GLBenchmark 2.1 Solves Our Resolution Problems

Modern Android smartphones either run at 800 x 480 (WVGA) or 960 x 540 (qHD). The iPhone 4 features a 960 x 640 (DVGA) display, while the iPad 2 has a 1024 x 768 (XGA) panel. To complete the confusion Honeycomb tablets run at 1280 x 800 (WXGA). While measuring 3D performance at native resolution is useful in determining how well games will run on a device, it's not particularly useful in comparing GPUs. Fill rate and memory bandwidth requirements increase with pixel count. Even just between Android devices, those with a qHD display have 35% more pixels to render than their WVGA counterparts.

Unfortunately not all benchmarks give us the ability to perform tests at a common resolution. To make matters worse, not all devices are even capable of running at the resolutions we'd want to test. BaseMark ES2, the rebranded 3DMarkMobile allows us to specify display resolution which we have done in previous reviews. For smartphones we standardize on 640 x 480 and for tablets it's 1024 x 768. GLBenchmark however hasn't given us the ability to do that until recently.

GLBenchmark 2.1 now includes the ability to render the test offscreen at a resolution of 1280 x 720. This is not as desirable as being able to set custom resolutions since it's a bit too high for smartphones but it's better than nothing. The content remains unchanged from GLBench 2.0, there are still two primary tests that measure overall OpenGL ES 1.0 and 2.0 performance in addition to a number of specific synthetic feature tests.

We'll start with some low level tests to give us an idea of what we're looking at. First up is a raw triangle throughput test:

Triangle Throughput - GLBenchmark 2.1 Triangle Test

GLBenchmark 2.1 made some changes to the fill rate and triangle throughput tests so these numbers aren't comparable to the 2.0 results. Although the Nexus S' single core CPU, older drivers and lower clocked GPU put it at the bottom of the list, the LG Optimus 3D is the best showing of the PowerVR SGX 540. The SGX 540 in the LG phone ends up at around half the peak triangle rate of the iPad 2, perhaps due to better drivers or a higher clock speed. Here we see the true limitations of ARM's 4:1 pixel to vertex shader architecture. The Mali-400 barely outperforms the Nexus S and offers around 1/3 of the triangle rate of the PowerVR SGX 540 in the Optimus 3D. The Adreno 220 does well here and ends up at around 2x the performance of the Mali-400.

Triangle Throughput - GLBenchmark 2.1 Textured, Vertex Lit Triangle Test

As we move to a more complex triangle test the PowerVR SGX 540 in the Optimus 3D is now only 85% faster than the Mali-400. The Nexus S' performance, despite using the same GPU, is simply abysmal. The Adreno 220 drops to only 37% faster than the Mali-400. No matter how you slice it, the 4-core Mali-400 just can't compete in geometry performance with today's GPUs. Luckily for ARM however, most mobile games aren't geometry bound - what we really need here is pixel processing power and that's something Mali-400 does deliver quite well.

Fill Rate - GLBenchmark 2.1 Texture Fetch

GLBenchmark 2.1's fill test paints a different picture for Mali-400. Here the SGX 540 is less than half the speed while the iPad 2's SGX 543MP2 is about twice the speed. The Mali-400's texturing performance is very solid, no GPU currently shipping in a smartphone can touch it.

What about in a game-like workload? For that we turn to the standard GLBenchmark game tests: Egypt and Pro.

GLBenchmark 2.1—as its name implies—tests OpenGL ES 2.0 performance on compatible devices. The suite includes two long benchmarking scenarios with a demanding combination of OpenGL ES 2.0 effects - texture based and direct lighting, bump, environment, and radiance mapping, soft shadows, vertex shader based skinning, level of detail support, multi-pass deferred rendering, noise textures, and ETC1 texture compression.

GLBenchmark 2.1 is the best example of an even remotely current 3D game running on this class of hardware—and even then this is a stretch. If you want an idea of how the Mali-400 stacks up to the competition however, GLBenchmark 2.1 is probably going to be our best bet (at least until we get Epic to finally release an Unreal Engine benchmark).

