GPU Performance

All of our discussions around the new iPad and its silicon thus far have been in the theoretical space. Unfortunately the state of Android/iOS benchmarking is abysmal at best today. Convincing game developers to include useful benchmarks and timedemo modes in their games is seemingly impossible without a suitably large check. I have no doubt this will happen eventually, but today we're left with some great games and no way to benchmark them.

Without suitable game benchmarks, we rely on GLBenchmark quite a bit to help us in evaluating mobile GPU performance. Although even the current most stressful GLBenchmark test (Egypt) is a far cry from what modern Android/iOS games look like, it's the best we've got today.

We'll start out with the synthetic tests, which should show us roughly a 2x increase in performance compared to the iPad 2. Remember the PowerVR SGX 543MP4 simply bundles four SGX 543 cores instead of two. Since we're still on a 45nm LP process, GPU clocks haven't increased so we're looking at a pure doubling of virtually all GPU resources.

GLBenchmark 2.1—Fill Test

GLBenchmark 2.1—Triangle Test (White)

GLBenchmark 2.1—Triangle Test (Textured, Fragment Lit)

Indeed we see a roughly 2x increase in triangle and fill rates. Below we have the output from GLBenchmark's low level tests. Pay particular attention to how, at 1024 x 768, performance doubles compared to the iPad 2 but at 2048 x 1536 performance can drop to well below what the iPad 2 was able to deliver at 10 x 7. It's because of this drop in performance at the iPad's native resolution that we won't see many (if any at all), visually taxing games run at anywhere near 2048 x 1536.

GLBenchmark 2.1.3 Low Level Comparison
  iPad 2 (10x7) iPad 3 (10x7) iPad 3 (20x15) ASUS TF Prime
Trigonometric test—vertex weighted
35 fps
60 fps
57 fps
47 fps
Trigonometric test—fragment weighted
7 fps
14 fps
4 fps
20 fps
Trigonometric test—balanced
5 fps
10 fps
2 fps
9 fps
Exponential test—vertex weighted
59 fps
60 fps
60 fps
41 fps
Exponential test—fragment weighted
25 fps
49 fps
13 fps
18 fps
Exponential test—balanced
19 fps
37 fps
8 fps
7 fps
Common test—vertex weighted
49 fps
60 fps
60 fps
35 fps
Common test—fragment weighted
8 fps
16 fps
4 fps
28 fps
Common test—balanced
6 fps
13 fps
2 fps
12 fps
Geometric test—vertex weighted
57 fps
60 fps
60 fps
27 fps
Geometric test—fragment weighted
12 fps
24 fps
6 fps
20 fps
Geometric test—balanced
9 fps
18 fps
4 fps
9 fps
For loop test—vertex weighted
59 fps
60 fps
60 fps
28 fps
For loop test—fragment weighted
30 fps
57 fps
16 fps
42 fps
For loop test—balanced
22 fps
43 fps
11 fps
15 fps
Branching test—vertex weighted
58 fps
60 fps
60 fps
45 fps
Branching test—fragment weighted
58 fps
60 fps
30 fps
46 fps
Branching test—balanced
22 fps
43 fps
16 fps
16 fps
Array test—uniform array access
59 fps
60 fps
60 fps
60 fps
Fill test—Texture Fetch
1001483136 texels/s
1977874688
texels/s
1904501632
texels/s
415164192
texels/s
Triangle test—white
65039568
triangles/s
133523176
triangles/s
85110008
triangles/s
55729532
triangles/s
Triangle test—textured
56129984
triangles/s
116735856
triangles/s
71362616
triangles/s
54023840
triangles/s
Triangle test—textured, vertex lit
45314484
triangles/s
93638456
triangles/s
46841924
triangles/s
28916834
triangles/s
Triangle test—textured, fragment lit
43527292
triangles/s
92831152
triangles/s
39277916
triangles/s
26935792
triangles/s

GLBenchmark also includes two tests designed to be representative of a workload you could see in an actual 3D game. The older Pro test uses OpenGL ES 1.0 while Egypt is an ES 2.0 test. These tests can either run at the device's native resolution with vsync enabled, or rendered offscreen at 1280 x 720 with vsync disabled. The latter offers us a way to compare GPUs without device screen resolution creating unfair advantages.

