System Performance

One of the highlights of the Pixel C is the fact that it is powered by NVIDIA's Tegra X1 SoC. This technically isn't the first time that X1 has shown up in an Android device since it powers the SHIELD Android TV, but it's the first time it has been used in a mobile device. This implementation of Tegra X1 has four Cortex A57 cores with a peak frequency of 1.91GHz, along with four Cortex A53 cores. There are a few things that need to be mentioned about how Tegra X1 differs from other SoCs with eight cores. The first is the fact that in theory, Tegra X1 uses cluster migration rather than Heterogeneous Multi-processing. The reason I said in theory is because the implementation in the Pixel C is really only using the A57 cluster and scaling the frequency as low as 51MHz and as high as 1.91GHz.

In any case, all of our benchmarks should trigger the A57 cores in a mobile device that pairs A53 and A57 cores, so the discussion of the A53 cores being disabled is more relevant from a power consumption standpoint than a performance one. To analyze the general performance of the Pixel C I've run it through our standard JavaScript tests, along with PCMark and BaseMark OS II.

Kraken 1.1 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

Google Octane v2  (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2015 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

Unfortunately, the Pixel C doesn't make a very strong showing in our JavaScript benchmarks. I can't help but feel that this is the result of a rushed Android build, as there are regressions compared to the Nexus 9 in Octane and Kraken, and in all cases the score just isn't that impressive. JavaScript performance is definitely something Google will have to work on in the future, as the gap between the performance of iOS and Android devices is growing fairly large.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - System

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Memory

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Graphics

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Web

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Overall

The Pixel C only achieves decent results in BaseMark OS II. The NAND memory score definitely drags down the overall rating, with the web score being lower than expected, and the system score being shocking low. The stand out score is in the graphics test, with the Pixel C only coming second to Apple's iPad Pro, and beating out the next best Android device, which is also NVIDIA-powered, by a huge margin. Unfortunately, high as it may be, Tegra X1's graphics performance just isn't enough to carry the Pixel C here.

PCMark - Web Browsing

PCMark - Video Playback

PCMark - Writing

PCMark - Photo Editing

PCMark - Work Performance Overall

PCMark paints a different picture than BaseMark OS II, and highlights how performance can be highly variable based on workload, software, and whether an app is run as a native binary or through ART. In PCMark the Pixel C performs exceptionally well, with the exception of the writing test which seems to have been impacted by some change made to ART on Google's devices when moving to Marshmallow. Putting that aside, we see quite high and often chart topping scores in the remaining tests, resulting in a final score that only sits below the Huawei Mate 8.

Characterizing the Pixel C's performance is difficult. PCMark paints a very good picture, and I'm tempted to lean toward it as it is representative of the tasks that users will perform on a daily basis. There's a bit more discussion to be had about the Pixel C's general performance, and that'll come a bit later in the software section of the review. What I can say is that Tegra X1 certainly is fast as far as raw speed goes, but there's more to be said about the Pixel C's performance when you consider the role of both hardware and software.

Intro and Design System Performance Cont'd and NAND Performance


View All Comments

  • valentin-835 - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    The tablet has issues. You kind of get what you pay for. I mean, it's half the price of an IPad Pro. And less than half that of a Surface.
    The biggest drawback however is the lack of an advanced graphics API like Metal or DX12. Without that, they are dead in the water. I heard Google is pushing hard to get Vulkan released. Both drivers and specification should be out soon.
  • styleruk - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Hmm, there seems to be an awful lot of points about a Google tablet or android tablet not being much more than a big phone. I have to disagree. I use the N9 for business and pleasure. I often type out reports on the N9 at airports, watch movies, read mags, books and play occasional games. I've had both android and apple phones both have good and bad points, currently on apple phone, but at work there are 2 iPad tablets I could use if I wanted, but they are simply too restricted to my needs. For me, the N5 + Google's more open approach is far more efficient. Up to now, I've had no problem with lack of multi task... to fill in my diary and read an email is simply to switch...its no biggie. If I want more I wait until I'm in front of a PC at work or home.
    I also like the way everything Google works together well.
    Regarding this device, I'm on the cusp of upgrading my N9, but quite why I can't see yet. Until I actually pick it up and try it, I'm not ordering it, as the last upgrade was from the N7(2013), to N9, and whilst bigger, it's not really faster. On paper, the pixel C is not much faster than the N9!

