Handbrake 0.95 is out with an iPad preset pre-loaded. See the review here.
[See an updated post about handbrake settings and how the new iPod Touch and Apple TV effect which preset you can use for multi device video.]
Avatar came out yesterday so I decided to test a few settings and see how they play on the iPad.These are not scientific, just trial and error. I had already discovered that my general cross-platform settings worked pretty good. I start with an iPod preset, raise the resolution to 720 width in picture settings, raise the constant quality to 65%, select iPod 5G support. Those settings result in a decent sized file with a good image that plays on all Apple video capable devices (iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, and iPad)
But both the iPad and Apple TV can do higher resolution. So I tried tried three different larger resolution settings. I ripped about 6 minutes 43 seconds in three different higher resolution settings: My base iPod preset settings with loose anamorphic and with strict anamorphic, as well as the straight Apple TV base setting (with minor changes)
All three worked on the iPad. Not surprisingly, the higher resolution settings I tested looked better, sharper, on the iPad.
Both the loose and strict anamorphic ended up with a resolution of 853×480 (as opposed to a 704×400 on my cross platform setting) and were 211MB in size. I could tell no difference in video quality between these, and both were sharper than the cross platform setting I use.
The Apple TV setting (base one with no changes except I deselected large file size and added iPod 5G support) was also 853×480 size, but only 150MB. It looked almost as good as the larger file sizes on the iPad.
The clips on my Apple TV (hooked to 26″ HDTV) loaded just fine. The larger files were just a hair sharper. On my small screen I had to pause the clip to see it. When playing there was virtually no difference. I don’t think there is any visual difference between the loose or strict anamorphic settings I used and they are just a hair better than the basic Apple TV settings.
If size is a factor, I would use the base Apple TV settings with the slight changes I made. They will look great on the iPad (and iPhone 3GS or 4. See update below). These will not work on the older iPhone or iPods, because they can’t do wider than 720 pixels
Below are some screen shots. I tried to capture the same frame, but hopefully it’s close enough to see the differences. In all images, the quality was very similar.
I wonder if it is the 5% extra in the “constant quality” setting that allows for the deeper colors.
At any rate, unless you are pausing the video, there is virtually no difference to my eye. If you want your videos to play on all Apple devices, stay with my iPod preset. If you only need them on the iPad or Apple TV (and newer iPhones and iPod Touch 4th Gen), I would use the slightly modified Apple TV preset.
Update: After some further testing, a file ripped from the basic Apple TV setting, with “iPod 5G Support” checked will give great performance on an iPad, Apple TV, and iPhone 3GS. I will load it on my new iPod Touch 4 Gen when it arrives and test it through the new Apple TV when it ships, but it should be compatible with those as well. It will not play on an older iPod or iPhone model.