Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

CPU And GPU Performance: All About Graphics

Apple's iPad 3, Part 1: The Complete Retina Display And A5X Review
By , Alan Dang

The CPU: A9 Flavor

Apple A5X, Source: iFixitApple A5X, Source: iFixit

The iPad 3 features a new SoC, the A5X. Like the preceding A5, it features a dual-core A9 ARM processor clocked at 1 GHz. We've covered the architecture of the A9 in the past, so we won't revisit the details, but for those interested in a deeper discussion, you can head back to our original A5 coverage.


Apple A4 (iPad)
Apple A5 (iPad 2)
Apple A5X
Fab Node
45 nm
45 nm
45 nm
Processor
1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 (single-core)
1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 (dual-core)
Memory
256 MB LP-DDR
512 MB LP-DDR2
1 GB LP-DDR2
Graphics
PowerVR SGX535 (single-core)PowerVR SGX543MP2 (dual-core)PowerVR SGX543MP4 (quad-core)
L1 Cache
(Instruction/Data)
32 KB / 32 KB
32 KB / 32 KB
L2 Cache640 KB
1 MB


On paper, there's really nothing to suggest improved CPU performance from the A5X. There's no change in cache size, and though there's apparently twice as much on-die RAM, it has no impact on raw computational horsepower. The new A5X seems intended to help improve multitasking support and enable a beefier graphics engine, so our GeekBench results are, not surprisingly, largely unchanged.

GeekBench v2.2.7 Results
iPad 2
iPad 3
Dell Mini 1012
LePan II
Transformer Prime
CPU
Apple A5
Apple A5X
Atom N450
APQ8060
Tegra 3
Architecture
Dual-core A9
Dual-core A9
Single-Core Atom
Dual-core ScorpionQuad-core A9
Speed
1 GHz1 GHz1.66 GHz1.2 GHz1.4 GHz
Overall
764
760
917
649
1194
Integer
691
687
910
709
1781
Floating Point
921
920
762
943
1781
Memory
830
825
1105
362
1091


The GPU: Double Your Pleasure

One aspect of Apple's A5X truly shines: graphics performance. Since an ultra-high-resolution display is the iPad 3’s core selling point, Apple's A5X features a significantly more powerful graphics engine optimized for the Retina display. This increases gaming potential by a lot. In fact, Apple claims the iPad 3 offers double the graphics performance of the iPad 2. How is this possible?

GPU System-on-Chip
PowerVR SGX 535
(Apple A4)
PowerVR SGX 543
(Apple A5/A5X)
SIMD
USSE
USSE2
Pipelines
2
4
TMUs
2
2
Bus Width (in bits)
64
64
Triangle rate @ 200 MHz
14 MTriangles/s35 MTriangles/s


Apple still employs Imagination's PowerVR SGX543 architecture, used in the iPad 2. But whereas the iPad 2 was limited to a dual-core implementation (SGX543MP2), the iPad 3’s A5X sports a muscular quad-core GPU (SGX543MP4). Incidentally, Sony's PlayStation Vita also uses a the SGX543MP4.

Apple A5X, Source: UBMApple A5X, Source: UBM

That hardware change is easy to spot when you inspect the A5X's die. In the annotated layout above, you can quite clearly identify each of the four GPU cores. It also appears that RAM accesses has changed to accommodate the increased need for bandwidth. The A5 employed a pair of memory interfaces; UBM's image above suggests four on the A5X. To get a more illustrative story, though, let's look at GLBenchmark.

GLBenchmark 2.1.2
*native resolution
iPad 2
iPad 3
Kindle Fire
LePan II
Transformer Prime
GPU
PowerVR SGX543MP2
PowerVR SGX543MP4PowerVR
SGX540
Adreno 220
Tegra 3 (ULP GeForce)
Egypt Standard*
6661 frames (59 FPS)
6709 frames (59 FPS)
2847 frames (25 FPS)
3485 frames (31 FPS)
5388 frames (48 FPS)
Egypt Fixed Time Step*
47.598 s (59 FPS)
47.261 s (60 FPS)
116.138 s
112.659 s (25 FPS)
69.055 s (41 FPS)
Egypt Off Screen (720p)
10 146 frames (90 FPS)
15 663 frames (139 FPS)
2516 frames (22 FPS)
3603 frames (32 FPS)
6496 (58 FPS)
Pro Standard*
2962 frames (59 FPS)
2975 frames (60 FPS)
1981 frames (39 FPS)
2140 frames (43 FPS)
2726 frames (54 FPS)
Pro Fixed Time Step*
20.868 s (60 FPS)
20.857 s (60 FPS)
34.658 s
31.982 s (39 FPS)
24.189 s (52 FPS)
Pro Off Screen (720p)
7352 frames (147 FPS)
12546 frames (251 FPS)
2277 frames (46 FPS)
2332 frames (47 FPS)
3717 frames (74 FPS)


According to the standard tests in GLBenchmark, nearly identical scores on the iPad 2 and iPad 3 imply similar perceived overall gaming performance. That doesn't seem like it'd blow you away, but it's actually pretty amazing when you consider the iPad 3's 2048x1536 native resolution. Comparing these two devices at their native resolutions is by no means an apples-to-apples match-up. But it is cool that the iPad 3’s A5X delivers the same performance with four GPU cores at 2048x1536 resolution as the iPad 2’s A5 with two cores at 1024x768.

