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  (Source: iFixit)
Benchmarks show Apple's chip is generally the more fit competitor, however the Tegra 3 still manages to impress

Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) new iPad 3 processor, the A5X, has been pitted against a top-of-the-line Android chip from NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA), the Tegra 3 in the real world.  The Tegra 3 is found in the Transformer Prime, the flagship Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) tablet from ASUSTEK Computer, Inc. (TPE:2357).

Early reviews and analysis commentaries from various parties were rather light on hard performance numbers for the CPU.  But the folks over at Laptop Magazine have dropped a full set of CPU and GPU benchmarks on the iPad 3 and evaluated how it performed versus the Tegra 3.

In GLBenchmark 2.1, the A5X is a beast.  Apple's tablet system-on-a-chip (SoC) is thought to pack a PowerVR SGX543MP4+ (the same chip found in the Sony Corp.'s (TYO:6758PlayStation Vita).  Apple wasn't kidding when it said the chip was four times as fast as the Tegra 3.  In a huge win for Imagination Technologies plc. (LON:IMG), the GPU is actually close to 5 times as fast as Tegra 3's GeForce derived mobile GPU.

Tegra3 v. A5X GLBenchmark
[Image Source: Laptop Magazine]

Ironically, while graphics veteran NVIDIA languishes in graphics, it hits back equally hard in the CPU department.  The Tegra 3 outperformed the A5X more than 2-fold in the GeekBench benchmark, which examines various CPU performance metrics.  The only victory for Apple came in the stream test.

Tegra3 v. A5X GeekBench
[Image Source: Laptop Magazine]

Overall, these results are not surprising.  Both the A5X and Tegra 3 use the licensed Cortex-A9 design from ARM Holdings Plc. (LON:ARM).  And the A5X has two cores, while the Tegra 3 is a quad-core design.  Now, the comparison isn't exactly apples and apples, as the Tegra 3 in the Transformer Prime is clocked at 1.3 GHz, where as the iPad's chip is clocked at 1 GHz.  Thus the A5X may be actually a bit more efficient on a per-core basis, albeit weaker overall in raw power.

Unfortunately for NVIDIA, those results don't necessarily translate into real-world performance.  The stock ICS browser ran the Sunspider Javascript test suite slower than the stock iPad 3 Safari variant.  Ultimately, this reminds us of Windows Phone, which runs silky-smooth on a single core.  The lesson here is that software is equally important to the raw computing power.  ICS appears to be either less efficient or insufficiently threaded.  Count that as another win for the A5X.

A handful of games such as Shadowgun and RipTide are using the Tegra 3's extra computing muscle to pull off slick effects like physics and reflections.  While the iPad 3 lacks these niceties, it does offer much crisper rendering, thanks to its higher resolution 2048x1536 pixel screen.  That's a lot of pixels, hence the need for that beefy GPU.

Shadowgun wide
The iPad 3 (right) reportedly offers a crisper image, but the Tegra 3 powered Transformer Prime (left) offers better lighting and fix-driven objects like the flags hanging overhead.
[Image Source: Laptop Magazine]

In terms of gaming the iPad 3 and Transformer Prime seem to be neck and neck -- the iPad 3 offers gaudier resolutions, but the Transformer Prime offers unique visual effects in certain apps.

ASUSTEK is also hoping to level the playing field a bit with its coming Transformer Prime "Infinity" (TF701), which sports a 1920x1200 pixel resolution, up from the current model's 1280x800.  The real question is what GPU will be inside that.  After all, the Tegra 3 doesn't seem like it has the muscle to power that high a resolution display.  One has to wonder whether ASUSTEK won't jump ship to a new PowerVR equipped SoC to quench its mobile graphics thirst.

Source: Laptop Magazine



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RE: I'll take better GPU for $100, Alex.
By Shig on 3/19/2012 2:27:42 PM , Rating: 2
It's becoming very difficult to pick the best performance part now. Since tablets and smartphones are quite limited without a dedicated internet access, I believe that is the most important metric to judge a mobile device now.

The mobile sector is refreshing parts so fast, the latest phone or tablet will usually be the fastest, only to have something faster come out in as little as a few months.

The Cortex A15 parts combined with the power VX 6 series are going to be insane. (The cpu AND gpu should be around 4x faster than the fastest we have now.) At those levels we're going to be getting mobile video game consoles soon.

But then it all just eventually comes back to your internet connection, which is getting worse and worse for more and more money.


RE: I'll take better GPU for $100, Alex.
By StevoLincolnite on 3/19/2012 4:07:22 PM , Rating: 2
Except... What the artical is saying is that the latest release doesn't actually out pwrform the competition in all usage scenarios.
So knowing the performance of the latest gadget is still important as it's not always going to be clear cut.


By Shig on 3/19/2012 5:24:35 PM , Rating: 2
True, but going really into depth with benchmarks gets complicated. Some architectures do well on some, well on others, and then real world performance is completely different based on what software you're using. So many variables.

You'll almost always have a case where X GPU beats Y GPU in Z benchmark and vice versa. Rarely do you see one architecture smash everything. (Unless you're Sandybridge vs. Bulldozer, jajajaja)


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