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Hands-on: Apple iPad

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Hey, so you know all about the iPhone, right? In the brief time we spent with Apple's new iPad, from a gaming perspective, there's not much more to add. It's a big iPod Touch -- both are missing the iPhone's camera -- but iPad's got a flexible data plan option; no contract required. While Apple showed off some iPad-optimized games during today's keynote, neither Gameloft's new version of N.O.V.A. nor Electronic Arts' new version of Need for Speed: Shift were available for demo. Instead, we took some plain ol' apps for a spin, including Scrabble and Need for Speed: Shift (the current iPhone version; not the upcoming iPad one).

The "2X" button indeed fills the screen with a simple tap, turning your low-res iPhone apps into full-screen experiences; however, the increase comes with a graphical cost. The games are scaled up and look like it. That doesn't mean they're not entirely playable -- Need for Speed actually controlled better with the larger screen; tilting the iPad had less of an effect on the screen than doing the same on the iPhone's comparatively tiny display, meaning we were able to focus on the action while moving the screen around (something many iPhone games simply don't do as well). Similarly, the larger surface means your big fat thumbs won't obscure as much of the screen as they do on the iPhone -- that means more room for on-screen pads, as shown in the iPad-optimized port of N.O.V.A.

The Apple representative guarding the preview device told us that the iPad-optimized games will be featured in their own part of the App Store. These aren't "combo" apps that work one way on iPhone or iPod Touch and another way on iPad -- they are separate apps. While the higher-resolution graphics and iPad-specific optimizations will surely result in better gaming experiences on the iPad, we're not sure if existing owners of iPhone games will be interested in the perceived "iPad tax" for an optimized version -- your regular iPhone games will work on both devices, after all.

Perhaps enhanced iPad games will have "downscaled" versions for iPhone, or perhaps some developers will discover a way to bundle both together? It's not clear, but we're reaching out to Apple to clarify some of the App Store functionality and will talk with developers to get their take on the new device. The new SDK is available today, so many iPhone developers will be busy exploring what's new for iPad.

Gallery: Hands-on: Apple iPad | 8 Photos

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