CPU Performance

The big news with Tegra 3 is that you get four ARM Cortex A9 cores with NEON support instead of just two (sans NEON) in the case of the Tegra 2 or most other smartphone class SoCs. In the short period of time I had to test the tablet I couldn't draw many definitive conclusions but I did come away with some observations.

Linpack showed us healthy gains over Tegra 2 thanks to full NEON support in Tegra 3:

Linpack - Single-threaded

Linpack - Multi-threaded

As expected, finding applications and usage models to task all four cores is pretty difficult. That being said, it's not hard to use the tablet in such a way that you do stress more than two cores. You won't see 100% CPU utilization across all four cores, but there will be a tangible benefit to having more than two. Whether or not the benefit is worth the cost in die area is irrelevant, it only means that NVIDIA (and/or its partners) have to pay more as the price of the end product to you is already pretty much capped.

SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark 0.9.1

Rightware BrowserMark

The bigger benefit I saw to having four cores vs. two is that you're pretty much never CPU limited in anything you do when multitasking. Per core performance can always go up but I found myself bound either by the broken WiFi or NAND speed. In fact, the only thing that would bring the Prime to a halt was if I happened to be doing a lot of writing to NAND over USB. Keyboard and touch interrupts were a low priority at that point, something I hope to see addressed as we are finally entering the era of performance good enough to bring on some I/O crushing multitasking workloads.

Despite having many cores at its disposal, NVIDIA appears to have erred on the side of caution when it comes to power consumption. While I often saw the third and fourth cores fire up when browsing the web or just using the tablet, NVIDIA did a good job of powering them down when their help wasn't needed. Furthermore, NVIDIA also seems to prefer running more cores at lower voltage/frequency settings than fewer cores at a higher point in the v/f curve. This makes sense given the non-linear relationship between voltage and power.

From a die area perspective I'm not entirely sure having four (technically, five) A9 cores is the best way to deliver high performance, but without a new microprocessor architecture it's surely more efficient than just ratcheting up clock speed. I plan on providing a more thorough look at Tegra 3 SoC performance as I spend more time with a fixed Prime, but my initial impressions are that the CPU performance isn't really holding the platform back.

A Lesson in How Not to Launch a Product Tegra 3 GPU: Making Honeycomb Buttery Smooth
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  • jleach1 - Thursday, December 01, 2011 - link

    What the hell are these "Normal","Power Saving", and "Balanced" labels?

    I'm not going to read a single page more of this article. The benchmarks mean nothing when not explained.

    I'm using a transformer sans prime, and have no such ability to choose some type of profile, or whatever the heck they are.

    I've never been frustrated or a tad bit angry with an a and article before....but I suppose there's a first time for everything, eh?
    Reply
  • thunng8 - Thursday, December 01, 2011 - link

    WTH?, there is a whole page explaining the 3 power profiles. Please read the article Reply
  • Abini - Thursday, December 01, 2011 - link

    I read the review by Josh Miller on CNET and they also had a model that had WiFi issues. I am looking to replace my old clunky laptop and an ereader with this model, so I'm hoping it is just a fluke, but with two different reviewers getting "bad" items, that makes me suspicious. Like the Apple denials of iPhone antenna issues, I don't want to buy version 1.0 and find out that it can't handle better than 2MBPS connections due to a hardware issue.

    I'm holding off for few months to see how the WiFi works for the rest of the people before I jump onboard.
    Reply
  • kenyee - Thursday, December 01, 2011 - link

    That's not good.

    I was going to get on the preorder list for this...sounds like it's finally a good Android tablet (or at least on par w/ the Galaxy Tab).
    Wish it had a built-in USB port, but there's an inexpensive dongle for it...
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, December 01, 2011 - link

    Battery life is just wrong on these things. An ipad 2 would never get 12 hours battery life. After using one for 3 months you'd be lucky to get 9 hours in that same test. Real world usage goes down to about 6. Gaming, less than 2 hours, again after a few months of use. That's just annoyingly bad for such an expensive device. This model HAS to at least beat that. By all rights it should be doubling that. These things are too weak, too light, and run out of juice too quick. They should have at least double the battery capacity. The fact that they dont even offer a higher capacity battery really irks me.

    I rant and rave about how my ipoop can barely even load a youtube video. I set it down so it can buffer for a few minutes, and I come back and the screen is locked and when I unlock it I have to reload the stupid video. These things are just so much junk its not even funny. As I said all along ...
    Reply
  • billus - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    My original iPad-1, pre-ordered and heavily used since day one, plays video for 11.5 hours straight...still...with 3G off and Wi-Fi on.

