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Apple's A7 may really strut its stuff on iPad gaming

Apple's 64-bit A7 chip holds a lot of promise for big-screen gaming on future iPads.

Epic Games Donald Mustard demoed Infinity Blade 3 running on Apple's new 64-bit A7 processor.
Epic Games Donald Mustard demoed Infinity Blade 3 running on Apple's new 64-bit A7 processor.

Apple's new 64-bit A7 chip will debut on the iPhone 5S, but it may find its best gaming platform on upcoming iPads.

The A7 is the world's first 64-bit chip for smartphones. What that means for consumers is better performance on data-intensive apps like games because, among other things, it means the chip can address more memory more effectively than a 32-bit processor.

First introduced to supercomputers in the 1970s, 64-bit computing landed at Apple in the Power Mac G5 in 2003 via the first 64-bit PowerPC G5 processor.

Fast forward to 2013. It seems increasingly likely that the fifth-generation iPad or a second-generation iPad Mini -- or both -- will get the A7 later this year.

Recent speculation from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said a higher-performance version of the A7, the A7X, will land in both tablets.

If accurate, that would match up with Apple's schedule for rolling out A6 chips last year: the iPhone 5 was introduced with an A6 processor in September 2012, then the iPad 4 with the faster A6X in October.

Because of the iPad's and iPad Mini's larger screens -- 9.7-inch and 7.9-inch, respectively -- game playing is taken up a notch, especially if future iPads pack a higher-performance version of the A7.

Here's what Apple says.

A7 supports OpenGL ES version 3.0 to deliver the kind of detailed graphics and complex visual effects once possible only on Mac computers, PCs, and gaming consoles. The difference is amazing. Take the imaginary worlds in games, for instance. Textures and shadows look more true to life. Sunlight reflects off the water. The whole experience feels much more realistic.

Those effects could be more apparent on the larger-screen iPads. Particularly, if the Mini gets a Retina screen, boosting pixel density to more than 300 pixels per inch.