Gaming Conclusion

In situations where a game is available in both the iOS app store as well as NVIDIA's Tegra Zone, NVIDIA generally delivers a comparable gaming experience to what you get on the iPad. In some cases you even get improved visual quality as well. The iPad's GPU performance advantage just isn't evident in those cases—likely because the bulk of iOS devices out there still use far weaker GPUs. That's effectively a software answer to a hardware challenge, but it's true.

NVIDIA isn't completely vindicated however. In Apple's corner you have Infinity Blade 2 and the upcoming Infinity Blade Dungeons, both of which appear to offer a significant visual advantage over the best of the best that's available on Android today. There are obvious business complexities that are the cause of this today, but if you want to play those games you need to buy an iPad.

The final point is this: Tegra 3 can deliver a good gaming experience on Android, we've already demonstrated that. But as a GPU company NVIDIA should know that it isn't about delivering the minimum acceptable experience, but rather pushing the industry forward. Just last week NVIDIA launched a $500 GPU that is overkill for the vast majority of users. But NVIDIA built the GeForce GTX 680 to move the industry forward, and it's a shame that it hasn't done so in the mobile SoC space thus far.

Controller Support: An Android Advantage

With Honeycomb and subsequent versions of Android, Google baked in wired and wireless controller support into the OS. NVIDIA worked with game developers to ensure proper support for these controllers made it into their games and as a result there are a number of titles available through Tegra Zone that offer support for external gamepads. Logitech's Wireless Gamepad F710 comes with a USB nano receiver that can be plugged into the Transformer Prime's dock. It's using this controller that I played Shadowgun, GTA 3 and Riptide. Out of the three, the ability to use a gamepad made GTA 3 much more enjoyable (and it made me much better at the game as well).

Although many casual Android/iOS games do just fine with touch, some are certainly better suited for some sort of a controller. While controller support in Android in its infancy at best, it's more than iOS currently offers. I know of an internal Apple project to bring a physical controller to market, but whether or not it will ever see the light of day remains to be seen. As smartphones and tablets come close to equalling the performance of current game consoles, I feel like the controller problem must be addressed.

There's also the chance that physical controls will lose out entirely with these devices. A friend of mine in the game industry once said that we are too quick to forget how superior input devices don't always win. The keyboard + mouse is a much more precise setup for a first person shooter, but much FPS development these days is targeted at gamepads instead. The same could eventually be true for touch based devices, but it's too early to tell. Until then I'm hoping we see continued controller support in Android and hopefully that'll put some pressure on Apple to do the same. It is an important consideration for the future of gaming on these platforms.

A5X vs. Tegra 3 in the Real World WiFi, GPS & AirPlay
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  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    No idea. Was it necessary to upgrade the GPU to get an equivalent experience on the larger screen in that case, or was performance on the 3GS limited by the CPU (or RAM, or something else)? Reply
  • zorxd - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    just look at benchmarks on this web site

    The iPhone 3GS gets more FPS in 3D games because of the lower resolution.

    So in short, yes, it would have been necessary to upgrade the GPU to keep the same performance.

    But no matter what Apple does, people will always say it's the right choice.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    I looked for a comparison between 3GS and 4 game FPS comparison and couldn't find anything. Can you point me to it?

    I'm looking for hard numbers because just increasing the resolution doesn't necessarily mean a GPU upgrade is necessary. If (and this is completely hypothetical) the 3GS was performance limited because of its CPU, improving the CPU in the 4 could allow it to achieve the same performance at a higher resolution.

    I'm not remotely saying this is the case, just that I've seen no numbers demonstrating a drop in frame rate from the 3GS to the 4.
    Reply
  • dagamer34 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I believe the GPU got a clock speed increase when it went from the 3GS to the 4. Reply
  • Peter_St - Monday, April 02, 2012 - link

    Oh wait, let me rephrase this: I have this nice shiny tower with 2GB of RAM and newest CPU out there but shitty OS with java hogs and memory leaks, but who cares, I'll just go and jerk off on the specs.

    I think that's what you wanted to say...
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    GPUs which consume hundreds of times more watts than SoCs like this and have much more memory bandwidth at their disposal still struggle with the resolution this thing is displaying. The Xbox 360 GPU has, if I recall, around 25GB/s vs 6 in this, and that struggles to run games at 720p in a constant 30FPS. So far, it seems like the retina compatible games do display at native res, but there aren't any improvements in textures, effects, etc. So would the additional GPU power effectively be negated by the resolution for native apps, and still be constrained to games that look straight out of 2003-4? Or is Imagination Tech's video memory compression that much more advanced than AMDs/Nvidias so bandwidth doesn't matter as much? Reply
  • zorxd - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    It's not only about the resolution. You could probably play Doom just fine with the SGX543MP4 at this resolution. The problem is when you have more complex level of details, shaders, etc. The iPad couldn't play a game like Crysis even at half resolution. But even at 2048x1536, Doom will still look like a game of the 90s. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    *12.8GB/s, my mistake Reply
  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    What's battery life watching a bunch of movies.. say from New York to Hawaii? Will I be able to get 9 hours??

    Can run all the compute benchies we want, but primarily these are portable entertainment devices. The simplest use being the most common.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - link

    Depends how bright you want the display, but from the number they're posting you should be fine at < 70% max brightness.

    I would argue that the most common use case is probably web browsing though, not movie watching. Unless... how often are you on these flights from New York to Hawaii?
    Reply

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