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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  • gamoniac - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    The article is co-authored, yet I keep seeing the use of "I" as the pronoun in sentences throughout. As a daily AT reader, I find it a bit awkard when trying to put a face to the article. I like the writing style; it just bugs me when I can't figure out whether it is Anand or Brian who is making the statement that I am reading. Perhaps the use of "we" makes more sense?

    Thanks. Great work as usual.
    Reply
  • Omid.M - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    As an editor, I agree with this comment.

    It's not a huge deal, but it's nice to see:

    AL: I think that...

    BK: I disagree with Anand, but...

    Just don't do it everywhere because it'll seem like an interview.

    Anand,

    The videos have been the best new thing AT has done in a long time. Thanks! Good to put faces to names, even better to add voices. Next, comment system ;)

    @moids

    -Omid
    Reply
  • bjacobson - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Perhaps writers at Anand should be required to speak in terms of The Collective. Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    This is definitely something we've struggled with in the past and admittedly continue to struggle with. Most of ICS is Anand (though we collaborated and always wind up agreeing about most things), then the hardware and onwards is myself.

    Think of us as a hivemind (or collective) and the problem goes away :P

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

    Or write in 3rd person like a technical paper. Though that can be boring to read. Reply
  • just4U - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    "Think of us as a hivemind (or collective) and the problem goes away :P
    -Brian"

    ------

    It does NOT!! Ok, which bonehead asimilated Brian & Anand? There goes the neighborhood (...grin)
    Reply
  • thebitdnd - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    I've had my GNex since the day after launch. It surpasses any experience I've had with a smartphone (including HTC Incredible, iPhone 3GS, and a HTC EVO) as a web browser and mobile computer device, but the single complaint I have is with using it as a...(wait for it) PHONE.

    I've had over a dozen calls now where I'll be conversing away and all of the sudden my microphone cuts out and the other person can't hear a word I'm saying. The call is still connected and I can hear them just fine, but I have to hang up each time and call them back.

    Google directed me to Verizon, Verizon says it's a Samsung/Google problem, but I've been assured it's a software problem and there will be a fix in 'an upcoming update'.

    As much as I like the hardware and software, not making reliable calls is a real kick in the junk for a smartphone.
    Reply
  • jalexoid - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Well, what did you want with CDMA or LTE? No bugs? Reply
  • mhaager2 - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Great review as always Anand. My only criticism is that it felt like it took you a very long time to get this review out compared to how quickly the iphone 4S review came out. I think your comments about the hardware are correct; its certainly not leaps and bounds ahead of other phones. Being my first phone since the iphone 3G I do wish it was more bleeding edge to future proof it a bit. However it actually works very well, both as a content consumption device, as well as (gasp) as a phone, and I just love, love, love that fact that its penta band. Now when I visit the US I no longer have to endure the legal extortion that used to be the norm with carrier locked devices. That feature alone makes this phone better than any other out there,, old GPU and all.

    Has anyone overclocked this to its 1.5 ghz spec? I wonder if there is any appreciable differerence and what the battery life trade off is.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    I can only speak from my experience with my Nexus S, but the max CPU speed has little battery life impact compared to the impact the CPU governor does. 1.3GHz with the Lazy governor (available in Trinity Kernel) lasts longer than the stock 1GHz on OnDemand. Reply

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