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 IPAD FEATURE

The Tablet Test: iPad 3 versus Android Nexus 7, featuring Horn

A5X goes head to head against the Tegra 3
Product: Horn | Developer: Phosphor Games Studios | Publisher: Zynga | Genre: Action, Adventure
 
Horn iPad, thumbnail 1
Gaming fanatics have been arguing over consoles and computers since the invention of the microchip.

Whether it's the Spectrum versus the C64, or the schoolyard rivalries of the SNES and Mega Drive, everyone wants to be backing the best device.


That war is still raging on today, only it's fought over much smaller gadgets. The question is: iOS or Android?

With the visually resplendent Horn (powered by Unreal Engine 3) now out on both iOS and Android systems, we thought we'd use this game to put two fan favourites to the test.

The new iPad, with its Retina display and A5X chip, and Google's Nexus 7, with its quad-core processor and Nvidia Tegra 3 graphics.

Each step of the way we've provided the two screenshots so you can do your own comparison. We've kept them as pure as possible, and in their native resolutions. All we've done is put a little JPG compression on them so the server guys don't moan at us.

tabwars-thumb-nexus7
Google Nexus 7 (Click here for the full screenshot)

tabwars-thumb-ipad
Apple third generation iPad (Click here for the full screenshot)

We start the game with our amnesic hero waking up in the ruins of an old fortress. Straight away, we see a stark difference between the two tablets.

On the Tegra-infused Nexus 7, we're treated to some little blue fireflies, who dance about the crumbling castle of Horn's opening area. On the iPad, those tiny sprites are completely nonexistent.

We do get to see the iPad's anti-aliasing, though. The nasty jagged edges down the side of Horn's hat are a lot less noticeable on iPad, and on Nexus 7 you can see a spiky ridge running around the stone wall in the distance.

Some textures look a lot better on the Apple tablet - check out the giant stone slabs on the floor of this castle. On iPad they are clearly defined, while on Nexus 7 they all sort of blur together into one murky old mess.

tabwars-thumb-nexus7
Google Nexus 7 (Click here for the full screenshot)

tabwars-thumb-ipad
Apple third generation iPad (Click here for the full screenshot)

Once we escape from the castle, we come across the game's first vista: the ruins of a castle and a gushing river.

One thing that's especially noticeable in this shot is another Tegra-exclusive visual flourish. Horn's got a scarf on in the Android version, which flops about on his back as you move. iPad players will have to go without.

Once again, the iPad wins the pure technical battle. You can really see the difference in anti-aliasing on the boards of the broken-down bridge, of the foliage, and the long grass to the far right of the scene.

tabwars-thumb-nexus7
Google Nexus 7 (Click here for the full screenshot)

tabwars-thumb-ipad
Apple third generation iPad (Click here for the full screenshot)

Here we meet our first pygon, and he's looking for the High Pygon Emperor's personal squire.

Once again, the iPad has the most technically proficient take on the scene with its sharper image, and extra pixels (check out the silhouette trees in the far distance: there's much more detail to the leaves on iOS).

But, Nexus 7 also has an edge: the Tegra processor allows the clumsy pygon to kick up a pile of rocks that tumble by his feet. On iPad, he's simply standing on flat ground.

tabwars-thumb-nexus7
Google Nexus 7 (Click here for the full screenshot)

tabwars-thumb-ipad
Apple third generation iPad (Click here for the full screenshot)

There's not as much in it with this screenshot. If you mixed up the two images it wouldn't be super easy to tell the two tablets apart. You can just about appreciate the iPad's sharper visuals on bits of Horn's costume.

Like the first screenshot, the Android edition has some exclusive fireflies. There are a few forest sprites dotted about the iPad screenshot, but the Nexus 7 has a puffy great cloud of the microscopic fairies.

tabwars-thumb-nexus7
Google Nexus 7 (Click here for the full screenshot)

tabwars-thumb-ipad
Apple third generation iPad (Click here for the full screenshot)

In our first combat scene, iPad Horn really pops out, while Nexus 7 Horn blends into the environment like someone's smeared vaseline all over the screenshot.

It also looks like the iPad - finally! - gets some exclusive visual flair over the Android. See that little house to the left of the pygon's shoulder? It seems to be missing from the Nexus 7's scene.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we must say that the Nexus 7 is a very impressive tablet - considering it costs about half the price of the new iPad. It is no slouch in the graphics department, and it could go head to head Apple's device without really breaking a sweat.

We reckon the iPad shots are a tad more pleasing than the Nexus 7 ones - they have nicer textures, and use anti-aliasing techniques to help blend over the jaggy edges.

But the Nexus 7 isn't without merit, either. Thanks to its powerful Tegra 3 graphics chip, it sports some tasty visual flair - like physics-driven scarves and atmospheric fireflies - that are simply missing on the iPad.