Comparing the raw graphics performance of each hardware implementation using GLBenchmark's off-screen tests reveals that the A5X delivers about 1.5-2x more performance than the A5. More interestingly, the Tegra 3-based Transformer Prime actually falls behind the older iPad 2. In fact, when we compare the Transformer Prime to the iPad 3, we see a two- to three-fold jump in performance favoring Apple's tablet.

GLBenchmark 2.1.2
iPad 2
iPad 3
Triangle Test
65.0 Mtriangles/sec
129.2 Mtriangles/sec
Triangle Texture Test
58.0 Mtriangles/sec
120.8 Mtriangles/sec
Triangle Texture Test, Vertex Lit
45.6 Mtriangles/sec
93.6 Mtriangles/sec
Triangle Texture Test, Fragment Lit
43.5 triangles/sec
92.3 Mtriangles/sec


According to Imagination, its PowerVR tile-based deferred rendering architecture is highly dependent on memory bandwidth, which means there's a direct relationship between throughput and triangle rates. Based on our results from the iPad 3, it's pretty clear that graphics performance improvements are related both to a more complex GPU and greater bandwidth. The iPad 2 and iPad 3 seemingly both employ 800 MT/s LP-DDR2 by way of a dual-channel configuration. However, the iPad 3 utilizes four 32-bit memory interfaces, which is two more than its predecessor.

Display all 68 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 27 Hide
    acerace , March 19, 2012 5:51 AM
    Quote:
    love apple ..................... crap android *** copy tabs and phones


    Fail troll.
  • 23 Hide
    tomfreak , March 19, 2012 5:22 AM
    the requirement to use adapter to use usb and sd card = minus 50% score for any tablet. Period.
  • 22 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , March 19, 2012 7:34 AM
    Tomfreakthe requirement to use adapter to use usb and sd card = minus 50% score for any tablet. Period.


    My thoughts exactly. I don't care that it outputs 3x FPS over Transformer Prime; the latter can actually integrate into my devices' ecosystem and that's what matters. I'm not buying any tablet or phone without inbuilt memory card reader.
Other Comments
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , March 19, 2012 5:10 AM
    Would an alternate browser affect image display at all?
  • 23 Hide
    tomfreak , March 19, 2012 5:22 AM
    the requirement to use adapter to use usb and sd card = minus 50% score for any tablet. Period.
  • 1 Hide
    joytech22 , March 19, 2012 5:45 AM
    On the CPU and GPU performance page, there's a typo.

    When comparing the three iPads, the iPad 2 and iPad 3 are both said to be using PowerVR SGX545 GPUs (core-count is correct) while the table below it comparing SoCs the models are completely different and listed as SGX543.

    I smell something fishy, dinner must almost be ready! :D 
  • 27 Hide
    acerace , March 19, 2012 5:51 AM
    Quote:
    love apple ..................... crap android *** copy tabs and phones


    Fail troll.
  • -9 Hide
    Tc17 , March 19, 2012 6:01 AM
    I have a bridge to sell you if you believe this retina nonsense, on a tiny 10" screen.
  • 22 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , March 19, 2012 7:34 AM
    Tomfreakthe requirement to use adapter to use usb and sd card = minus 50% score for any tablet. Period.


    My thoughts exactly. I don't care that it outputs 3x FPS over Transformer Prime; the latter can actually integrate into my devices' ecosystem and that's what matters. I'm not buying any tablet or phone without inbuilt memory card reader.
  • 7 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , March 19, 2012 7:34 AM
    Though, of course, it's really sad that Apple is beating Asus on the graphics front. Really, really sad.
  • 20 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , March 19, 2012 7:40 AM
    tc17I have a bridge to sell you if you believe this retina nonsense, on a tiny 10" screen.


    After playing around with most hi-end Android devices AND iPhone 4S/iPad 2, I happen to believe this "nonsense". Everything looks so much more hi-res... but that's only Android's fault. When are they going to fix the menu animation lag and make everything more hi-res? ICS kind of did a good job on it, though, and now it actually looks NOTHING like iOS and is beautiful.

    Of course, the menu animation lag and low-res icons can't make me shift to Apple, especially now that I run ICS on my netbook (try that, Apple... oh wait, your toy MacOS IS already like a tablet OS, lol) - same way that MacOS's ability to take screenshots of a selected area of the screen can't make me shift from Windows/Ubuntu. It's just not nearly enough to compensate for the important features I'll lose. Sure enough, there're tons of people to whom all of them don't matter and they'll just go with the most hyped thing out there, but I prefer to know what I'm paying for. It's a habit that pays off on the long run.
  • -2 Hide
    killerchickens , March 19, 2012 8:06 AM
    I wish toms would stop using the bs retina display term considering the ipad 3's display isn't even close to the original standard.
  • 11 Hide
    bernardv , March 19, 2012 9:27 AM
    2048x1536 on a 10" screen? This is a joke, 0 value to 99.9% of end users. A fanboy excuse for throwing money away.

