 to iPad 3.

  • TechGuy-Tech

    Most amusing youtube video about the “new iPad” hype at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mFzJxGwqpOU

    • AppleFUD

      that’s awesome!!!

    • Thank you for this link. I needed a good laugh today :)

  • Jay Lynn


    This is the real deal. Not your crap Open GL.

    • Nico53laval

      WTF? First of all these are the exact same he provided. Second, OpenGL Egypt is a very old benchmark with shitty shadows etc. which in no way exploits the power of current mobile GPUs…

  • AppleFUD

    I love it. . .
    Whenever apple puts something out that has good specs all we hear is, specs, specs, specs, spec. . . .

    then they get beat and all we hear is, specs don’t matter it’s about he user experience. . .

    Anyway we look at it. . . Someone on the Android side will produce something better within months lol

    • Eyeforapple

      This is an android specific site…of course the writers will throw specs at you. That’s what they do best, and you just slap them (your own people) in the face with that comment.
      And you are right, a few months from now, you’ll hear about another iPad killer boasting better specs than the iPad3, but won’t sell out like the iPad did.

    • applelover819

      First they only can put something better out because they wait to see what apple does, second whatever they do put out won’t be as good because of the laggy crappy user interface that is android, third we don’t switch back and forth between those arguments we use them together because it is the overall functionally of the tablet that matters, not just specs, why do you think apple has stayed on top?

    • syaoran francis

      I really love its specs and fb looks so beautiful in the retina display. But I definitely must admit, the GPU is just not powerful enough to render my newsfeed on fb. Too many pictures and it lags like hell

  • Ickyfehmleh

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the iPad is an Apple product and has little to do with Android. I thought this was an Android blog, not an Apple one.

  • wonshikee

    Typical apple marketing bullshit.

    • fps_beaTt

      Typical idiot of the lowest common denominator.

  • iRule

    iPad 2 ROX , i have one and i can tell you all that noun of the current android based tablets can hold on against its performance , its faster , i mean way faster specially when it comes to games ..

    • “way faster specially when it comes to games”

      This is the kind of biased, blanket statement that every is yelling at Apple for right now. OK. So you have an iPad 2. And I’m sure you love it, but to say that it’s “way faster at games” requires qualification to be anything other than your opinion. I have a Tegra 2 tablet, and I can play many of the popular iOS games that have been ported to Android with no problem.

      Your certainly entitled to your opinion, but that doesn’t mean that no one is allowed to disagree with you.

      • Nico53laval

        Look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQuHVRFphdo and take a good laugh watching the comments. The Apple fanboys say the graphics are better on the Transformer Prime and then they say the iPad 2 has a better GPU and they honestly think the HD version of Riptide is in no way related to the tegra 3’s power -_-

  • Darktanone

    I don’t believe you! I’ll stick with Apple’s figures for the moment and await independent testing. The iPad 2 outperforming the Tegra 3 in Anandtech’s tests is a good indicator that The New iPad will also outperform it significantly. Maybe Apple was being deliberately conservative and the performance was actually higher. We’ll know soon enough! In the meantime, you shouldn’t put yourself in the position of recommending Apple products. You simply don’t know enough — yet!

  • If its slower than the ipad 2 then I guess its not such a good thing to buy at all.

  • alex2792

    The writer sounds so jealous and distraught. The iPad 2 destroys every Android tablet in graphics benches therefore the iPad 3 will continue that tradition even with 0 performance gain.

    • Quite possible, but it will still be running iOS. If that’s what you prefer, then so be it, but faster hardware alone will not make up for the limitations of that operating system for many, myself included.

      • thenewperson

        Pretty much the same for Android, isn’t it? I means dual core chip and such a speedy GPU yet laggy scrolling and transitions.

        • Ohiugiug

          Ohh oh oh look at this another ignorant comments.. tsk. The Android OS itself is meant to run on all phones, including moderate ones. If they did optimize the firmware for one specific phone, Android will kick iPhone’s ass in smoothness. I see no lags in games whatsoever. If iPhone was included in Android, iPhone would scroll @ 3 FPS.LOLOLOLOL

          • Ohiugiug


          • thenewperson

            Speaking of ignorant…

          • applelover819

            wow… boy are you jealous

      • applelover819

        What!?! I think you have that backwards my friend… iOS software runs so much more efficiently than android its ridiculous. please don’t post stuff you know nothing about

        • syaoran francis

          I hate to say this guys, but its the truth…. At least after using iPad 3 for a while. The facebook rendering is rediculously slow. First I thought it was the program, not till few updates

    • jralatam

      That statement is beyond bold. As if there is no gain by apple’s performance, you also assume that android will also not improve. iPads are far over rated, as all apple devices are. You pay for the name, not the performance. Here I’ll slap an apple label on some dog shit and have millions of people buy my idoody.

  • This new iPad 3 is somewhat the same as the previous one. Nothing new here.

  • jojo

    this is typical apple, misleading the public or fanboys ( which is not hard to do ) to sell their products, history repeats itself.

  • i hate it when Apple create noise.

  • cyrways

    Trolololol. This guy. And regardless of what you say, apples cash reserves will grow and these will sell like hotcakes.