Unfortunately there was a bug in the iOS version of GLBenchmark 2.1.2 that resulted in all on-screen benchmarks running at 1024 x 768 rather than the new iPad's native 2048 x 1536 resolution. This is why all of the native GLBenchmark scores from the new iPad are capped at 60 fps. It's not because the new GPU is fast enough to render at speeds above 60 fps at 2048 x 1536, it's because the benchmark is actually showing performance at 1024 x 768. Luckily, GLBenchmark 2.1.3 fixes this problem and delivers results at the new iPad's native screen resolution:

GLBenchmark 2.1—Egypt (Standard)

GLBenchmark 2.1—Pro (Standard)

Surprisingly enough, the A5X is actually fast enough to complete these tests at over 50 fps. Perhaps this is more of an indication of how light the Egypt workload has become, as the current crop of Retina Display enhanced 3D titles for the iPad all render offscreen to a non-native resolution due to performance constraints. The bigger takeaway is that with the 543MP4 and a quad-channel LP-DDR2 interface, it is possible to run a 3D game at 2048 x 1536 and deliver playable frame rates. It won't be the prettiest game around, but it's definitely possible.

The offscreen results give us the competitive analysis that we've been looking for. With a ~2x die size advantage, the fact that we're seeing a 2-3x gap in performance here vs. NVIDIA's Tegra 3 isn't surprising:

GLBenchmark 2.1—Egypt—Offscreen 720p

GLBenchmark 2.1—Pro—Offscreen 720p

The bigger worry is what happens when the first 1920 x 1200 enabled Tegra 3 tablets start shipping. With (presumably) no additional GPU horsepower or memory bandwidth under the hood, we'll see this gap widen.

The Impact of Larger Memory A5X vs. Tegra 3 in the Real World
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  • PeteH - Tuesday, April 03, 2012 - link

    I have to be honest, after reading through that link I didn't see anything that even implied working conditions had anything to do with the suicides of the factory workers. The only suicide for which there was any real information provided was that of the worker who killed himself after losing the iPhone prototype, and in that case the victim wasn't a factory worker, but someone in logistics.

    Did working conditions have anything to do with the factory worker suicides? Maybe, maybe not. There doesn't appear to be evidence either way.
    Reply
  • mr_ripley - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    I posted the Wikipedia link for all the links in the reference section.

    Here's a more direct report: http://sacom.hk/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/report-...

    And a companion video: http://vimeo.com/17558439

    The video includes an interview of a survivor who is now paralyzed waist down.

    You can choose to patiently read and watch this report or just turn a blind eye like a lot of people do.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    I did read the report. It details unbelievably miserable working conditions in the factories, which I don't think anyone is disputing, and concludes that the way to change those conditions is to pressure the electronics companies making the bulk of the profits. None of the above comments dispute any of this. However it does not link working conditions to suicides among factory workers.

    And yet you continue to insist that there is a link, with no evidence to back it up. You make statements like, "over a hundred of them have committed suicide over the working conditions," "...scores of people killing themselves citing poor working conditions," and "there is no disputing the fact that these deaths are related to working conditions," but you provide only conjecture to back it up, no proof. When you do this people start dismissing everything you say out of hand, even the things that are accurate. And worse than that, you run the risk that other people arguing for better working conditions will be tarred with the same brush. Look at what happened to Mike Daisy.

