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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  • jamyryals - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    I liked this review very much. Do a video wrap up of the CES experience! Reply
  • HangFire - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Anand,

    Are you using 2.2 era data for Thunderbolt battery life in the graph, or are you using modern Gingerbread data? The Thunderbolt has come a long way in managing battery life since introduction.

    HF
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    HF,

    Yeah, we're using the initial launch performance of the HTC Thunderbolt here. Unfortunately HTC wanted that phone back, so we can't test with the newer updates. This is one thing we're working on changing this year.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • lewchenko74 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    I moved from an iphone 4 to the Galaxy Nexus... and there are issues that are not listed in this review.
    My only previous Android phone was a HTC Hero, which I rooted to 2.1 after no carrier support (Orange in the UK suck). Im happy with ICS in general.. but the phone itself has 2 really annoying major flaws which have happened to me on many occasion ...

    1. The random turn off problem.

    2. The random mic turning off mid call problem.

    Both are discussed quite a bit on sites like androidcentral.com and xda-developers.com forums, and seem to be happening to MANY (see the forum pages yourself) people, whether you have a GSM version, US phone on all versions of ICS. Swapping out hardware for a different phone is not solving the problems, and whilst infrequent for me , they happen to other people far more. (and not at all to some people..)

    In other words... Either ICS has a couple of critical bugs, or the hardware is at fault (or the firmware)..

    Both issues are apparently acknowledged by google as well.... yet seem to be getting little to no publicity. BGR.com recently reported the random turn off problem with the Nexus.

    So well done on the thorough review, but I wish somebody had warned me about these issues.

    I dont regret switching from the iphone 4 (screen was too small, and the lack of customisation was frustrating.. and the 4s was such a major dissapointment)... the Galaxy Nexus is a phone with serious problems (hopefuly ones that can be resolved with updates).

    Links to the forum pages of the issues :

    http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=...
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1...
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1...
    http://forums.androidcentral.com/samsung-galaxy-ne...
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    These both seem like a very common issue. Pretty serious problems too, not exactly something small. Disappointing to see no mention of this in the article. Reply
  • anandtech pirate - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    really? you guys, a tech site, uploaded a 480p quality video in 2012? sigh.... Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Ah yes, if I can't see every follicle in his beard the review loses all its informativeness! lol Reply
  • Nevod - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Very weird battery life measurements.
    Judging by Wi-Fi hotspot and Talk time, Wi-Fi and cellular basebands are comparable in efficiency to other modern devices. Advantage over SGSII seems to be proportional to battery.
    Cellular web browsing time is quite good. Yet so low Wi-Fi browsing time - looks like it goes into some "hunger mode", like not caching anything when on Wi-Fi.

    Also, there is an option in ICS browser to invert colors, switches black and white , probably to extend battery life on OLED screens, as, well, sites usually have white backgrounds and that's not very nice to battery. Would be interesting to see tests of battery performance on inverted colors.
    Reply
  • Bytales - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Please Anandtech, if you have the posibillity, make a review of Galaxy Note Reply
  • Artifex28 - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    You should use some curtains to kill the early reflections from concrete walls. :) Reply

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