    The jury is still out...but stop saying that android tablets are just big phones, I have the choice and I don't agree at all.
  • tuxRoller - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Just looking at the benchmarks, your not judging this device fairly.
    The nexus 9 had a processor that was basically designed for benchmarking and nothing else. It just falls on its face when the code becomes branchy. Iow, benchmarks were an unusually poor indicator of typical performance.
    That aside, the pixel is performs pretty much exactly where you'd expect it to perform given its CPU: between the nexus 5x and the 6p FOR MOST TESTS.
    Iow, no surprises.
    I'd also like to point out that the weight is only an issue if you have some physical issues, or are just used to very light tablets. I received the pixel c for Xmas and have had no issues transitioning to it from the 2013 nexus 7. My gf even noted when she first picked it up that "this isn't very heavy" (she'd read the reviews which complained about its weight).
    I certainly have issues with it (it often doesn't respond to touches, sometimes the interface becomes so slow I have to force a restart) but it's still an awfully good TABLET for the price.
  • c4v3man - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    I gave up on waiting for a return to sanely priced android tablets and went with a Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140. Like most non-apple products they don't hold their value particularly well, so I was able to score a Core 5M71 256GB SSD version with the keyboard for under $600. While heavier than initially anticipated, I get excellent battery life (13+ hours real world display use with the keyboard battery), and an extremely snappy tablet that even handles light Adobe Lightroom usage. That and it works on a lap, unlike a Surface, and is serviceable (good luck replacing the battery/ssd in your surface). Remix OS works on it as well if I need to get my android fix, and will likely get better with more development. I guess I don't see the point of using a more limited OS on a $500+ device... If you're going for productivity and charging a premium, give me a full experience. If it's a limited experience, it better come with a "limited" price. Reply
  • Jerch - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Always sad to see the Nexus 7 (2013) omitted from display lists, since even though it is now firmly outdated, it had a great screen that would still be at the top of some of these tests -- notably max brightness. It's the perfect beach tablet. Cheap, durable, and BRIGHT. Reply
  • EludiumQ36 - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    I have a 32GB Pixel C and take it from a regular user as opposed to a professional reviewer/critic - it's a very good tablet. I use it as a true tablet sans keyboard which mitigates much of the complaining. It features a beautiful and very responsive display (utilizing Android 6.0.1). It was my perfect choice because (1) the Nexus 10 is no longer available, (2) it's far less expensive than the 10-in Samsung tablets (which are stuck on KitKat), and (3) it's basically a Nexus with first-in-line upgrades. Having said that, there is a highly reported problem of Wifi performance degradation - I experience a 60% hit but still get 26Mbps to it, so... - but they'll issue a fix for that soon enough. I highly recommend it if you count yourself as a "regular" user. Reply
  • R. Hunt - Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - link

    Granted, Samsung is not great with updates. That out of the way, even last year's Tab S is been on Lollipop for months. And how is this less expensive than say, the Tab S2? Reply
  • Jumangi - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Google just doesn't care about making Android a good experience on larger tablets. Until,they do we will get half baked products like this and the iPad will continue to be the standard. Reply
  • McChen - Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - link

    One thing that wasn't mentioned in the review is that the Pixel C supports faster charging (12V @ 2A, 24W) via USB PD using a charger such as the Pixel laptop charger. I have one and indeed the tablet charges very fast with it. I believe one of the Google engineers said it charges 0 to 100 in about 2.5 hours, compared to just over 4 hours in this review with the standard 15W charger. Would be interesting to see a charging time test with a USB PD charger. Reply
  • Jumangi - Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - link

    They used the charger the device comes with as they should. Reply

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