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Qualcomm's S4 Pro (Adreno 320): Big GPU Performance

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 21 comments

Qualcomm invited a few members of the press for a benchmarking workshop. More than anything else, the discussion was about how to evaluate tablet/smartphone hardware in a manner that best reflects real-world use. We won't bore you with the details, but we have some internal tests that we're cooking up on that front.

More importantly, Qualcomm used the event as an opportunity to preview the S4 Pro. More specifically, the APQ8064, which you'll likely see in tablets later this year. This SoC is the brother of the MSM version you'll see in smartphones, only lacking the Gobi modem for cellular connectivity. What we're playing with isn't part of any final product. As our friends at SlashGear reported, Qualcomm is specifically highlighting its MDP (Mobile Development Platform), which "contains the same 10.1-inch display as we’ve seen on previous developer devices, as well as multiple ports, fingerprint scanners, 13 megapixel cameras and more. It even has 7 microphones on this thing. Running on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, their new quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM — once again those four processing cores."

The kit costs $1299 through BSQUARE, which seems outrageous, but again this is a platform meant for developers. Tablets featuring the S4 Pro should be competitively priced against those sporting Tegra 3 hardware. However, the MDP is important to us because it gives us a first glimpse of what to expect performance wise.

Overall, we can't help but be impressed. Graphics performance sees a huge boost, which is encouraging. We're told this GPU has been three years in the making, and it's the first silicon Qualcomm designed from the ground up. Past GPUs like the Adreno 220 (found in the LePad II and TouchPad) was based on IP gained from the acquisition of AMD's Imageon IP.

GLBenchmark 2.1
*native resolution
iPad 2
iPad 3
Transformer Prime
Qualcomm Dev Tablet
GPU
PowerVR SGX543MP2
PowerVR SGX543MP4Tegra 3 (ULP GeForce)
Adreno 320
Egypt Standard*
6661 frames (59 FPS)
6709 frames (59 FPS)
5388 frames (48 FPS)
6748 frames (50 FPS)
Egypt Fixed Time Step*
47.598 s (59 FPS)
47.261 s (60 FPS)
69.055 s (41 FPS)
47.079 s (60 FPS)
Egypt Off Screen (720p)
10 146 frames (90 FPS)
15 663 frames (139 FPS)
6496 frames (58 FPS)
11 348 frames (100 FPS)
Pro Standard*
2962 frames (59 FPS)
2975 frames (60 FPS)
2726 frames (54 FPS)
3002 frames (60 FPS)
Pro Fixed Time Step*
20.868 s (60 FPS)
20.857 s (60 FPS)
24.189 s (52 FPS)
20.828 sec (60 FPS)
Pro Off Screen (720p)
7352 frames (147 FPS)
12546 frames (251 FPS)
3717 frames (74 FPS)6741 frames (135 FPS)
Fill Rate
998.2 Mtexels/sec1964.7 Mtextels/sec415.3 Mtexels/sec737.8 Mtexels/sec

If we compare performance with GLBenchmark, it's clear that Qualcomm has something really eye opening here. In the offscreen tests, specifically, we're looking at almost 2x the performance of anything Tegra 3-based. We've seen an unreleased version of GLBenchmark that gives the S4 Pro a three-fold advantage over Tegra 3. If you're about to make a smartphone upgrade or new tablet purchase, what we've seen today provides a good case to hold off for a few months. Qualcomm tells us that we're should see S4 Pro devices later this year, just prior to Christmas. Of course, it's still interesting to point out that the A5X's PowerVR SGX543MP4 continues to hold a commanding lead as far as raw GPU performance goes. However, if you're dealing with Android, the S4 Pro appears to be the new "King of the Hill."

Riptide GP on Qualcomm's S4 (Quad-Core) APQ8064

Unfortunately, Qualcomm's performance means very little unless it can get developers onboard. Nvidia's been doing a great job engaging developers, and it's something that Qualcomm needs to play catch up on. Tegra 3 continues to be attractive to the mobile gamer, because the platform has a slew of exclusive games, some of which include special render paths that take 3D gaming to the next level. For example, we don't get those enhanced water effects in Riptide GP as we do on the Transformer Prime or Transformer Pad (TF300T). There really isn't a mirror game that Qualcomm can use to tout the benefits of the Adreno 320, which the company badly needs.

However, to enable great software, you need great hardware. That's just how developers think, which is why Qualcomm has a great opportunity here to cast itself in a new light. The company has always done a great job showing how it can balance performance and power. Nvidia meanwhile has been hammering away at how important the former is if you're willing to give up a little of the latter. The S4 Pro changes the dynamic a bit. As Vellamo shows, CPU performance looks every bit impressive as GPU, and unlike Nvidia, Qualcomm has the benefit of leveraging low-power silicon. In principle, this gives Qualcomm the benefit of high performance without sacrificing any of the power consumption characteristics that Tegra IP sometimes falters from. The question now becomes, "Can Qualcomm help developers take advantage of all this horsepower?" That remains to be seen. Admittedly, we're willing to settle for a slightly slower (or less impressive smartphone) if there are more apps optimized for the hardware -- but the hardware looks good. Now we're waiting to see what Qualcomm can help deliver on the software side.

