The traditional gaming hierarchy has become increasingly unstable over the last few years thanks to the evolution of tablet technology. The promise that the original iPad once held is now coming into its own courtesy of improved processing speeds, sharper resolutions and more responsive touch screen technology.
Although purists will still argue that platforms such as the PS4 still rule the roost when it comes to the most engaging gaming experience, progressive players will assert that you can have just as much fun on the move, courtesy of an iPad. The great debate may never be resolved, especially within a few words in an article, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to give it a go.
By breaking down the benefits of each platform’s gaming attributes, the answer to which is better –the iPad or the PS4 – may (partially) be answered.
The PS4 versus the iPad
Affordability: The starting point for any gaming review always has to be the price and while there is little to choose between the iPad and the PS4 in terms of base price ($590 for 16GB iPad Air/ $470 for iPad Mini with Retina Display vs. $520 for the PS4), the real difference in costs come in the gaming department.
A standard PS4 game, such as Dying Light or FIFA 15, will cost around $50 to buy and, while it’s possible to buy older games or pre-owned titles for less, the average price for PS4 offerings will be around $30+. In contrast, iPad games rarely cost more than $10 and the majority of the leading titles, such as Marvel Champions, are free. This means you can play a high quality game for a lot less when you power up your iPad.
However, there is a downside to gaming on the iPad that isn’t always obvious to the novice user: in-app purchases. Marvel Champions is a fighting game that can rival many PS4 equivalents in terms of styling and fluidity (admittedly the amount of attacks you make is somewhat limited), but to enjoy its full potential you’ll probably need to purchase some upgrades. Although not required, these add-ons give you extra power, extended lives and more chances to beat opponents.
For someone trying to complete a long mission, in-app purchases are sometimes unavoidable and over time the cost can mount up (Facebook is now facing problems in this area). In terms of initial outlay, PS4 games may be more expensive, but as time goes on an iPad product is likely to be at least as expensive due to these costly add-ons.
Ergonomics: Holding a control pad or touching a screen? The ergonomics of gaming are always important, but the debate between tablets and screens is largely one of personal preference. However, for complex movements there’s little doubt that a PS4 controller is more useful than a touch screen. Although the new screens are impressively responsive, it can be tough trying to swipe left while touching right, and this can play havoc with your gaming life.
For example, to play a game such as FIFA using a touch screen would not only be cumbersome but frustrating as it would limit the amount of fancy tricks and blistering shots you could make. In this situation the PS4 certainly comes out on top. In fact, even when you factor in games that have been specifically designed for use with an iPad, the PS4 still wins in terms of pure enjoyment, engagement and complexity.
Visuals: There is no denying that iPads, especially those with Retina Display, are visually stunning. Crisp graphics flow effortlessly across the screen thanks to 2,048×1,536 pixels and 326 ppi. Not only is an iPad’s display well crafted, but it’s permanently there. Unlike a PS4, you don’t need to purchase a separate monitor to play your favorite games.
However, the omnipresence of the iPad’s screen is also its downfall. Because your visual experience is limited to the size of your device, it can often be tricky playing highly detailed games. Hardcore gamers will always use the largest, best resolution screen possible when they’re playing games such as Call of Duty because it allows them to immerse themselves in a fantasy world.
In contrast, iPads, while portable, have a way of making players feel like they’re sitting on top of the action, rather than in it. When playing games such as Call of Duty, where your mission is to sneak through 3D terrains and blow stuff up, the size of an iPad screen can be highly restrictive. If we were to liken the difference between the PS4 and iPad in terms of visuals, it would be like driving a car or being a passenger in one. Although you’ll experience much of the same thrills racing round a track as a passenger, you’ll never be as engaged as you are when you’re a driver. This is what it’s like playing games on a widescreen HD TV/ monitor compared to an iPad (although it should be noted Oculus Rift will likely take engagement to a new level in the future).
Variety: The one area in which iPad gaming comes into its own is variety. Although PS4 has hundreds of titles to choose from, the Apple store is stocked with thousands of iPad games. From simple games such as Candy Crush, to adventure titles such as The Silent Age, there’s literally something for everyone on the iPad.
In fact, the iPad is also able to tap into markets the PS4 has not yet been able to breach. Although it’s possible to play card games such as World Series of Poker: Full House on the PS4, the platform isn’t equipped to offer real money gaming. In contrast, the iPad is linked to the Apple store which has that ability to process payments and verify a user’s age. This means poker operators such as PokerStars can develop mobile apps that mirror their desktop platforms. The result of this is a real poker experience against real people, instead of a virtual game of poker controlled by a piece of software.
In addition to iPads being able to enter gaming markets the PS4 can’t, there has also been a wave of hit games designed specifically for mobile devices. Instead of creating scaled down versions of console games, developers such as Rovio, responsible for Angry Birds, have created their own gaming brands that are unique to the iPad. Despite a recent downswing in fortunes, Angry Birds is one of the best-selling games of all time and only since it became a hit was it converted into a PS4 format.
When it comes to variety and innovation, there’s little doubt that iPad products are leading the way in the current market.
Auxiliary Benefits: The final point of comparison, and one in which the iPad excels, is additional benefits. Unlike the Xbox One, the PS4 doesn’t do much else other than play games and Blu-Rays. Although it can connect to the internet, this is only for download purposes and you can’t browse your favorite sites using your DualShock controller.
The iPad, however, is much more versatile and can function as a portal to the internet as well as a complete entertainment system. Movies, music, spreadsheets and relaxation apps are all available through the Apple store and the reason why the iPad wins hands down in terms of added extras.
OK, so this is going to seem like a cop out, but both platforms are winners. Overall, there are clearly positives on both sides of the gaming divide. For a more engaging experience the PS4 is a clear winner, however, if it’s variety and innovation you want then the iPad is a must. Fortunately, modern gamers don’t have to choose one or the other. Assuming you’ve got enough cash you can simply buy both devices and enjoy the best of both worlds.