First let's look at the 1280 x 720 results from 2.1:

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt - Offscreen

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro - Offscreen

Despite huge disadvantages in geometry performance the Mali-400 does extremely well in the Egypt test, outpacing most of its competitors by a factor of 2. Only the iPad 2 is faster but that's to be expected based on the raw horsepower of its GPU. Given current workloads, ARM's Mali-400 is clearly the fastest GPU available on a smartphone today.

RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Taiji

RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Hoverjet

The dominance continues in the Basemark ES 2.0 tests, the Galaxy S II consistently delivers frame rates more than 2x those of its competitors. It's a shame that 3D gaming isn't a bigger deal on Android today because it'd be nice to really see ARM's high end GPU get a chance to flex its muscle on a regular basis.

For comparison to our older phones we've got our standard GLBenchmark 2.0 graphs below:

GLBenchmark 2.0 - Egypt

GLBenchmark 2.0 - PRO

Scrolling Performance

The Galaxy S II is by far the smoothest scrolling Android device we've ever reviewed. Architecturally it has all of the right components to deliver a buttery smooth UI: gobs of memory bandwidth and a very high speed GPU. The software appears to complement it very well. Once again we turn to Qualcomm's Vellamo benchmark to quantify scrolling performance on the Galaxy S II:

Qualcomm Vellamo Benchmark - Scrolling Performance Tests
WVGA Unless Otherwise Noted Ocean Flinger Image Flinger Text Flinger
HTC EVO 3D (Adreno 220 - qHD) 68.98 26.03 41.79
Motorola Photon 4G (GeForce ULP) 62.07 17.64 35.21
Samsung Galaxy S 4G (PowerVR SGX 540) 55.98 26.27 31.83
Samsung Galaxy S 2 (Mali-400 MP4) 91.02 35.14 51.19

Vellamo produces its scores directly from frame counters, so what you're looking at is a direct representation of how fast these devices scroll through the three web tests above. The Galaxy S II is 20 - 35% faster than the Photon 4G and 45 - 100% faster than the EVO 3D. We simply have no complaints here.

Flash Performance

Thus far NVIDIA's Tegra 2 has delivered the best overall GPU accelerated Flash expierence of any SoC on the market today. With the latest update to Flash enabling NEON support on OMAP 4 both it and the Exynos 4210 now match what NVIDIA delivers here:

Flash Performance

Until we hit 2012 and meet NVIDIA's Kal-El in smartphones (tablet release in 2011) and Qualcomm's first Krait designs, Samsung's Exynos 4210 looks like the best SoC for Android smartphones.

 

The Mali-400 Battery Life and Conclusions
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  • numberoneoppa - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Guys, that mysterious notch you write about is not for straps, it's for phone charms, and it's arguably my favourite feature of samsung phones. (In korea, phone charms can be used for more than just cute things, one can get a T-money card that will hang here, or an apartment key). Reply
  • Tishyn - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    I spend hours every week just browsing through reviews and tests comparing devices and vendors. This is one if the most interesting and most comprehensive review I've read for a veery long time.

    I especially enjoyed the rendering part and how it relates to the ultra mobile device market. Thumbs up!
    Reply
  • milli - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Brian / Anand, why are you so reluctant to test chips from this company? ZiiO tablets, sporting the ZMS-08, are available for a while now and i'm sure Creative would send you the new Jaguar3 tablet (ZMS-20) if you guys would ask for it.
    The ZMS-20 has 26 GFlops ... faster than anything you've tested till now. The ZMS-40 coming in Q4 doubles that number!
    I'm an old school IT technician and I for one don't understand your lack of interest. The GPU's in these chips are based on technology that Creative acquired with the 3DLabs purchase.
    Reply
  • rigel84 - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    Just a quick tip: You can take a screenshot by pressing the power and home button at the same time.

    If you double tap your home button it will bring the voice talk feature.

    While watching video clips just press the power button to disable the touch sensitive buttons.

    Swipe your finger to the left on contact name to send him a message
    Swipe you finger to the right on the contact name to dial the contact.

