Monday, March 19, 2012

NVIDIA Tegra 3 vs. Apple A5X: Apple wins in graphics, but not by a 4-to-1 margin

During its iPad introductory event, Apple said the graphics performance of its dual-core processor with quad-core graphics, the A5X, was 4x that of NVIDIA's Tegra 3 quad-core processor. Remember that distinction: graphics performance.

Laptop Mag benchmarked the A5X against the Tegra 3, and much is as Apple said. While this isn't really a surprise, considering an earlier comparison of a Tegra 3-equipped Transformer Prime vs. the iPad 2, not even the "new iPad" show the Tegra 3 coming up short against the older A5.

That said, 4x the performance wasn't seen in the benchmarks, although the "new iPad" scored higher in all tests. GLBenchmark 2.1 is one of the few benchmarks that has versions for both Android and iOS, and in the program’s Egypt Standard test, which shows a 3D animation of ancient Egypt, the "new iPad" processed 6718 frames at a rate of 60 fps compared to the Transformer Prime's 5,939 frames at 53 fps. That really only shows the A5X about 13 percent faster than the Tegra 3.

Instead comparing the Geometric test (vertex weighted), which measures low-level shader performance, the "new iPad" processed 7,530,524 frames at a rate of 57 fps while the Tegra 3-based Transformer Prime processed just 3,523,926 at a rate of 27 fps. That's slightly more than 2x the number of frames processed.

However, the program's Fill test, which measures texturing speed, showed a big advantage to the "new iPad," as the A5X processed 1.98 billion textels per second to the Prime’s 404.61 million, which is close to 5x the number of textels per second.

It's good that Apple limited its claims to graphics, however, as in integer and floating-point tests the quad-core Tegra 3 outran the dual-core A5X. It also beat it at memory performance, but the "new iPad" beat the Prime on the Stream subtest, which looks at memory bandwidth.

The Tegra 3 also beat the "new iPad" in the Sunspider browser test, but it's hard to determine where that advantage comes from as the two tablets use different browsers.

When looking at subjective gaming performance on two games (Riptide GP and Shadowgun), the report noted that the "new iPad's" retina display made games look "sharper and more colorful." Some effects, though, are present in the Tegra 3 version of the games but missing in the iPad versions, such as sine billowing flag effects in Shadowgun and some splash effects in Riptide GP.

These Android games have been specifically optimized for Tegra 3, so the presence of these effects might simply reflect that, and if the developeres do some work on the "new iPad," we could see see those same effects soon on iOS.

You can see some of the video below.

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