  • fps_beaTt

    I like how you ignore the GL Benchmark Pro that Anandtech ran, which is not CPU limited (like the Egypt demo). The Tegra 3 scores 81 FPS compared to the iPad 2 @ 147 FPS. You are now in the same group of media outlets stating the iPad 3 is a quad core tablet; you, however, mislead deliberately. I like how you also attempt to talk up the Tegra 3, stating that it ‘could’ perform better in games. That is opposite to what one would intuit; iOS and the apps that run on it are far easier to optimise for the hardware than any given Android release. I know this; I’ve done this. It’s a pain to develop for Android, and apps typically run far less efficiently on Android tablets due to this and other factors.
    So, nice bias there; this is the first time I’ve read a review by you, but I guarantee that past reviews have been just as warped. You have no credibility in this area.

  • Really?!

  • applelover819

    sounds like a lot of wishing and hoping to me, you still have to consider the software, in which case iOS clearly outperforms android… Apples software works better with its hardware than androids does so it doesn’t need huge upgrades to internal components. Samsung could come out with a 8 core 8gb ram tablet and people would still by iPads, why? user experience

  • Corn Flakes

    So..why does Ipad 3 have a nice new display that they are bragging? mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm oh the answer is SAMSUNG provided the hardware….shocked Apple is sum fart?

  • Skuhlig

    Apple’s ios devices will probably never win the “paper war”. What i mean is.. every time Apple releases a new device, people always sneer at the specs and groan about not having enough RAM, CPU, GPU, megapixels, ect. But it’s all crap that the average consumer doesn’t REALLY care about- we only care how fast our devices run and our experience using them.. no lag, no glitches, no hiccups in the software, no bullshit. it’s that simple. Apple understands this, and specifically designs and optimizes their software for only ONE device. That means they can squeeze every last drop of GPU, CPU, all that good stuff, and insure their device(s) is(are) running as efficient as possible. That– and their drop dead sexy designs– is the main reason Apple will remain king of the tablet industry. Realistically, the biggest (sales) competition for the 3rd generation iPad is the iPad 2. I, like many, was a lil worried that the New iPad would be slower than the iPad 2. But After using the two devices side-by-side, i can attest to the fact that they run at essentially the exact same speed. Whether you’re playing the most graphically intense game ever, or just browsing the web– they’re both just as fast as each other. And i’ll be honest.. the retina display is just straight up sexy. Plus, the camera is absolutely gorgeous on the New iPad. And this is indeed because of the new lens their using– it’s NOT all about megapixels guys.. I’m not an Apple lover, but i am an iPad lover.

  • KyleRay

    Oh God….. don’t tell me CrApple is again trying to sell the World on their Magical Off Screen spec that no other manufacturer has that secret little chip component to boost only their freaking egos? Come on….. already everyone knows it’s a bogus spec number Apple had put into OpenGL Benchmarking in order to puff their chest out with!!!

    Only numbers that count are Pro and Eygpt!

  • Tst

    Ipad3 looks better, but for gaming my ipad2 is still much smoother , I need over 30 frames per second, ipad3 order and chaos is beautiful but choppy.

  • :) Michael

    Obviously I doubt on the assumption made above that rather not too convincing.

    A CPU can manupulated a very simple mathematics.. and multiplication is not someting complicated that CPU cannot handle… Real time rendering and upscaling are different issues, which meant to say, the processing abilities are totally different. Thus performance impact will only be truth when, a games is forces to render 4x more complicated calculation rather than just by multiplied on the pixel — if the assumption is true!!!

    For A GPU to dedicate pixel, which does not required to render, i doubt, that is still plenty of room for performance,

    GPU handle 3D calculation X,Y,Z plan.. compression / decompression and polygon count and refresh!

    If upscaling was the method, i could imagine the gpu have plenty of room to calculate this easily. And be reminded that, the software engineer who develop manupulate of the 4 cores graphic rendering will not be so careless not to account for effecient waitstage improvement,

    Therefore even if in a perfect logic calculation, or ideal stage

    2 x 2 cores without a good (A.I) logical controller at the same speed (will not equal to) 4 cores with a improved logical controller at the same speed,

    And the final consideration is to assume that, compression is always slower than decompression. A multiplication by pixel is decompression!

    And if games getting complicate— Ipad3 rather will at a better performance to Ipad 2 —
    This is especially truth if controlling pixel to fill the retina display is all about, memory benchwidth and refresh rate and a portion of processing power to be taken by CPUs and GPUs.

    Ipad2 may lag behind Ipad3 in extreme condition, if complicated equation is required to process by CPU or GPU

    [ Last aguement! — WIth the same pixel density — Not all games, all application performs the same FPS ] – And if application is too basic, ipad 2 , 1 or 3 will just perform the same.]


  • Bruno Xavier

    Programmers can make their 3D apps run in iPad2’s resolution in iPad3.
    No need to render in native resolution… So yes, it can run faster that way.
    Of course in native resolution apps will run choppy if programmers do not care about that.

  • AvUser

    Ok. I had the Ipad 2 and “upgraded” to the Ipad 3. Gave my wife the Ipad 2. I love the Ipad 2 and absolutely hate my Ipad 3! To do over again, I would have kept my 2 or waited for the Ipad 4. However, at the time, there was no mention of the Ipad 4. My Ipad 3 is slower than Sh&^ compared to the 2. My wife and I have ran the same programs sided by side and every time the 2 beats the 3. I’m not saying I dislike Apple now. I am just curious if the 3 was a crappy stepping stone to the new Ipad 4 and if the 4 is any better?

  • iPad 3 owner

    It seems like the writer is jealous with iPad 3.