The SoC: TI's OMAP 4460

The launch platform for Ice Cream Sandwich was TI's OMAP 4460. Unlike previous Android releases however, it seems that other SoCs will see their ICS ports done in a much quicker manner. It took a very long time for Honeycomb to be ported to other SoCs, whereas a number of companies have already demonstrated ICS running on their hardware (e.g. Intel, NVIDIA). If this is the case going forward, the launch vehicle for a new Android version may not mean what it used to.

The OMAP 4460 is a fairly standard, yet full featured dual-core ARM Cortex A9 SoC. You get two A9 cores complete with MPE (NEON support), behind a shared 1MB L2 cache. The SoC features two 32-bit LPDDR2 memory channels as well. The GPU is provided by Imagination Technologies in the form of a PowerVR SGX 540.

Max clocks for the OMAP 4460 are 1.5GHz for the CPUs and 384MHz for the GPU. As with all SoCs, all final clocks are OEM customizable to hit their desired point on the performance/battery life curve. Google and Samsung settled on 1.2GHz for the cores and 307MHz for the GPU, both exactly 80% of the OMAP 4460's max frequencies. Sprint recently announced its Galaxy Nexus would run at 1.5GHz. It's quite possible that we'll see a jump in GPU clocks there as well since the two may run in lockstep.

From a CPU standpoint the 4460 is competitive with pretty much everything else on the market (A5, Exynos, Tegra 2, Snapdragon S3). The 4460 does have more memory bandwidth than Tegra 2, Tegra 3 and Snapdragon, but it's comparable to Apple's A5 and Samsung's Exynos 4210. It's the GPU that's a bit dated at this point; the PowerVR SGX 540 typically delivers Tegra 2-class performance. A quick look at GLBenchmark and Basemark results echoes our findings:

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt - Offscreen (720p)
GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro - Offscreen (720p)
RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Taiji
RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Hoverjet

At 720p, which happens to be the GN's native resolution, the OMAP 4460 is much faster than Tegra 2. It's also important to note just how much faster Tegra 3's GPU is by comparison.

I understand why Google didn't wait for a Krait based SoC, however I don't believe the OMAP 4460 was the best bet given the launch timeframe of the Galaxy Nexus. Based on performance alone, Google should have picked Tegra 3 as the launch platform for ICS. GPU performance is much better than the SGX 540 and there's comparable CPU performance. It's possible that Google needed the memory bandwidth offered by OMAP 4, but we'll find out for sure soon enough as the first Tegra 3 device (ASUS' TF Prime) is slated to get ICS this week.

I'm also less concerned about power consumption being an issue since NVIDIA added full power gating to all of the cores in Tegra 3. With a conservative enough power profile Google could have guaranteed battery life similar to OMAP 4460 out of Tegra 3.

I get the feeling that Google wasn't very pleased with NVIDIA after Honeycomb and chose to work with TI this time around for reasons other than absolute performance. If it weren't for the fact that Tegra 3 and other SoCs appear to be getting ICS in fairly short form I'd be more upset over this decision. To be honest, the choice of SoC simply hurts the Galaxy Nexus as a phone. If I were you, I'd wait for a Krait based device.

The Galaxy Nexus - Hardware and Aesthetics Camera - Stills and Video


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  • zorxd - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    The Skyrocket is also 1.5 GHz so the CPU helps. Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    There's a very small bit of lag on the bottom buttons. Quite frankly I think the delay is just the OS making sure you are holding down the home button for the task manager instead of just going home.

    Using ICS on a HTC Sensation. The status of it is beta - HTC still has work to do on it to make it as good as the 2.3.4 ROM.
  • webmastir - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Love my Galaxy Nexus. Best phone I've ever had & have no DOUBT in my mind that I'll be happy until my next Phone.
    Thanks Google!
  • OCedHrt - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Since I can't get the HTC keyboard working on AOSP ICS...I have to make this comment: I prefer the HTC keyboard much much more than even the ICS keyboard. It is ridiculously easy to mistype on the ICS keyboard. Reply
  • vithee05 - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Can you guys tell me how the accessibility is in ICS? It's supposed to be better for those of us who are visually impaired. I am debating between the galaxy nexus, the razr, or waiting on the droid 4 to get the keyboard. Do you think the accessibility is good enough to not need the keyboard? Reply
  • secretmanofagent - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    I have a Droid RAZR (2.3.5) in my hands, and looking at the accessibility settings, it's pretty paltry. If you're considering a RAZR or Droid 4, I would wait until ICS shows for it. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    I agree that its worlds better than the Gingerbread browser, but scrolling on image heavy pages still lags a bit compared to Opera Mobile (not to be confused with Mini). AFAIK Opera Mobile uses GPU acceleration as well and seems to do it better than Google at their own game. Just an idea, but a comparison of all the Android browsers would be nice :) Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    *on my Nexus S. Maybe on newer/faster phones it would be a toss up. Reply
  • bjacobson - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Really? interesting. Opera seems to get everything right. Their browser is blazing fast for Netbooks too. Everything in the UI and foreground tab gets processing priority, everything else (like background tabs rendering) gets delayed. It's a flawless design, much more responsive than Chrome when loading multiple tabs. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Yeah, and as far as I know its the only browser that dynamically adjusts its memory use depending on how much your using for other tasks, so it scales up or down to more powerful or less powerful systems, another reason its good on netbooks. It has addons now too which are rapidly gaining traction. If it wasn't for some compatibility niggles I would say its hands down the best browser, but I keep Chrome around for the 1 in 1000 site it might break. Oddly enough the Mobile version seems to be the opposite, its the only mobile browser that I've never seen break a site. Reply

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