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Honeycomb And Tegra 2: Gaming Spotlight

Motorola Xoom: The First Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) Tablet
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There are several cross-platform games that run on iOS and Honeycomb, but none of them push the boundaries of 3D graphics. Let's be honest, it doesn't take a lot of GPU horsepower to run Angry Birds. So, this makes a real-world graphics comparison between the iPad 2 and other tablets difficult. Instead, you have to look at games specific to each platform.

Apple definitely has a head start in the tablet-based gaming market. Infinity Blade and Real Racing 2 HD have been around for some time, and they help illustrate the graphics potential of the iPad 2's dual-core SGX 543.

Android-oriented developers are slower to develop similar games for two main reasons. First, we've seen a lack of appropriate GPU horsepower in many older Android-based products. Second, fewer developers are interested in porting existing code. Nvidia is trying to help close this gap for Google, as it's leveraging substantial developer connections to help showcase the graphics performance of Tegra 2-based tablets like Xoom. Of the games that Nvidia has shown to us, Riptide seems to be the only game that's currently worth mentioning. Interestingly, it's created by Vector Unit, the developers of Xbox 360 hit Hydro Thunder Hurricane.

Overall, Riptide is an impressive game. Game play is smooth, and the water effects details are pretty good, considering the limited form factor and thermal constraints. But this is a first-generation game on a first-generation Android tablet, so it's more comparable to what you'd get from an iPad, and not an iPad 2-optimized title.

If you're a prospective tablet buyer, you have a choice between a first-generation Android tablet like the Xoom, and a second-generation iPad, which clearly enjoys a more potent graphics core capable of features like AA. We'll have to wait and see if the ISV community is able to take advantage of Tegra 2 the same way.

There are several upcoming Android-based games that we'd recommend keeping an eye on. Galaxy of Fire 2 is no longer limited to Sony Ericsson's Xperia; Nvidia handed us a beta copy that works on the Xoom. The build to which we have access is still a bit buggy, but the results are good enough to impress us. The Xoom's larger screen offers a more visually-stunning experience than the Xperia, and this this game has a lot of potential if Fishlabs focuses on increasing graphics detail. It's oddly reminiscent of Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, which was a hit with RTT gamers looking for a sci-fi theme.

It's naturally important that Nvidia and Google help developers create games, but that's only half of the battle. It's equally critical that the games run smoothly. While Nvidia continues to develop better hardware, Google can help by tweaking Android a bit for a smoother UI experience.

Moving between multiple games with the switcher is noticeably slower than other apps. The transition between games often exceeds one or two seconds. I'm not sure if this is the result of keeping certain background process alive and others frozen, but the multitasking switcher is supposed to offer seamless and instant app navigation. It might seem logical that opening multiple games on a tablet would be performance-inhibiting. However, I don't have the same problem with other applications in Honeycomb or with games on the iPad.

Switching Lag: Moving Between Two AppsSwitching Lag: Moving Between Two Apps

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