Whether you are getting someone a gift or buying a gift for yourself, sometimes the choice between two devices can be quite difficult. This is especially true when the devices serve two different purposes but have a little overlap. The iPad and the Xbox One can both play games and both have a wide range of entertainment and streaming options, including Netflix and Amazon Prime. If you are a hardcore gamer, the choice might be simple: the Xbox One clearly excels in gaming.
If you hope to replace your laptop, the iPad is an easy choice. But what if you are somewhere in between?
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The iPad vs the Xbox One: Price
The Xbox One has seen two price slashes since its release in 2013. The first was accomplished by unbundling the mostly useless Kinect system, while the second price cut was to make the device more competitive with the PS4. You can now get the console for around $399, often including a game within the bundle.
The sweet spot on the iPad side is the $599 iPad Air 2 with 64 GB of storage. You can get the cheaper 16 GB model for $499, but the extra storage is well worth the price in the long run.
This makes the initial price tag of the iPad Air 2 significantly more than the Xbox One, especially if you include a case for the iPad in the initial costs. However, the lifelong cost of ownership will end up being much lower on the iPad. Each game your buy for the Xbox One may set you back as much as $60, while even the most expensive games for the iPad tend to be less than $10, with many great free games in the mix.
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The iPad vs the Xbox One: Performance
This one might seem easy, but strangely, it's not.
The Xbox One has two -- yes, count them, two -- quad-core modules clocked at 1.75 Ghz. These exist within the AMD Jaguar Accelerated Processing Unit that powers the console. It also has 8 GB of DDR3 RAM and includes a 500 GB hard drive for storing apps and games. This makes the 1.5 Ghz triple-core processor and 2 GB of LPDDR3 RAM ont he iPad Air 2 seem quite puny.
But does the Xbox One actually perform better?
There's no denying Microsoft's console has the most horsepower. And when it comes to displaying awesome graphics at 900p to 1080p resolutions and still getting 60 frames per second, there's no contest. If you are looking for that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare experience, the Xbox One will give it to you.
However, when it comes to anything other than games, the iPad is significantly faster. The iPad Air 2 will not just outperform the Xbox One when loading Netflix, Amazon Prime or YouTube, there isn't even a contest, with the iPad clocking in at around 3 times faster loading these apps. That might not sound too significant until you wait 25 seconds for the Xbox One to get to Netflix's profile selection screen verses around 6.5 seconds on the iPad.
Why does the Xbox One perform these tasks so much slower than the iPad? Simple. The Xbox One's interface runs on Windows. In fact, that 8 GB of DDR3 RAM has 3 GB dedicated to the operating system, which is more memory than the total RAM in the iPad Air 2. That may give the Xbox One's operating system a lot of versatility, but it is a lot of versatility it doesn't need. Even on a PC, Windows has become somewhat bloated, and for the Xbox One, it is extremely bloated, which makes the apps running on the Xbox One very slow.
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What the Xbox One Does Best:
Games. There's no denying that part of the equation. If you're main interest is in getting a game machine, the iPad has some advantages. It has a huge selection of games, the games are much cheaper, and the portability of the iPad means you can play those games almost anywhere. But titles like Dragon Age: Inquisition , Madden 15 and Evolve aren't going to be matched on the iPad.
What the iPad Does Best:
Almost everything else. The Xbox One was billed as a device that could be the center of your entertainment universe, but with such a bloated operating system, even the ability to feed your cable signal through the console becomes an exercise in patience. With the ability to connect your iPad to your HDTV and the wide variety of streaming apps available on the iPad, it is far more suited to being the center of your entertainment.
What the Xbox One Does That the iPad Can't:
Beyond playing top end games, the Xbox One offers a unique form of gaming when you combine it with the Kinect sensor and Smartglass. The Kinect can detect your movements, allowing your body to become the controller. It also responds to your voice, adding a new dimension to your gaming. Smartglass isn't quite as heavily featured in games, but some games make use of the tablet app to give additional information without taking up space on the screen.
The Kinect also allows the Xbox One to become a central part of your exercise routine. Not only can you buy Kinect-enabled games that can give you quite a workout, you can also buy software designed specifically for exercise and fitness.
The Xbox One can also control your TV. It accepts an HDMI-in signal that it can route to the television. It also has an IR blaster that can be used to control your cable box. While the unresponsiveness of the TV app can cause a delay when detecting the signal after turning it on, once it is up and running, it is relatively smooth.
What the iPad Does That the Xbox One Can't:
In terms of gaming, the iPad has various motion controllers such as a gyroscope built into the tablet. This allows you to play racing games using the tablet as a steering wheel rather than relying on the on-screen controls. The iPad's cameras can also give you access to augmented reality, which overlay the game on top of the 'real world' captured through the camera. And accessories like Osmo use the front-facing camera almost like a Kinect, detecting your movement and reacting to it.
The iPad can also replace your laptop for many -- if not all -- tasks you routinely put your PC through. This can range from checking email to browsing Facebook to editing spreadsheets and creating documents in a word processor. The App Store is filled with great productivity apps alongside all the nice entertainment and fun games.
And the Winner Is...
Obviously, there is no true winner here. The Xbox One and the iPad Air 2 are two very difference devices. If you are struggling to make a decision between the two, weighing what you most want to do with the device against what the devices do best is a good way to make a decision.
If you are really into gaming and want a device that can also stream TV shows and movies, the Xbox One is a no-brainer. While the iPad has more streaming apps available and is more responsive, once you are actually streaming the video, you won't care as much about how much time it took.
If you love gaming but aren't quite hung up on the hardcore aspect of it, the iPad Air 2 will offer the most bang for you buck. While the initial investment is higher, even the best games tend to be just a couple of bucks. You'll also be using it to watch shows, stream music, read books, browse the web among the many other great uses for it.
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Note: The tests involving streaming apps on the Xbox One and the iPad Air 2 were performed using Verizon FIOS with a 50 GB/s downstream. Launch times may vary based on download speeds.