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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  • Deann - Friday, October 07, 2011 - link

    Maybe I misunderstood, but if you take a look at this swedish website the Samoled + looks much better than the Amoled: http://www.appsandroid.dk/joomla/skaermtest-af-htc... Reply
  • aritai - Saturday, October 08, 2011 - link

    You may want to consider counting number of web pages browsed before battery exhaustion and report those as well. Perhaps even calculate a "joules per page viewed" as part of your power metrics. (i.e. it may be that running at max benchmark rate on a more powerful system displays twice as many pages - and that these systems are being penalized for not being as slow as their competitors - where in terms of raw energy usage they would last longer than their slower competitors if asked only to do the same amount of work). Reply
  • Paulman - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    I just started reading some comments about upgrading the Galaxy S II to 2.3.5 of Gingerbread, and people are reporting improvements in the sound quality. They were quite surprised! Do you think one of you / Francois can take the time to look into it? Thanks. Reply
  • san3536 - Friday, October 28, 2011 - link

    Hi
    I am planning to buy a Samsung Galaxy S2 in US and to use it in India.... is it possible that way to use it in different country ? i would like to know what are specifications to be asked for the same like unlocked & International etc ... does unlocked mean just it can be used on any network only in US or else where or is international version mandatory ? please inform the disadvantages of using the phone in India which is brought in US ...like any of phone functions wont work etc ..
    Reply
  • Naengmyun - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    Me and about a gazillion of my GS2 owners are experiencing problem connecting to our home WiFi networks. Everything, including visitors' laptops, iPads, Android Tablets, smartypwns, netbooks and even the kitchen sink connect seamlessly to my Great Home WiFi Network. But not the GS2! Amazing. Everyone's playing the blame game for now~provider says it's the router, router tech support says it's the phone, Samsung says it's me, phone carrier wants to know if I'd be interested in their latest unlimited plan.
    Anyone else having trouble with GS2 WiFi connectivity?

    Bibm
    Reply
  • Ravil - Saturday, November 26, 2011 - link

    i bought the samsung galaxy s2 from sri lanka for LKR85,000/= on the 4th of november 2011 with android 2.3.3 and i have some issues with it.

    1) screen issue
    when the phone is on the lowest brightness level the left part of the screen has a yellowish tint and i took it to the sri lankan warranty agents THE PHONE COMPANY four times and they replaced the screen and now its worse now the whole screen has a yellowish tint.

    2) signal issue
    the signal is unstable signal bars are at 2bars sometimes 3bars sometimes full and when i connect to the in ternet it connects from hsdpa and edge, when i'm not connected to the internet it shows the 3g icon, the above mentioned warranty agents THE PHONE COMPANY replaced the motherboard but i still have the issue.

    3) no NFC
    i don't have NFC (near field communication)

    pls help me with these issues can samsung replace the whole phone and give me a new one?
    my email address is ravildealwis7@gmail.com
    Reply
  • sgxsingapore1 - Friday, February 03, 2012 - link

    Singapore Exchange (SGX) is working with Singapore's first futures brokerage on a professional traders development programme,SGX Singapore : Live News & Updates from SGX Singapore .These were among the most active shares in the market <a href="http://sgxsingapore.com/">SGX Singapore</a> Reply
  • sgxsingapore1 - Friday, February 03, 2012 - link

    Singapore Exchange (SGX) is working with Singapore's first futures brokerage on a professional traders development programme,SGX Singapore : Live News & Updates from SGX Singapore .These were among the most active shares in the market SGX Singapore Reply
  • sgxsingapore1 - Friday, February 03, 2012 - link

    Singapore Exchange (SGX) is working with Singapore's first futures brokerage on a professional traders development programme,SGX Singapore : Live News & Updates from SGX Singapore .These were among the most active shares in the market <a href="http://sgxsingapore.com/">SGX Singapore</a> Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    I have an Epic 4G (Original SGS), and I have to say the audio quality is horrendous compared to an iPhone, Creative Zen X-Fi, and my home X-Fi on my PC. Nothing compares, especially since I hear some clear static even though nothing is playing pointing to poor isolation. To say that the original SGS phones were good sound quality (my sister's also has the same Epic 4G with same issue) would be hard to swallow based on my personnel experience. Reply

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