Performance

Architecturally there's no difference between the AP20H in the Optimus 2X and the Atrix 4G. You still have the same two ARM Cortex A9 cores running at 1GHz.

In our Optimus 2X review I talked about PoP (Package on Package) stacking used by SoC vendors to integrate DRAM without requiring more board real estate. The beauty of PoP stacking is that you can integrate the DRAM after both it and the SoC have already been manufactured. It's a package bonding exercise, not a fabrication one.


Package on Package (DRAM on top, SoC on bottom)—source: statschippack.com

The result is that making custom combinations of SoC and DRAM isn't as tall of an order as making a custom SoC with three CPU cores or more cache. The latter can only be done with a tremendous investment in capital.

For the Atrix 4G, Motorola wanted a Tegra 2 paired with a 1GB LPDDR2 DRAM. Most SoCs these days only incorporate 512MB.

The performance benefit of a 1GB DRAM in any individual benchmark is negligible. In fact, normal smartphone usage (even with multitasking) doesn't require more than 512MB of system memory at this point. You can get close, but it's pretty challenging to go over given the requirements of Android 2.2.1 and popular apps today. As a result you won't see the 1GB of memory give Motorola an edge in any benchmarks.

Rightware BrowserMark

It's only in the heaviest multitasking scenarios or when using Motorola's webtop app that the extra memory comes in handy. This is something I'm going to be investigating more over the coming weeks. I haven't had enough time to come up with any interesting usage models that are benchmarkable between the Optimus 2X and Atrix 4G to quantify the difference in performance for smartphone users.

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9

Despite the extra DRAM, Motorola is actually at a disadvantage in many benchmarks. The motoBlur UI enhancements and skinning do impact performance. Even after using a task killer to stop all non-system processes, some components of motoBlur will automatically restart. Thankfully two Cortex A9s are enough to hide this from being a problem in the day to day usage of the phone, but it does mean that the Atrix 4G sometimes benchmarks slightly lower than the Optimus 2X. It's like bloatware that ships on some OEM PCs, just much more tightly integrated and not as easy to get rid of. I hesitate to make that comparison though because, like I said, the performance impact is minimal.

Linpack

Real World Performance Impressions

The Optimus 2X went straight to Brian, so I didn't get a chance to play with it running the latest software build. When I first laid hands on LG's Tegra 2 phone a few months ago it was running a much, much earlier software build and real world performance wasn't representative of what we have today. To make a long story short, I'd never spent any quality time with a Cortex A9 based smartphone running a mature build of Android.

Instead I had to listen to Brian talk about how fast the Optimus 2X was, and how it would be his favorite Android phone if the review OS build was just more stable. The only Android phones I have in my office are a Nexus One, an Epic 4G and a Streak. I longed for something faster.

After using the Atrix 4G as my only smartphone I must say, I completely agree with Brian's assessment. The dual Cortex A9s in NVIDIA's Tegra 2 make Android so much better. Even though the Atrix 4G is only running Froyo (2.2.1) it felt like the fastest Android phone I'd ever used, including my brief stint with the Nexus S.

You see the Nexus S's partially GPU accelerated build of Android (Gingerbread) makes scrolling through your list of apps buttery smooth. Even the Atrix 4G lacks that. Every now and then you get a stutter or hiccup, but it's usually pretty good.

Where the Nexus S falls short however is in actual application response time and in performance when switching between apps. Trips back to the home screen, launching new apps and even interacting with apps all feels quicker on the Atrix 4G than anything sans-Tegra 2.

We tend to get spoiled by super fast hardware given the nature of our work. As a result, when things don't perform up to par we're a lot more sensitive. If you find yourself in the same boat, then (at least today) Tegra 2 may be the only way to scratch that itch.