    To see all the tabs in the browser just pinch inside twice :)

    If you experience random reboots when you drop it on the table, or if you are leaning towards things or running, then try to cut a piece of paper and put it under the battery. It happens because the battery shortly looses connection to the pins. If you check XDA you can see that many people has this problem, and I had it too. I was experiencing many random reboots whenever I had it in my pocket, but after I pit a piece of paper below the battery they all disappeared.

    A few things...
    - GPS is horrible if you ask me. Unless I download the data before with gps-status then it takes ages. Mostly 15-30 seconds with 2.3.3 (no idea if the radio got updated in the release)
    - Kies AIR is HORRIBLE! It's on pair with realmedia's real player from 10 years ago. Crash on crash on crash and sluggish behavior.
    - I don't know whether it's the phone or not, but I've been missing a lot of text messages after I got my Galaxy S2. I'm on the same net, but along with the poor GPS reception I'm suspectiong the phone :(
    - There is a stupid 458 character limit on textmessages, and then they are auto-converted to an MMS message. There is a fixed mms.apk on XDA (requires root) or you can download something like Go SMS Pro (still free) on the market, which removes this stupid limit.
    Reply
  • ph00ny - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    Odd

    I haven't seen any posts about the battery disconnect issues and if you've been browsing the xda forum, probably saw my thread about dropping my phone on concrete twice...

    As for Kies AIR, i've used it twice and my expectation was low to begin and it wasn't that bad. Some things were definitely slow but it's a good start

    -GPS for me has always been solid. I even used it on multiple trips in less than ideal location, not a single glitch even with shoddy cell reception.
    Reply
  • ciparis - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - link

    I've been using Sprint's SGS2 (Epic 4G) for less than a day, but already there are some annoying points which I'm surprised aren't mentioned in this review:

    1) The digitizer lags behind finger movement.
    In the web browser, when your finger moves, there is a disconnected rubber-band effect before the screen catches up with your finger. This is visible in the browsing smoothness video as well, and it's very noticeable in actual use. Coming from an iPhone 4, it feels cheap and broken.

    2) Back/Forward navigation often ignores the previous scroll point.
    If you spend some amount of time reading a page you arrived at from a link (it seems to be about 10 seconds or so), hitting back doesn't take you back where you were previously reading from -- instead of returning you to the page position where the link was, it drops you at the top of the page. This makes real web usage tedious. On the Sprint, the timing seems to be related to when the 4G icon indicates sleep mode: hit back before the radio sleeps and you are returned to the right spot. In actual use, this rarely happens.

    3) The browser resets the view to the top, even after you've started scrolling.
    When loading a page, there's a point in which the page is visible and usable, but it's technically still loading (which can go on for quite a awhile, depending on the page). It's natural to start reading the page and scrolling down, but typically the phone will randomly jerk the scroll back up to the top of the page, sometimes several times before the page is done. This is unbelievably annoying.

    I suppose expecting an Apple level of polish prior to release is unrealistic, but Samsung seems hell-bent on positioning themselves as an Apple-level alternative; even the power brick looks like they took the square Apple USB charger, colored it black, and slapped their logo on it. The point being, they're inviting direct comparison, and it's a comparison their software team isn't ready to deliver on -- certainly not out of the box.
    Reply
  • ciparis - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - link

    How are you supposed to use this phone if the keyboard is covering up the text fields, there's no "next" button to get to the next field, you can't see what you're typing, and there's no button to make the keyboard go away?

    Case in point: go to Google News and click on Feedback at the bottom of the page. There's no scrolling room at the bottom, so the keyboard obscures the fields; I was unable to send feedback to Google that their news site was opening every link in a new bowser window on a mobile phone (...) despite my account having the preference for that set to "off", because I couldn't navigate the form fields.
    Reply
  • mythun.chandra - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Just realized there are no numbers for the Adreno 220 in the GLBench 2.1 offscreen tests...? Reply
  • sam46 - Saturday, October 01, 2011 - link

    brian,please tell me which one of these smartphones is the best.i wanna purchase one of them so,pls help me in deciding. Reply
  • b1cb01 - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    I love the green wallpaper on the first page of the review, but I can't find it anywhere. Could someone point me to where I could find it? Reply

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