    YouTube videos don't reload when the display locks, at least not with iOS 5, and video playback takes only 2-3 seconds to start for me.
    Reply
  • Sevenfeet - Thursday, December 01, 2011 - link

    First, congrats to Anandtech for a great review as always, despite the time constraints.

    So here's the takeaways I get from reading this:

    1. Asus really managed to get a well designed piece of physical engineering out the door and in people's hands. That's better than HP, Motorola and a host of other iPad wannabees. Well done.

    2. The screen is nice and apparently class leading. Again, well done, although you shouldn't pat yourself on the back too much for surpassing something that Apple built two product cycles ago and will likely blow away next quarter. Just sayin... For right now, it's the leader, and will continue to be in 3, 2, 1....

    2. As with everything in the Android world, it was necessary to ship early rather than complete. With Ice Cream Sandwich literally making the scene now, it would have been a great addition to this machine. As it stands, it's yet another upgrade users have to do...assuming they every get it which is sadly the way of things with Android upgrades from manufacturers. Lots of promises, poor execution. I could understand it if the issue was shipping ahead of Christmas but the window for that was a number of weeks ago, not early December. Even Amazon was pushing it by having the Kindle Fire launch around Thanksgiving.

    3. The NVidia Kal-El chip has been the talk of tech blogs for months. Quad-core + one low power core sounds pretty cool. But a chip clocked at 1.3 Ghz with 4 cores is barely outrunning a 1 Ghz dual-core A5 that Apple designed a year ago, and gets mostly worse battery life despite the smaller die size of the SOC. Really Nvidia? This is the best you got? The real story should be how Apple is managing to get their performance out of underclocked CPUs and still gets better battery life.

    4. Which brings me to video. Again Nvidia, this is your core competency...graphics. When your butt is getting kicked by a product designed a year ago, that tells me you still have a ways to go in the mobile space before you are truly competitive. The playing of m4v and high profile formats is way cool...props there. But you're still getting boat-raced in the one space where you should be king. C'mon, man...

    Yes, I do like my iPad but I also want these tablets to get better because it makes the entire industry better. But watching some of the comments in these parts strikes me of the upmost in homerism. True, some like being able to warp Android into whatever they want, but many of us grownups have families and frankly, things to do. I don't have the time to fool with tweaking stuff I used to 20 years ago. I want the thing to work the first time. Which brings me to my next point...all that configuration potential is terrible for certain applications. I have an iPad for my special needs son and iOS is the gold standard for special needs applications. Why? Because my son can understand it and not break the thing. Sometimes I don't think many of you realize how hard simplicity really is to achieve. I could never put an Android device in front of him without him putting through a freaking window.

    Lastly, iTunes isn't the world's greatest app but considering all the things it has to do, I amazed it works as well as it does. Most of you have no idea how difficult it is to manage a storefront of its size communicating to what's probably the world's largest ERP system. Is is the best in performance? No, it could be much better. But it chokes on 200 gig of music? My library of 420+gigs of lossless music + another terabyte of ripped video content would like to have a world with you.

    Ice Cream Sandwich looks cool and we'll see Windows tablets sometime in 2012. But for right now, I still haven't seen anyone who can mop the floor with the iPad, no excuses.
    Reply
  • billus - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    One of the first comments that makes sense.

    I see so many people saying that they would never get their parents or kids an iPad. Hate to tell you, but you're not doing them any favors by getting them an Android tablet with the possible exception of the Kindle Fire. You've missed the entire point. Nobody except uber-geeks wants to deal with all that stuff. Say what you will, but for most people, iTunes works just fine and has a low learning curve.

    Now, ICS may be a better much for this tablet, but it's hilarious that, in terms of performance, the iPad beats an nVidia quad-core, has better battery life and even whips it in graphics performance. You've finally matched the original iPad and you're proclaiming victory?

    Regardless, why would I care about all quad-core vs. single-core as long as the darn thing works and is fast enough for me to not notice? My Galaxy is a pain in the *** compared to my iPad-1 and far less useful.
    Reply
  • Lucian Armasu - Sunday, December 04, 2011 - link

    The original iPad? It was the iPad 2 in the charts. Reply
  • TareX - Friday, December 02, 2011 - link

    You said most what I wanted to say; I too have a busy career and don't have time to switch ROMS, and do the tweaking I used to do with my purchases. I have an Atrix and it's running Froyo for heaven's sake.

    I will be holding out till ICS gets released with the Prime. But I'm getting the Prime. I can't wait till next year; and I know I won't be getting an iPad.
    Reply

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