The SoC & Performance

While Amazon chose TI's OMAP 4 for the Kindle Fire, Google and ASUS picked arguably the second best SoC on the market today: NVIDIA's Tegra 3. Keep in mind that high-end ARM SoCs generally sell in the $14 - $25 range per chip, which a fabless semiconductor manufacturer has to split with a foundry. The result is a far cry from the margins NVIDIA is used to making on high-end discrete GPUs. I suspect a desire to make good use of all functional Tegra 3 parts that come back from the fab is the reason why we have so many variants of the Tegra 3.

To date we've seen three Tegra 3 SKUs used in tablets: T30L, T30 and T33. Factor in the smartphone SKUs (AP30, AP33) and it's already a pretty healthy collection for a single chip. The main differences between the 30L, 30 and 33 parts are voltages and clock speeds. I've shown this table in previous articles but I present it here again since T30L is what's in the Nexus 7:

NVIDIA Tegra 3
  CPU Cores Max CPU Clock (1 core active) Max CPU Clock (multiple cores) GPU Cores Max GPU Clock
NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T33) 4+1 1.7GHz 1.6GHz 12 520MHz
NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30) 4+1 1.4GHz 1.3GHz 12 520MHz
NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L) 4+1 1.3GHz 1.2GHz 12 416MHz

The loss in performance compared to T30/T33 is marginal at best, at least for most consumer use cases. Four Cortex A9s running at up to 1.3GHz is definitely quick enough for the types of applications you'll run on the Nexus 7. Things can always be faster, but like the Kindle Fire's OMAP 4, the Nexus 7's T30L is good enough for now. Give it another year and we'll see something even faster at this price point. That's the downside of buying anything in the tablet/smartphone space these days unfortunately.

ASUS Android Tablet Memory Choices
  TF Prime TF Pad 300 Nexus 7 TF Pad Infinity
Memory Capacity 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
Memory Type DDR2-1000 DDR3L-1333 DDR3L-1333 DDR3-1600
Memory Bandwidth 4.0GB/s 5.3GB/s 5.3GB/s 6.4GB/s

ASUS selected 1GB of DDR3L-1333 memory for the Nexus 7. This gives it more memory bandwidth than any of the Transformer series of tablets, with the exception of the Transformer Pad Infinity. Since the Tegra 3 SoC only has a single channel memory interface, ASUS had to rely on higher frequency memory to deliver sufficient bandwidth.

Note that the browser performance tests below paint a very good picture for the Nexus 7's performance because Android 4.1 replaces the default web browser with Chrome, with a much faster javascript engine.

SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark 0.9.1

Rightware BrowserMark

The Display GPU Performance
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  • Death666Angel - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    My Chinese tablet and my SGS2 have Wifi set to always on and there is nearly no battery drainage. My SGS2 has standby time of over 5 days with Wifi on and occasional talks. My tablet has standby for over 2 days and I have never gotten it from 100% to <5% battery in a single day so far.
    Wifi is quite tame these days, I don't see any reason to not have it on all the time.
    Reply
  • sjvarley - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    "the limited NAND capacity prevents the Nexus 7 from being home to more than a single full length movie"

    Really?

    If you need 8GB to store a full length movie on a tablet, then you're using the wrong codec.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Yeah, on a 7" screen a 700MB rip should look fine. Reply
  • ssddaydream - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    I like to use uncompressed MKV.
    One of the things I would love if Anantech looked at was ability for the tablet to decode various vidoeos.
    For example, I've had some trouble playing h264 1080p .MOV files smoothly (it was pretty bad, actually), but I haven't messed with it much yet. I'm confident that a good codec for 1080p content should scale the Nexus 7 display properly and still provide fluid playback.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    Since the SoC is strong enough to play back anything I throw at it from my normal TV media station, why I should I have to re-encode it for storage sake when storage is about the cheapest thing in the BOM of any tablet? Yes, I can do that, but I gain nothing from it except spend time when a few dollars worth of NAND could have gotten better results.
    And 700mb for 720p lasts you about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how many audio streams you have and how much quality you want.
    Reply
  • Torrijos - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Hi,
    nice review, as always, but a couple of reviews back you had a plot about device efficiency (a quotient of battery life and battery size).

    It would be nice to have a repository article following the evolution of power efficiency with OS updates and the influence of the different CPU architectures.
    Reply
  • tukkas - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    how can the nexus 7 handle a shared device (i.e. multiple family members or guests) who don't want their gmail to necessarily be viewable by all? thank you Reply
  • Hacp - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Why only bronze? I say if you are looking to buy a tablet without data, the Nexus 7 is at the best price point . Anandtech used to be about price/performance. I'm dissapointed. Reply
  • will2 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    An excellent review very thorough in important areas not covered by other reviewers, and with good insights comparing N7 with alternatives.

    However I think your verdict should list more negatives than limited unexpandable storage. To my mind another serious limitation of the hardware is lack of HDMI out.
    I seek a small tablet (with enough memory to hold a reasonable selection of films) I can take around the home and plug into any TV to view, or likewise watch the films at a friends home. I want a tablet to be more multifunction, so when at the bedside it can be both both monitor CCTV and be used as an Alarm Clock Radio as it almost certainly has a FM radio in the same Broadcom chip for the WiFi & BT. Adding HDMI Out, be it via discrete HDMI socket, or cheap USB/MHL solution, and making available the embedded FM Radio, adds neglible cost to the product and makes it more widely useful.
    Reply
  • TareX - Friday, August 03, 2012 - link

    Then you don't want a $199 tablet. Reply

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