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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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By testerguy on 3/20/2012 3:59:46 AM , Rating: 1
I'm sorry but a GL fill test is not comparable to Toyota saying 'the Prius uses no gas!'. It's a legitimate measure of the power and speed of a GPU when in use and needs no such disclaimers such as 'when the GPU is not being used'. It's not misleading any more than any of the CPU benchmarks are - which as the article states weren't all won by the Tegra.

I agree with you in general that how a device is put together overall is the most relevant metric but there are no easy benchmarks for that, taking FPS, for example, is not a proper benchmark because it doesn't take into account the resolution of that FPS. There's no benchmark to demonstrate that even with a slower CPU the iPad 'feels' faster when in use, either. To try and stay objective, review sites benchmark each individual component, and then offer their analysis on what the overall effect feels like.


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