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Low-Level Test Results: Driver Overhead

GFXBench 3.0: A Fresh Look At Mobile Benchmarking
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The Driver Overhead test is an OpenGL-based metric that applies minimal stress to the GPU, but taxes its driver by by rendering lots of simple primitives one by one, changing depth and blend state, plus shader uniform values like position, color, rotation, and size for each of them. The frequency of these state changes reflect real-world applications.

In doing this, the benchmark uses lots of draw calls. Its aim is to measure the summed CPU overhead of those calls, which are largely influenced by the driver. The results show how fast the software processes the various API calls.

We already know that software can have a real impact on performance, both in terms of CPU load and battery drain. Don't believe us? Just check out the whole debate between AMD's Mantle API and DirectX 11. Optimizing the way those calls are handled can really open up a processing bottleneck, resulting in additional performance.

This test measures driver overhead by rendering a large number of simple objects one-at-a-time, changing the device state for each of them, spitting out a result in total number of frames rendered.

On-Screen

First, the drivers are tested at each device's native resolution.

Apple's iPhone 5s is the clear winner. Its extensive experience with Imagination Technology's hardware and a stable software ecosystem appear to pay off, yielding an almost-25-percent lead over the nearest competitor, EVGA's Tegra Note 7.

The Galaxy Note 10.1” 2014 Edition shows up higher here than in any other test. Whatever sins TouchWiz has committed on performance in previous tests, ARM's Mali driver at least enjoys an advantage when we puts it efficiency to the test.

Fourth spot goes to Oppo's N1, ahead of the Google Nexus 7 by around 24 percent. Because the N1's Snapdragon 600 runs at up to 200 MHz faster than the S4 Pro, we can see why it'd be able to handle more frames, given the same Adreno 320 graphics core. Less clear is why the Nexus 5's Snapdragon 800 would finish second-to-last, unless Qualcomm's Adreno 330 driver just isn't as optimized.

Off-Screen

Now the drivers are tested in a 1080p fixed off-screen resolution.

Taking the operation off-screen at a standardized resolution yields a similar finishing order, except that Apple's iPhone 5s extends its lead to 100 percent over the Tegra Note 7. That's impressive to say the least, but not particularly surprising considering that Apple has been writing and using software-managed OpenGL frame buffers since moving to OS X. 

The Nexus 5 is able to marginally beat the Nexus 7, but still loses out to the Snapdragon 600-equipped Oppo N1.

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  • 0 Hide
    Cryio , February 21, 2014 1:30 AM
    I was just about to write "why not WP", but then I remember WP games run on DirectX.
  • -2 Hide
    panzerknacker , February 21, 2014 3:18 AM
    Its cool u guys put so much effort into this but tbh most of the benchmark results seem to be completely random. Phones with faster SoC's performing slower and vice versa. I think there is no point at all benching a phone because 1. The benchmarking software is a POS and unreliable and 2. The phone OS's and apps are all complete POSs and act completely random in all kinda situations. I'd say just buy the phone with a fast SoC that looks the best to u and when it starts acting like a POS (which they all start doing in the end) buy a new one.
  • -1 Hide
    Marcus Wandle , February 21, 2014 4:24 AM
    You show those dumb nay sayers, Apple.
  • -6 Hide
    umadbro , February 21, 2014 6:15 AM
    What kind of bs is this? Force 720p on all devices and you'll see what happens to your precious 5s. Even my Zl murdered it.
  • -2 Hide
    andreluizbarbieri , February 21, 2014 6:17 AM
    Why No mention about MX3 and Note beat iphone 5s?
  • 0 Hide
    jamsbong , February 21, 2014 8:58 AM
    The only relevant benchmarks are the first two because they are full-fletch 3D graphics, which is won by the most portable device; The iPhone. The rest of the benchies are just primitive 2D graphics which is irrelevant. Android devices won all those in flying colours.
  • -1 Hide
    rolli59 , February 21, 2014 9:23 AM
    Well I have a smart phone but that is so I can receive business emails on the go, I have a tablet because it is great for watching movies on the go. Do I want to find out if there are any faster devices to do those things, not really while what I got is sufficient. I leave all the heavy tasks to the computers.
  • 2 Hide
    Durandul , February 21, 2014 10:38 AM
    Quote:
    The only relevant benchmarks are the first two because they are full-fletch 3D graphics, which is won by the most portable device; The iPhone. The rest of the benchies are just primitive 2D graphics which is irrelevant. Android devices won all those in flying colours.
    If those are the only two benchmarks relevant to you, then I wonder why you are using a phone and not a 3DS or something. But seriously, most of the other devices have more than a million more pixels then the iPhone, so this benchmark is not so telling. It was mentioned before, but it would be nice to test at a given resolution, although as suppose applications don't give you an option on the phone.
  • 2 Hide
    umadbro , February 21, 2014 11:34 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The only relevant benchmarks are the first two because they are full-fletch 3D graphics, which is won by the most portable device; The iPhone. The rest of the benchies are just primitive 2D graphics which is irrelevant. Android devices won all those in flying colours.
    If those are the only two benchmarks relevant to you, then I wonder why you are using a phone and not a 3DS or something. But seriously, most of the other devices have more than a million more pixels then the iPhone, so this benchmark is not so telling. It was mentioned before, but it would be nice to test at a given resolution, although as suppose applications don't give you an option on the phone.
    It does give the option to force some specific resolution. Don't know why this "review" didn't do it. That's what I've been trying to say from the start.
  • 0 Hide
    umadbro , February 21, 2014 11:41 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The only relevant benchmarks are the first two because they are full-fletch 3D graphics, which is won by the most portable device; The iPhone. The rest of the benchies are just primitive 2D graphics which is irrelevant. Android devices won all those in flying colours.
    If those are the only two benchmarks relevant to you, then I wonder why you are using a phone and not a 3DS or something. But seriously, most of the other devices have more than a million more pixels then the iPhone, so this benchmark is not so telling. It was mentioned before, but it would be nice to test at a given resolution, although as suppose applications don't give you an option on the phone.
    It does give the option to force some specific resolution. Don't know why this "review" didn't do it. That's what I've been trying to say from the start.
  • 3 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , February 21, 2014 2:52 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The only relevant benchmarks are the first two because they are full-fletch 3D graphics, which is won by the most portable device; The iPhone. The rest of the benchies are just primitive 2D graphics which is irrelevant. Android devices won all those in flying colours.
    If those are the only two benchmarks relevant to you, then I wonder why you are using a phone and not a 3DS or something. But seriously, most of the other devices have more than a million more pixels then the iPhone, so this benchmark is not so telling. It was mentioned before, but it would be nice to test at a given resolution, although as suppose applications don't give you an option on the phone.
    It does give the option to force some specific resolution. Don't know why this "review" didn't do it. That's what I've been trying to say from the start.

