Earlier this morning we published our first impressions on Apple's iPad 2, including analysis on camera quality and a dive into the architecture behind Apple's A5 SoC. Our SoC investigation mostly focused on CPU performance, which we found to be a healthy 50% faster than the A4 in the original iPad - at least in web browsing. We were able to exceed Apple's claim of up to 2x performance increase in some synthetic tests, but even a 50% increase in javascript and web page loading performance isn't anything to be upset about. We briefly touched on the GPU: Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX 543MP2. Here Apple is promising up to a 9x increase in performance, but it's something we wanted to investigate.

Architecturally the 543MP2 has more than twice the compute horsepower of the SGX 535 used in Apple's A4. Each shader pipeline can execute twice the number of instructions per clock as the SGX 535, and then there are four times as many pipes in an SGX 543MP2 as there are in a 535. There are also efficiency improvements as well. Hidden surface removal works at twice the rate in the 543MP2 as it did in the 535. There's also a big boost in texture filtering performance as you'll see below.

As always we turn to GLBenchmark 2.0, a benchmark crafted by a bunch of developers who either have or had experience doing development work for some of the big dev houses in the industry. We'll start with some of the synthetics.

Over the course of PC gaming evolution we noticed a significant increase in geometry complexity. We'll likely see a similar evolution with games in the ultra mobile space, and as a result this next round of ultra mobile GPUs will seriously ramp up geometry performance.

Here we look at two different geometry tests amounting to the (almost) best and worst case triangle throughput measured by GLBenchmark 2.0. First we have the best case scenario - a textured triangle:

Geometry Throughput - Textured Triangle Test

The original iPad could manage 8.7 million triangles per second in this test. The iPad 2? 29 million. An increase of over 3x. Developers with existing titles on the iPad could conceivably triple geometry complexity with no impact on performance on the iPad 2.

Now for the more complex case - a fragment lit triangle test:

Geometry Throughput - Fragment Lit Triangle Test

The performance gap widens. While the PowerVR SGX 535 in the A4 could barely break 4 million triangles per second in this test, the PowerVR SGX 543MP2 in the A5 manages just under 20 million. There's just no competition here.

I mentioned an improvement in texturing performance earlier. The GLBenchmark texture fetch test puts numbers to that statement:

Fill Rate - Texture Fetch

We're talking about nearly a 5x increase in texture fetch performance. This has to be due to more than an increase in the amount of texturing hardware. An improvement in throughput? Increase in memory bandwidth? It's tough to say without knowing more at this point.

Apple iPad vs. iPad 2
  Apple iPad (PowerVR SGX 535) Apple iPad 2 (PowerVR SGX 543MP2)
Array test - uniform array access
3412.4 kVertex/s
3864.0 kVertex/s
Branching test - balanced
2002.2 kShaders/s
11412.4 kShaders/s
Branching test - fragment weighted
5784.3 kFragments/s
Branching test - vertex weighted
3905.9 kVertex/s
3870.6 kVertex/s
Common test - balanced
1025.3 kShaders/s
4092.5 kShaders/s
Common test - fragment weighted
1603.7 kFragments/s
3708.2 kFragments/s
Common test - vertex weighted
1516.6 kVertex/s
3714.0 kVertex/s
Geometric test - balanced
1276.2 kShaders/s
6238.4 kShaders/s
Geometric test - fragment weighted
2000.6 kFragments/s
6382.0 kFragments/s
Geometric test - vertex weighted
1921.5 kVertex/s
3780.9 kVertex/s
Exponential test - balanced
2013.2 kShaders/s
11758.0 kShaders/s
Exponential test - fragment weighted
3632.3 kFragments/s
11151.8 kFragments/s
Exponential test - vertex weighted
3118.1 kVertex/s
3634.1 kVertex/s
Fill test - texture fetch
179116.2 kTexels/s
890077.6 kTexels/s
For loop test - balanced
1295.1 kShaders/s
3719.1 kShaders/s
For loop test - fragment weighted
1777.3 kFragments/s
6182.8 kFragments/s
For loop test - vertex weighted
1418.3 kVertex/s
3813.5 kVertex/s
Triangle test - textured
8691.5 kTriangles/s
29019.9 kTriangles/s
Triangle test - textured, fragment lit
4084.9 kTriangles/s
19695.8 kTriangles/s
Triangle test - textured, vertex lit
6912.4 kTriangles/s
20907.1 kTriangles/s
Triangle test - white
9621.7 kTriangles/s
29771.1 kTriangles/s
Trigonometric test - balanced
1292.6 kShaders/s
3249.9 kShaders/s
Trigonometric test - fragment weighted
1103.9 kFragments/s
3502.5 kFragments/s
Trigonometric test - vertex weighted
1018.8 kVertex/s
3091.7 kVertex/s
Swapbuffer Speed

Enough with the synthetics - how much of an improvement does all of this yield in the actual GLBenchmark 2.0 game tests? Oh it's big.

GLBenchmark 2.0 Egypt & PRO Performance
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  • adntaylor - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    On your side note, NEON is just an optional extra logic block - you don't need to use it and can save money by missing it out and still just use the off-the-shelf ARM synthesized A9 core design.

    In fact, it's Apple who are the ones who are likely to have re-jigged the Cortex-A9 core here for extra performance; they bought the team from Intrinsity who did their own optimized version of the Cortex-A8 for the Apple A4 and the Samsung Hummingbird.
  • coldpower27 - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    The performance increase is incredible, I can't wait to get this device in my hands to play with in the near future.. well worth the wait over then 1st Gen iPad...
  • mitodna - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    It would be great if can have an adjusted Xoom value running on 1024 * 768?.However iPad 2 is simply amazing at amazing price.
  • rish95 - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Just increase the Xoom's score by 25% each time. iPad 2 still has huge margin.
  • ncb1010 - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Well, the xoom actually has more like 30% more pixels to deal with.
  • winterspan - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Regardless if its 25% or 30%, the end result is still the same. the combination of SGX543MP2 (and to a lesser extent the OpenGL implementation of iOS) just slaughters Tegra 2 on Android...

    It'll be interesting to see an SGX543MP2 in a Honeycomb+ device and compare it to the Xoom.

    At first, I really though Nvidia would step in and slaughter IMGTEC (and they still might in the future), but its obvious IMGTEC is not going to go down easy and they have the brains to make it a real fight...
  • nafhan - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    This also makes it pretty clear why Nvidia is already talking up their "Kalel" devices!
  • Ringer9 - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    What's the point of taking real-world performance and converting it back to unrealistic benchmarks? The Xoom doesn't run at 1024x768, and the performance hit is Moto's sacrifice for more pixels.
  • rish95 - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    If the SGX543MP2 can do so well...it makes me wonder what the NGP's SGX543MP4 can do.
  • tipoo - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Yeah, that will be a screamer. It probably won't scale perfectly, but thats roughly double the performance of the iPad 2's GPU, which in turn already trounces other mobile GPU's.

    I wonder how the MP4 would compare to desktop chips, I wonder if they are getting into the territory of low end cards from a few years ago?

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