    The author comments it is suitable for watching movies. Which movie is even available in such a resolution??? For watching movies in your lap on 10", 720p is more than enough.
  • 4 Hide
    acku , March 19, 2012 9:30 AM
    joytech22On the CPU and GPU performance page, there's a typo.When comparing the three iPads, the iPad 2 and iPad 3 are both said to be using PowerVR SGX545 GPUs (core-count is correct) while the table below it comparing SoCs the models are completely different and listed as SGX543.I smell something fishy, dinner must almost be ready!


    Typo, fixed.
  • 4 Hide
    robot_army , March 19, 2012 9:39 AM
    I was wondering what the resolution used by each of the units was on the graphics tests? does the benchmark use a set resolution for each test, or the native screen res? i guess looking at the 720P results offer a set resolution, but i was wondering if the ipad 3 was runing the graphics at the full resolution of the screen given the textures and games were disigned to run on a lower res screen??
  • 5 Hide
    acku , March 19, 2012 9:44 AM
    There's an astrick in that table indicating native resolution for the nonoffscreen tests.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
  • 6 Hide
    acku , March 19, 2012 10:02 AM
    Tomfreakthe requirement to use adapter to use usb and sd card = minus 50% score for any tablet. Period.

    This would rule out the galaxy tab 10.1, as it also uses adapters.
  • 3 Hide
    robot_army , March 19, 2012 10:06 AM
    Thanks, but the reason i ask is the new ipad has about 50-60% gain Vs the 2, but at native resolution has 4x the number of pixels to work on, yet still managed to hit its 60 FPS target, does that mean the ipad 2 wasn't being streched in its test? ie it was just rendering at 60FPS as that was the limit of the display?
  • 12 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , March 19, 2012 10:11 AM
    ackuThis would rule out the galaxy tab 10.1, as it also uses adapters.


    Agreed, I was NOT happy when I noticed that Samsung decided to follow that stupid trend.
  • -6 Hide
    mrpijey , March 19, 2012 10:45 AM
    I am more than happy to not have the ports on pad. I can do just fine with the built in memory, and I don't need USB or other connectivity. And if I so happen to need it once or twice a year an adapter works just fine. All these built in slots also makes the unit thicker, adding to the weight and reducing the space for more important stuff, such as battery etc.

    But all of us have different needs so I am not saying it's bad with memory slots and USB ports, but personally I can do just fine without them, so for me iPad "3" is a win-win. I skipped iPad 2 since I felt it wasn't a good enough upgrade from iPad 1 (don't need camera, and speed was decent enough). But with this excellent screen AND better performance (compared to iPad 1) and the reduced weight and thickness (again, compared to my iPad 1) I feel I get enough good new stuff to warrant the expense.

    And personally I don't like the current messy state of Android so iOS works just fine for me. Again, my personal opinion so you trolls and haters can go back under the rock where you came from.

    And I wrote this using my Galaxy Tab.
  • -3 Hide
    rex86 , March 19, 2012 11:00 AM
    So they beefed up the GPU, added more RAM, increased the pps almost twice from the previous version, and added 4G support. But they had to increase the battery capacity almost twice, which makes their product one big green FAIL.

    I recommend them spend their $100 bil. USD for example developing more power efficient and powerful technologies, because this is going nowhere. What's next? Battery the size of a truck?
  • 4 Hide
    how2harry , March 19, 2012 11:15 AM
    I definitely see the appeal of a hi-res screen in a portable device and this feature alone I think will make this product a success and also seriously tempting to me.
    I had the idea of setting up a local DNS and web-server. With some simple HTML5 pages I could then serve all my media library to the device (HD videos, images, music etc). This would be one way round the ipad storage and connectivity limitations.
    (Not sure if Safari can go 'full screen' on the ipad that would help with this though?)
    I was shocked then to read "Safari, does not display high-resolution pictures in their native format."
    I wonder if then if this has been done intentionally to cripple media access to the device through the browser? I wonder if this applies to hd video too? If so I really hope that apple are not that anal and do make a fix for upcoming releases. Then I could have the best of both worlds:) 
  • 4 Hide
    ojas , March 19, 2012 11:18 AM
    hey i just discovered a few days ago that PassMark Performance Test is available (free) for iOS and Android. See if you guys can run it and post the benchmark's results.

    Don't use the "scores" though, they're Apple biased. Tell us the actual numbers, they seemed to be fair.

    i had fun seeing my iPod's A4 doing 66 MFLOPS...and then thinking that my Core 2 Quad does 40 GFLOPS :D 
Display more comments