GPU Performance

Although most of the industry has done a great job in pushing CPU performance forward, Apple remains largely uncontested when it comes to mobile GPU performance. This isn't really due to some unsurmountable advantage, but rather a willingness to spend on SoC die area and incorporate big GPUs into its designs. The graphics IP all comes from Imagination Technologies, and although it's very well integrated by Apple, there are other SoC vendors that could push the envelope here - they simply have chosen not to.

Things are beginning to change as we saw with the introduction of Qualcomm's Adreno 320 based Snapdragon S4 Pro. NVIDIA's Wayne (Tegra 4?) SoC is expected to be much more competitive on this front as well.

As a result of many of the competing devices using slower GPUs, the mini looks a lot better in our GLBenchmark tests than its competitors.

We'll start out with the raw theoretical numbers beginning with fill rate:

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Fill Test

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Fill Test (Offscreen 1080p)

Other than the Nexus 10, the only devices that outperform the iPad mini here are other iPads or the iPhone 5. The mini's low native resolution will help ensure that gaming performance remains high for any currently available content.

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test (Offscreen 1080p)

Triangle throughput looks very good here although the Tegra 3 based Nexus 7 is able to pull ahead on the offscreen test.

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test - Fragment Lit

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test - Fragment Lit (Offscreen 1080p)

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test - Vertex Lit

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Triangle Texture Test - Vertex Lit (Offscreen 1080p)

The mini continues to do quite well here vs the competition, although in the heavier triangle tests we see a clear difference between it and the A5X/A6/A6X based iOS devices.

With the synthetics out of the way, we can look at simulated game performance using the Egypt HD and Egypt Classic benchmarks. Remember the on-screen tests are run at native resolution with v-sync enabled, while the offscreen tests are run at 1080p with v-sync disabled for an architectural apples-to-apples comparison.

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt HD

The mini does reasonably well running Egypt HD, which is a good indicator of future gaming performance on the device (perhaps ~2 years out for high end titles). The iPad 4's GPU does a good job of keeping up with its insane display resolution. The Nexus 7 doesn't fare nearly as well. Tegra 3 manages to run most current games just fine, looking forward though the GPU will probably not age too well.

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt HD (Offscreen 1080p)

The offscreen tests show us what everything is really capable of given equal footing, and here the mini looks a lot more middle-of-the-road.

The Egypt Classic test is a much lighter workload, as a result most of these devices hit 60 fps at their native resolution:

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt Classic

Although Egypt HD is a bit overkill for today's games, Classic undershoots by a good amount. The offscreen test however does provide some guidance as to whether or not these devices would be able to hit 30 fps on an appreciably heavier workload:

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt Classic (Offscreen 1080p)

The mini does a good job here, although the iPad 3/4 and iPhone 5 are clearly quicker.

Overall the mini isn't a performance slouch. If you thought the iPad 2 was fast enough, the mini won't dissappoint. Its GPU remains very good and should be able to handle both present and upcoming iOS games. That being said, if Apple remains true to its typical cadence and gives next year's mini an A6 SoC I think that will end up being a much better match of price/performance.

CPU Performance Battery Life and Charging
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  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Top of the summary gives it away:
    "In my first week with the iPad mini, it quickly became the iPad I actually wanted to carry around. The mini's form factor is really where all of the innovation is. It's thin, light and an almost perfect balance of functional screen size and portability. I really love this form factor."

    By specs, the mini is unimpressive. It's using a SOC introduced in early 2011. We've been accustomed to high resolution mini-tablets from B&N, Amazon, Google, etc. It has less memory and costs significantly more (particularly for higher SKUs).

    But, at least for the reviewer, the form factor trumps all these things, at least for purposes of a "carry computer". Thinner and lighter than the 7" tablet comparison, with significantly more usable display space (Android 4.x soft buttons do not help here) in nearly the same frontal area.

    Would it be a better product if it sported an A6X SOC and a retina display? Certainly, on paper. It also likely would need a ~25 Wh battery and substantial increases in both weight and thickness .. same sort of changes from the iPad 2 to iPad 3.

    iPad mini should have been introduced last year when the 32nm SOC was available IMO .. it would have provided a useful bifurcation vs the 3rd gen iPad's bulk gains, and perhaps we'd have an A6 SOC in the iPad mini today.
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    not sure how that quote answers Jorange's questions. but that's the internet nowadays. Reply
  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Is it? It looks like it's a reply to Greg512. Certainly that's how I intended it.

    But, as you say, that's the internet nowadays.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I doubt Apple could have shipped a 32nm SoC last year in volume. The A5r2 was already the first shipping SoC produced on Samsung's 32nm process, ahead of Samsung's own designs, when it launched on the iPad2,4 in March 2012. And that was only used for low volume test production with the 45nm A5 iPad 2 continuing to be available. Apple prioritizing the iPhone 5 to receive a 32nm SoC first and waiting until now for high volume 32nm production to introduce 32nm iPad Mini, 5th gen iPod Touch, and iPad 4 makes sense. Reply
  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Good point.. I thought it had shipped late last year. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    "By specs, the mini is unimpressive."

    GPU performance is still surprisingly good, better than even the newest Android-running hardware. What is it with other companies not keeping up with Apple's older hardware?
    Reply
  • Greg512 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Yea, the GPU is good. But, for the price, the screen, CPU, and RAM are kinda poor. The Mini performs well now, but I question its long-term viability. Reply
  • marvdmartian - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Typical Apple product, that will sell like hotcakes: getting less, paying more, nothing new. Reply
  • drx11 - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    ---------------------------------------------------------
    RE: Not a bad product by marvdmartian on Wednesday, November 21, 2012
    Typical Apple product, that will sell like hotcakes: getting less, paying more, nothing new.
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    Typical Fandroid, never sees the forest for the trees.
    Apple is the best and has been so since 2007 - at building SoC.
    Apple is the best at supporting its devices long term.

    Now with iOS 6 - which is mostly supported (not all the features) for an old 3GS phone - you could argue you are getting less - maybe on the older devices (no Siri, Apple Maps is not as good as as Google Maps ... right now... etc..)

    Still iOS 5 is very nice for older things and Android/Google/Moto/Samsung/HTC has rarely updated their "better" hardware at all ... you can blame that on the carriers all you want, but that is also what you are buying.

    Buying more often, spending more time doing something that maybe should just work?

    I know Google is trying (or starting to), but they really have almost no support for the majority (75%+ ) of the devices in their 'ecosystem'. What's the point of better hardware when it runs slower/worse from the start and never gets updated?
    Reply
  • Alucard291 - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    Did you have a joint before you wrote this drivel? Or does your mind work this bad drug free? ^^

    Good SoCs? Are you serious? Just because people work'd the shaft so hard when A6 came out doesn't mean that Cortex A9 based soc is viable coming into 2013.

    Apple is currently behind the curve on both tech processes (28 nm vs 32 nm) and performance (cpu and ram speed but not gpu)

    In case of ipad mini. You get less. (2 year old tech) you pay more (than any competition out there). But somehow we miss the forest for the trees?

    Oh but it supports the amazing dated and feature free ios6! That's great. Except well.. (opinion incoming) I don't like ios. I find it restrictive and boring.

    So your point is?
    Reply

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