So let the debate continue - use our comments box.
 

Reviewer photo
Mark Brown 31 August 2012
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Post count:
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Yousaf Khan | 13:32 - 3 September 2012
Regarding the floor textures on the first set of pictures. It looks like Anisotropic filtering is enabled on the iPad but disabled on the Nexus 7. The Tegra 3 SoC is supposed to support Anisotropic filtering. Could be enabled in a newer version of the game which could indicate why other Tegra 3 users have the same quality texture level as the iPad.
Joined:
Sep 2012
Post count:
7
Glenn Howlingwolf | 07:30 - 3 September 2012
@nyehman I did think it was strange that it looked perfect on my HTC one x but not on the nexus couldnt believe that the graphic quality would differ to that extent
Joined:
Sep 2012
Post count:
1
@nyehman | 04:29 - 3 September 2012
I'm aware that you may have been working with a different build of the game but on my N7 I swear that it does not look like your screenshots. It has the same graphic fidelity as the screenshots of your iPad version screens + the Tegra additions. I'm guessing screenshots really don't do much justice to the devices because the resolutions will be skewed and other things will affect the outcome of the screenshot.
Joined:
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Post count:
506
Contest Chris | 16:24 - 2 September 2012
Larry, that's really weird. Here I am, suffering from a low framerate and stuttering on my Tegra 3 Acer A510, thinking that the iPad's version is buttery smooth (like many other games).

Maybe, the iPad 3's version is laggy because it has to push 4x as many pixel while only having 2x as much horsepower as compared to the iPad 2. So I presume that among all, the iPad 2 must have the best framerate.

Can anyone verify this for this game? (Mark, can you help out?)

PS: I've heard people saying that the iPad 2 trumps the iPad 3 in terms of gaming, so that's probably evident. The iPad 2 surely trumps all of Android's Tegra 3 devices as well. I only hope that the day Android can play games as smoothly as the iPad 2 is around the corner. I'm suffering here.
Joined:
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Post count:
104
Mark Brown | 14:00 - 2 September 2012
Thanks for your feedback guys - this was a pilot, essentially, so I'll keep your comments and ideas (like including perfomance and FPS) in mind if we do another comparison.

Larry - for the thumbnails, the Nexus 7 shots are at their native resolution. The iPad 3 ones are half as big, so they can be compared more easily. Because the iPad resolution is not exactly double the N7, that's why the Nexus ones look zoomed in.

I didn't use any of Photoshop's fancy blurring or re-scaling abilities, btw - it just cut 50 percent of the pixels.

Mark
Joined:
Sep 2012
Post count:
2
Larry Vandemeer | 13:06 - 2 September 2012
On my iPad3 the game Horn the frames per second suck. Comparing the iPad3 with the Nexus 7, the Nexus 7 looks to be getting twice as many frames per second as the iPad3. I also see huge lag on the iPad3, while on the Nexus 7 it's buttery smooth. Looks to me that the GPU of the iPad3 is not up to the task with the pixels of the display.

Also, all the pictures on the review for the Nexus 7, look like zoomed in versions of the iPad3 pictures. Shouldn't the pictures have been the same perspective when comparing detail?? I would think comparing a zoomed in picture to a non-zoomed picture is apples and oranges.
Joined:
Sep 2012
Post count:
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Larry Vandemeer | 12:58 - 2 September 2012
On my iPad3 the game Horn the frames per second suck. Comparing the iPad3 with the Nexus 7, the Nexus 7 looks to be getting twice as many frames per second as the iPad3. I also see huge lag on the iPad3, while on the Nexus 7 it's buttery smooth. Looks to me that the GPU of the iPad3 is not up to the task with the pixels of the display.

Also, all the pictures on the review for the Nexus 7, look like zoomed in versions of the iPad3 pictures. Shouldn't the pictures have been the same perspective when comparing detail?? I would think comparing a zoomed in picture to a non-zoomed picture is apples and oranges.
Joined:
Jul 2012
Post count:
506
Contest Chris | 12:27 - 2 September 2012
Yea, hate it when devs give Android games the middle finger. This game Horn lags on my Tegra 3 tablet. Awful...
Joined:
Dec 2008
Post count:
1339
klouud | 14:15 - 1 September 2012
What about the performance bottleneck created by the underpowered processor coupled with the screen + quad core GPU?

With other games, the iPad 2 out performs the iPad 3. This is another big reason why i don't own an iPad yet. They just have too many shortcomings. Tablets just aren't good enough yet IMO.

tim
Joined:
Aug 2012
Post count:
57
Jeffro Bodine | 14:09 - 1 September 2012
Doesn't the iPad 3 run at a much higher resolution natively? Wouldn't this be a cause for the differences in image crispness/clarity? I'll give you the antialiasing bit.
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