The SoC: TI's OMAP 4460

The launch platform for Ice Cream Sandwich was TI's OMAP 4460. Unlike previous Android releases however, it seems that other SoCs will see their ICS ports done in a much quicker manner. It took a very long time for Honeycomb to be ported to other SoCs, whereas a number of companies have already demonstrated ICS running on their hardware (e.g. Intel, NVIDIA). If this is the case going forward, the launch vehicle for a new Android version may not mean what it used to.

The OMAP 4460 is a fairly standard, yet full featured dual-core ARM Cortex A9 SoC. You get two A9 cores complete with MPE (NEON support), behind a shared 1MB L2 cache. The SoC features two 32-bit LPDDR2 memory channels as well. The GPU is provided by Imagination Technologies in the form of a PowerVR SGX 540.

Max clocks for the OMAP 4460 are 1.5GHz for the CPUs and 384MHz for the GPU. As with all SoCs, all final clocks are OEM customizable to hit their desired point on the performance/battery life curve. Google and Samsung settled on 1.2GHz for the cores and 307MHz for the GPU, both exactly 80% of the OMAP 4460's max frequencies. Sprint recently announced its Galaxy Nexus would run at 1.5GHz. It's quite possible that we'll see a jump in GPU clocks there as well since the two may run in lockstep.

From a CPU standpoint the 4460 is competitive with pretty much everything else on the market (A5, Exynos, Tegra 2, Snapdragon S3). The 4460 does have more memory bandwidth than Tegra 2, Tegra 3 and Snapdragon, but it's comparable to Apple's A5 and Samsung's Exynos 4210. It's the GPU that's a bit dated at this point; the PowerVR SGX 540 typically delivers Tegra 2-class performance. A quick look at GLBenchmark and Basemark results echoes our findings:

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt - Offscreen (720p)
 
GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro - Offscreen (720p)
 
RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Taiji
 
RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Hoverjet

At 720p, which happens to be the GN's native resolution, the OMAP 4460 is much faster than Tegra 2. It's also important to note just how much faster Tegra 3's GPU is by comparison.

I understand why Google didn't wait for a Krait based SoC, however I don't believe the OMAP 4460 was the best bet given the launch timeframe of the Galaxy Nexus. Based on performance alone, Google should have picked Tegra 3 as the launch platform for ICS. GPU performance is much better than the SGX 540 and there's comparable CPU performance. It's possible that Google needed the memory bandwidth offered by OMAP 4, but we'll find out for sure soon enough as the first Tegra 3 device (ASUS' TF Prime) is slated to get ICS this week.

I'm also less concerned about power consumption being an issue since NVIDIA added full power gating to all of the cores in Tegra 3. With a conservative enough power profile Google could have guaranteed battery life similar to OMAP 4460 out of Tegra 3.

I get the feeling that Google wasn't very pleased with NVIDIA after Honeycomb and chose to work with TI this time around for reasons other than absolute performance. If it weren't for the fact that Tegra 3 and other SoCs appear to be getting ICS in fairly short form I'd be more upset over this decision. To be honest, the choice of SoC simply hurts the Galaxy Nexus as a phone. If I were you, I'd wait for a Krait based device.

The Galaxy Nexus - Hardware and Aesthetics Camera - Stills and Video
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  • Brian Klug - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Interesting. I originally picked S5K4E5 family as being the likely choice - as it's the BSI equivalent, and though that was what was inside until I decompiled/dug around inside the ducati-m3.bin file as noted in the review.

    You'll see numerous references to "S5K4E1G" and none for "S5K4E5" which is the BSI version. EG:

    "CSI.COMPLEIO¿F¿MSP.NEW_SENSOR¿S5K4E1GA¿F¿S5K6A1GX03¿MSP.NEW_LENS¿F¿VM149C¿MSP.NEW_CSICSI2A¿FCSI2B"

    It could very well be BSI since they've x-rayed it.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • tom5 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Official Samsung site says SGS II has quad band 3G and Galaxy Nexus has penta-band 3G, so there's a difference in GSM connectivity:
    http://goo.gl/gvIWV
    Reply
  • Stas - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    I appreciate the thoroughness in this review, Anand.
    Interesting, however, how I find so many things about the software completely irrelevant to someone who just can't leave things vanilla. Browser performance and features, launcher scrolling, screenshots, on-screen keyboard, etc. None of those things are in their original Android form on my phone (SGS2). Some issues have been addressed by Samsung, some by XDA developers, some by myself. As a result, I believe I have the perfect phone on the market (for me). Reading every section of this article, I kept finding myself thinking, "Heh, my phone doesn't have that problem," or, "Mine does that even better," or, "would suck to have that phone instead of my Galaxy."
    I always thought advancement in tech = replacing devices sooner. However, after reading this review, I have no desire whatsoever to replace my current phone with the new flagship. I always get that feeling when I read a video card review, CPU review, SSD review, etc. But I feel like my phone lacks nothing, and I will stick with it for a long while. Customizing and tweaking software to your own taste, making it feel just right is the most important aspect of an electronic device that provides so much interaction. I guess that's why I almost feel handicapped on a stock Android phone or, especially, iPhone. The devices just feel so clunky and unrefined.
    Thank you, if nothing else, for helping me see a different perspective on things :)
    Reply
  • Lucian Armasu - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    1. Can you re-check and confirm if swiping tabs off in the task menu, actually KILLS the apps, or it just takes them off the list? Because I've heard before that it doesn't kill them.

    2. The battery tests, especially the Wi-Fi ones, were they done with 3G and LTE on?
    Reply
  • silow675 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    "At 720p, which happens to be the GN's native resolution, the OMAP 4460 is a bit faster than Tegra 2 but not significantly so. The more important thing to keep in mind is just how much faster Tegra 3's GPU is by comparison"

    I don't understand this remark. The chart that's posted for the 720p offscreen renders don't have a Tegra 2 device. In the RightWare charts the Galaxy Nexus scores much more than "a bit faster" than the Tegra 2 devices. And to my knowledge no Tegra 2 smartphones are offered at native 720p resolution.

    I also checked the AT Bench database and couldn't find any Tegra 2 benchmarks to compare. Do you guys have some unposted numbers?
    Reply
  • RobElk - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    You guys do a great job. Love the attention to detail in your review. Thanks. Reply
  • DrKlahn - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    I found this comment interesting. I have had the phone since launch day (VZW) and have yet to notice any lag hitting the virtual buttons. Perhaps I am just not as sensitive to it or some other process on your test phone is affecting it. I have got the phone to lag doing some very intensive tasks on occasion, but it's very infrequent. My chief complaint has been the volume which I remedied with a free app (Volume+ with the +2 setting). Otherwise I give the phone very high marks. I have no real desire to root or tinker with it yet, the stock experience is excellent. Reply
  • peokuk - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    for the font comparison, why not 'the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog'? using cat and jumped leaves out the letters 'g' and 's'...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_quick_brown_fox_j...
    Reply
  • DanSmith - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    No one has actually said it yet so I will. Good review guys, in depth and informative as always.
    Thanks for your hard work.

    Dan
    Reply
  • DanSmith - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Actually, someone already has! Seems the internet is not completely populated by haters. :) Reply

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