By no means is this SoC perfect. A pair of Cortex A9s is still pretty slow in our universe, but within the snowglobe of SoCs that currently run Android it's a noticeable improvement. I suspect this is how things will go for the next few years. I'll likely have the same feelings after using my first Cortex A15 based phone, and whatever comes after that. It's the beauty of the golden age of ILP: performance gains are easy to come by and are very noticeable.

The qHD Screen: A PenTile LCD? The Webtop App: Atrix as a PC
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  • xaml - Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - link

    But can it run Crysis? Reply
  • Weedkillers2 - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - link

    Hiya

    Due to initial reviews iv read the concept of the dock / webtop is good but its a bit slow...

    Mabye it would be in Motorola's interest to create an Overcloking Application when the device is running off external Power such as

    The Laptop Dock or the HD Dock

    this would boost its peformance when mains connected and make the device more appealing in thouse situations to no realy change of the product required.

    (obviously use at own risk feture or atleast different levels of over clok use at own risk)

    Dylan
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - link

    Until smartphones have modular and universal OS capability, they won't replace computers.

    When you can just hop over to Google's website and download a new, universal version of Android, and then hop on over to Motorola's website to download your device's appropriate drivers, THAT will be the moment that smartphones can truly attempt to replace PCs in the mainstream market.

    Until that happens, walled-garden systems, lack of speedy updates and OS fragmentation will keep them in their current niche.

    Oh, and they should *ship* with root access easily enabled, just like a computer. No exploits or hacks required, a simple flipping of a switch in the OS to enable superuser permissions.
    Reply
  • TareX - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    Can Ananad (or anyone who held the phone) tell me how bad the text "fuzziness" was in the browser, on a zoomed out view? Some reviews said it appeared "pixelated" and unreadable despite of the qHD screen. Reply
  • EMM81 - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Anand can you give some more detailed impression/images of the Atrix screen. If it really is a pentile matrix it would be an RGBW scheme. This is unfortunate because it is basically like adding a white sub pixel to the existing red, green, and blue sub pixels and calling it twice the resolution. So by my calculation the screen is really ~679x382 if you considered RGBW as one pixel. I would assume that the impression of this screen would therefore be that of a lower resolution than 800x480 and theoretically the white sub pixels would allow it to either be brighter when displaying non color saturated images or to lower the back light and save power. Since your graph clearly shows a lower contrast ratio the only possibility is power savings at the expense of quality. PLEASE correct me if I am wrong but this does seem to be the case. Reply
  • DisplayGeek - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - link

    You are indeed wrong and here's why:

    http://www.nouvoyance.com/files/pdf/measuring-pent...

    Counting the number of subpixels, when using a system that uses both subpixel rendering and metamer rendering (where one uses the fact that white can be produced by both a single W and the combination of RGB) allows the display to use only two subpixels per pixel *on average*.

    Yes, the RGBW system allows the power to be cut roughly in half.

    The full on white to full off black contrast ratio is dependent upon the LCD technology itself, how much light leakage occurs in the dark states. It has nothing to do with the subpixel arrangement or color filter system, or its mode of operation. Though, the Dynamic Backlight Control does improve the contrast when dark images are shown, as reducing the backlight brightness makes the darkest states darker, while maintaining the brightness of the intermediate grey states. But that wasn't tested here.
    Reply
  • arth2910 - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    The Meizu M9 actually has the highest resolution of available android smartphones (matching that of the iPhone 4's). Acer's Iconia Smart also appears to be touting 1024x480. Reply
  • eawortman - Friday, March 04, 2011 - link

    Is there still a full review coming? Reply
  • santro652 - Saturday, March 05, 2011 - link

    Hi Anand,
    I am planning to get the Atrix carrier free version from USA, can anyone tell me if this phone will work in India or is there any unlocking required after taking a carrier free version. Please. Thanks in advance.. If anyone else knows the reply please let me know ASAP, Please
    Reply
  • Kawboy12R - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Looks like the full review got derailed somehow. I'd love to see some AT reviewage though. Reply

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