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
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  • Ratman6161 - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Where to start on a comment like that...but then why bother. Its so blatantly untrue its not worth it. Reply
  • McDuncun - Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - link

    Hahahaha what? Reply
  • xthetenth - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Yeah, I'll talk down on the iPad Pro in comparison to the Surface Pro by calling it a big phone, but that's a rhetorical thing to point out how many places the iOS ecosystem doesn't have options for the capability x86 Windows has. This is literally a big phone and doesn't even offer anything more. It doesn't have multitasking. It doesn't have apps that use its bigger screen. There's no reason to be carrying the size and weight of a 9" device because you don't receive the capability of a 9" device. Reply
  • MikhailT - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    I have both iPad Pro and SP4. I like SP4 but there are far more glitches and annoyances with it that I don't get on iPad Pro. Driver crashes, horrible dynamic display power switching BS that you must install Intel drivers separately to disable which MS then decided to switch back to Intel drivers to re-enable without asking me first, W10 app often resets without of nowhere, and so on.

    iPad Pro? None of that, I did not experience any issues with it and it has far more useful tablet apps for me.

    However, MS is definitely much better at multi-tasking but iOS 9 has drastically improved the multi-tasking as well. I can't wait to see what Apple does with iOS 10 and so on and maybe Redstone updates as well.

    If nothing drastically is improved with W10 on Surface, I'm sticking with iPad Pro from now on as my primary device.
    Reply
  • MikhailT - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Blah, can't edit, I meant to say switched back to MS provided drivers instead of Intel. Reply
  • xthetenth - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Yeah, the SP4 has been flaky early, although I've been lucky and it's just a ten second annoyance when starting up for the morning and then it's amazing for the rest of the day. I'm not a huge tablet app user, I use the built in apps but don't need much more for pure tablet use, it's really halfway between tablet and laptop for me. I think the two are more likely to be differentiated by user need than anything else. Reply
  • R. Hunt - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Lol... as if Windows Store wasn't a wasteland. Reply
  • Speedfriend - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    No tablet apps for Android? I have two Android tabs and there are apps that for everything I need it for? And while my iPad has plenty of Apps, I find the home screen design which is just a scaled up phone quite annoying, with giant icons and wide open spaces. Reply
  • MikhailT - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    So, your only issue with iPad is the home screen?

    So, how often are you looking at your home screen? A few folks say this all the time but the amount of time I care about the home screen is less than 1%. I always find my apps via app switcher since I never need to shut any down and via Spotliight search as needed.
    Reply
  • xthetenth - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    I actually use the home screen a good bit on my phone but that's because I have a windows phone and it's actually useful. On tablets I'm more likely to use a broader and more varied set of apps and use the task switcher and apps list. Reply

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