Discuss
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  • 9 Hide
    killabanks , July 25, 2012 9:08 AM
    still not up to par with a quad SGX543 but definitely a step in the right direction
  • 3 Hide
    aznshinobi , July 25, 2012 9:21 AM
    Not sure if it is the Adreno 325 but I'm pretty sure they expected/predicted that the Adreno 3xx would perform at console level graphics.
  • 8 Hide
    belardo , July 25, 2012 9:33 AM
    Blah blah blah... yawn.

    Am I reading this wrong? This is supposed to be exciting and such, because Tegra3 and Q are making more powerful GPUs, right? The Tergra3 is quite new and the new Q Adreno 320 isn't even out yet... but in the chart included above, both of these are losing out to the 5+ month old iPad3 and 1.5year old iPad2. Are these guys competing with the iPad1? You can bet in about 7~8 months the iPad4 will be on the market...
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , July 25, 2012 9:43 AM
    They don't need to compete with any ipad, because people don't make the 'android / IOs' decision based on performance. For the most part if someone's buying a tablet they already know whether they want an iPad or an android tablet. When they decide to buy an Android tablet, then the performance comes into consideration.. so Qualcomm & Nvidia are only really competing with each other. Now, if lots of games came out that were multiplatform and ran noticeably better on the iPad AND consumers were aware that this was down to the GPU performance, we might start to see makers of android hardware up their game.
  • 2 Hide
    Verrin , July 25, 2012 12:50 PM
    I think it's pretty shameful and embarrassing that there's people on here making judgement on hardware based on SYNTHETIC benchmarks IN DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS. You can't get much worse when it comes to comparing apples to oranges, people.
  • -3 Hide
    nebun , July 25, 2012 1:03 PM
    from the looks of things the "PowerVR SGX543MP4" is actually more powerful....take a look at the number on the bottom...now apple needs to work on the code a little more...this is the same problem AMD has...their graphics cards are powerful but the code sux
  • 3 Hide
    cagi , July 25, 2012 1:43 PM
    Why only Apple and Sony (PS Vita) uses PowerVR 543MP4? There are some Android devices with SoC from Samsung and TI that uses PowerVR 540 or 530 but now no one uses 543 instead of mali400?
  • 2 Hide
    eddieroolz , July 25, 2012 1:59 PM
    Am I missing something here? It looks like the iPad3 demolishes the S4 Pro in most respects...
  • 0 Hide
    amdwilliam1985 , July 25, 2012 2:17 PM
    chromonoidI love how it gets destroyed by the iPad 3


    I love how my $200 Nexus 7 can run smoother than your $500 iPad. haha, saving those $300 and putting them towards my 30 years mortgage ;) 
  • 1 Hide
    amdwilliam1985 , July 25, 2012 2:22 PM
    nebunfrom the looks of things the "PowerVR SGX543MP4" is actually more powerful....take a look at the number on the bottom...now apple needs to work on the code a little more...this is the same problem AMD has...their graphics cards are powerful but the code sux


    PowerVR SGX543MP4 is more powerful, but too bad the typical users will be worst performance comparing to iPad 2, due to the retina screen.
    I advise my friends to either get Nexus 7 or iPad 2(improved version) for the best bang for the buck. With the record heat waves we seen so far, I won't be surprise if we see exploding iPad 3 coming soon.
  • -1 Hide
    Blandge , July 25, 2012 3:26 PM
    amdwilliam1985I love how my $200 Nexus 7 can run smoother than your $500 iPad. haha, saving those $300 and putting them towards my 30 years mortgage


    Congratulations... Only $199,800 to go... You made a real dent in it there with your Nexus 7.
  • 2 Hide
    f-14 , July 25, 2012 4:25 PM
    BlandgeCongratulations... Only $199,800 to go... You made a real dent in it there with your Nexus 7.

    that $300 now is $3,000 in interest at the end he just saved as long as he doesn't fall behind.
    Math101 and economics101 FAIL.
  • -1 Hide
    amdwilliam1985 , July 25, 2012 4:26 PM
    BlandgeCongratulations... Only $199,800 to go... You made a real dent in it there with your Nexus 7.


    Every bit helps, saving on Nexus 7 and my monthly phone bill(with TMobile on my SGS2) does help a lot ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    jryan388 , July 25, 2012 5:25 PM
    How come no android tabs use the 543mp2/mp4?
  • 2 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , July 25, 2012 6:06 PM
    memadmaxBut can it play Crysis?

    I actually thumbed this comment up because I'm actually very interested in mobile technology (specifically tablets and SmartPhones) which is capable of playing Crysis.
  • 0 Hide
    esrever , July 25, 2012 6:14 PM
    tegra is pathetic, not sure why its an accomplishment to beat it in gpu performance.
  • 0 Hide
    stingstang , July 25, 2012 6:59 PM
    Mmmmmm dat bezel! Greater area squared than the entire screen. Way to win big, Qualcomm.
  • 0 Hide
    Vladislaus , July 25, 2012 7:27 PM
    killabanksstill not up to par with a quad SGX543 but definitely a step in the right direction

    So did you expect that a single core GPU to be faster than a quad core GPU?
  • 0 Hide
    nebun , July 25, 2012 8:44 PM
    amdwilliam1985PowerVR SGX543MP4 is more powerful, but too bad the typical users will be worst performance comparing to iPad 2, due to the retina screen.I advise my friends to either get Nexus 7 or iPad 2(improved version) for the best bang for the buck. With the record heat waves we seen so far, I won't be surprise if we see exploding iPad 3 coming soon.

    lol...i see your point...at the same time i still think apple has a better product
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