    Again, I'm not saying working conditions didn't contribute to the suicides, I'm saying there is no evidence one way or the other. Until you have evidence (in the form of suicide notes, higher suicide rates among factory workers, etc.) please stop. You may actually be hurting the very movement you're trying to help.
    Reply
  • mr_ripley - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Well, I'm sorry if it is inconvenient for you that these individuals have not said it in so many words. Should we expect them to?... Hey, by the way, I know you're going to kill yourself but why don't your write down an explanation first so we can conclusivly say what the reasons are. And even though you are under a lot of stress right now and are clearly not thinking straight SPELL it our for me please...

    Evidence can come in different forms. Not all of it is directly incriminating, in which case the attention turns to the circumstances. So if these reports don't establish a reasonbly clear coorelation to you, then I am sorry but I disagree.

    You can nitpick on specific words in my comments and quible about words such as evidence. But what are you accomplishing here? Are you justifying your own guilt of purchasing a device manufactured here? Are you an Apple or Foxconn mouthpeice? Do they pay your for spreading lies like Foxconn factories are actually a good place to work (which has been said in the previous comments)? Really, it is people like you need to STOP.

    I'm not going to stop saying what I believe is right!! And unlike Mike Daisy I have not fabricated any evidence. At the most, you can complain that I have drawn incorrect conclusions and I am saying the same about you.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    It's inconvenient for me that you are lying. You're the one saying that there are, "...scores of people killing themselves citing poor working conditions," not me. Either show me a case where those people who killed themselves cited poor working conditions as the reason, or cease claiming it is fact. You do damage to the movement that's trying to improve things.

    People hear the news reports about Mike Daisy lying to Ira Glass and what they take away is not the specific lies (claiming to witness things had actually happened but that he had only read about), it's that he's a liar and the story wasn't true. They dismiss the whole issue of poor working conditions out of hand. That's what you risk when you lie to get people to listen.
    Reply
  • mr_ripley - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Go ahead, nitpick on specific phrases and completely lose the meaning. But the problem is easily corrected. One can argue that citing something does not have to be done on paper as you would in a professional article. To me the workers "cite" the existence of a problem through their actions as words have failed them.

    Still if you want me to rephrase I'll say "scores of people killing themselves in midst of poor working conditions.." Can you prove that this statement is inaccurate??

    And while you ask me for evidence have you ever bothered to see if you can find evidence that these deaths are not related to working conditions. Prove it to me and I'll take back everything I said.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    I think you missed the places above where I stated, "I'm not saying working conditions didn't contribute to the suicides, I'm saying there is no evidence one way or the other." That was my whole point. And I did explicitly state that there's no disputing the poor working conditions. So no, I have no problem with your revised statement.

    However, I don't think what I did was nitpicking at all. Nitpicking would be pointing out that a score is 20, so scores would imply at least 40, and I've only seen documentation of 17 suicides (I haven't seen numbers pre-2010). But that's not what I did.
    Reply
  • shompa - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Manufacturing employees?

    Look at the world! There are about 20 countries in the world that are democratic and have great living standards. Its just 100 years ago since these countries had child workers and harsh condition.

    BTW. My county is on the "top countries" in the world. Still we have the largest suicide rate in our population in the world. Why are you not fighting against the Swedish government that drives thousands to kill them self each year? We live like slaves here with 80% taxes.

    BTW. Do you care if other companies use HonHai/FoxConn or is it just Apple? Are you writing the same thing about Dell/HP and all other companies that use FoxConn?

    What have you done?
    Have you donated money to a chinese worker? Or is Trolling the only thing you manage to do?

    Reply
  • grave00 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I was curious about this statement. Could you elaborate. What inconsistency is there?

    "On the iPhone Apple has been entirely too lax about maintaining consistency between suppliers. If it wants to be taken seriously in this space Apple needs to ensure a consistent experience across all of its component vendors."
    Reply
  • loboracing - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I remember an ad that touted something new to "see and touch". The retina screen is the "see" part but what about the "touch"? Was that just a gimmick meaning you could touch the screen, or is there some sort of different feel to the screen? Reply

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