    ... you guys realize that the off-screen tests render at 1080p, right? That's the whole point, to make direct performance comparisons regardless of a devices display resolution. It's also explained in the performance results.

    On a different note, I find it amazing how consistently and predictably the community on this site tries to discredit an objective review when the performance results favor an Apple device in any way. This isn't exactly breaking news for anyone who's familiar with SOC performance. Please try to set aside your childish biases and just accept the results for what they are. The A7 is a powerful SOC, get over it.
  • 0 Hide
    h2323 , February 21, 2014 10:25 PM
    Looks like imagination techs powervr and the radeon..I mean adreno own.
  • -1 Hide
    umadbro , February 22, 2014 12:29 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The only relevant benchmarks are the first two because they are full-fletch 3D graphics, which is won by the most portable device; The iPhone. The rest of the benchies are just primitive 2D graphics which is irrelevant. Android devices won all those in flying colours.
    If those are the only two benchmarks relevant to you, then I wonder why you are using a phone and not a 3DS or something. But seriously, most of the other devices have more than a million more pixels then the iPhone, so this benchmark is not so telling. It was mentioned before, but it would be nice to test at a given resolution, although as suppose applications don't give you an option on the phone.
    It does give the option to force some specific resolution. Don't know why this "review" didn't do it. That's what I've been trying to say from the start.
    ... you guys realize that the off-screen tests render at 1080p, right? That's the whole point, to make direct performance comparisons regardless of a devices display resolution. It's also explained in the performance results.On a different note, I find it amazing how consistently and predictably the community on this site tries to discredit an objective review when the performance results favor an Apple device in any way. This isn't exactly breaking news for anyone who's familiar with SOC performance. Please try to set aside your childish biases and just accept the results for what they are. The A7 is a powerful SOC, get over it.
    I love people like you who claim to be some proffesinal "SoC experts" online while we the rest of us don't know nothing.A7 is a powerful SoC but the GPU is the same powervr as many other devices have. Apple tweaked the cpu cores only (at least going by the news).You talk about the off-screen tests which show exactly that the Android powered devices clearly pull back into the game with the A7, only one's the iPhone gets are the on screen tests which the iPhone runs at 720 and the androids run at 1080 - million(s) of more pixels to process then of course the load on the gpu is bigger therefor slower results. That's exactly why this review needs to force 720 on everything which you can easily do in the app itself on android.The two cores in an A7 are tweaked so much it keeps up with quad-core SD's etc, I got to give them that. But don't come rushing in telling that you know it all and everyone else are just dumb.
  • 0 Hide
    nebun , February 22, 2014 8:01 PM
    apple has a good phone with the iPhone5s....not bad, considering how small it is....powerful indeed
  • -1 Hide
    MANOFKRYPTONAK , February 22, 2014 9:33 PM
    Why don't they do a chart that includes scores changed to the same resolution? I understand why they have these original charts that show performance on the devices screen, but why don't they have a chart with that shows real hardware performance?
  • -1 Hide
    lockhrt999 , February 23, 2014 3:57 AM
    Nexus 5 is slowest example of snapdragon 800. Why didn't you use Note 3?
  • 0 Hide
    daglesj , February 23, 2014 6:26 AM
    ART or Dalvik on the KitKat Androids?
  • 0 Hide
    daglesj , February 23, 2014 6:42 AM
    Hmm well just did tests of the first two benches with my stock Nexus 4 running ART runtime and the scores were - 525 for Colossus1388 for TRex.Virtually the same as the Nexus 5 with a slower phone.Right okayyyy..
  • 0 Hide
    daglesj , February 23, 2014 6:56 AM
    The low levels were - ALU at 1800 / Alpha at 4534 / Driver at 406 / Fill at 2672.So looks like running ART can be a boost for older Android kit maybe.This was a straight install of the benchmark. No rebooting or shutting down of other apps and services.
  • -1 Hide
    Ninjawithagun , February 24, 2014 7:53 AM
    Fundamentally flawed benchmarking because the resolutions were not taken into consideration. Of course the Apple A7 processor is able to beat all the other processors because it has the least amount of graphics processing overhead. In comparison, the Nexus 7 @ 1920 x 1080 has to process 2.85 times (or 285%) more pixels per clock cycle versus the Apple A7 (1136 x 640). The benchmark scores would be nearly even (or even worse) if Apple A7 processor had to output a simliar resolution.
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