Could the iPad 2 Rival Game Consoles?

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It’s mobile, “magical,” capable of HD graphics, flush with games, not unreasonably priced, and we know it’s blazing fast. So what if the iPad 2 suddenly grew an option to plug into your high-definition TV and supported wireless gamepads?

Think about it. Imagine Apple slipping its Apple TV technology into the iPad. Imagine plugging it into your TV. Visualize the iPad in some sort of TV dock (or who knows, just streaming the video wirelessly) while you recline on the couch with a game controller.

I’m not crazy. The first iPad was already a visual force of some reckoning. Take the high-definition iPad version of Dead Space, a survival-horror game that surprised naysayers with visuals nearly as grand and complex as its console predecessors. Or how about Rage HD, id Software’s visually stunning Doom/Quake followup?

The iPad 2 just multiplied that “ninefold” (or so Apple claims) by dropping in a speedy new dual-core processor. Preliminary benchmarks put the iPad 2 at more than double the iPad’s graphics-crunching prowess, and that’s just testing games designed for the original architecture.

Consider Firemint’s Real Racing series, Apple’s showroom crowd-pleaser where you grip and pivot the iPad like a steering wheel. The developer’s recently released followup, Real Racing 2, looks to add full 1080p support, and get this–it’ll do so courtesy HDTV video out support.

Because–did I say “what if”?–the iPad 2 already has it. All you need to run high-def video out from your splashy new Apple slate is an Apple Digital AV Adapter for $40.

Read that again: Full 1080p support. Not upscaled or visually massaged, like so many Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games, which only rarely offer true, native 1080p support.

Write the iPad 2 off as a console contender at your peril. It’s already approaching the power of today’s best and brightest, and unlike Microsoft or Sony, Apple’s slate gets a serious spec update annually. To hear analysts tell it (not to mention Microsoft and Sony themselves) the next Xbox or PlayStation won’t surface for another 3 to 4 years. In that space, it’s possible–maybe even likely–that Apple’s going to have a tablet capable of kicking toe-to-toe with anything in the offing from the competition.

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