The Amazon Kindle Fire: Benchmarked, Tested, And Reviewed

TI's OMAP 4430: CPU And GPU Performance

CPU Horsepower: Closer to A5 Than Tegra 2

As we’ve mentioned in the past, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets use highly integrated logic referred to as SoCs to minimize physical footprints and power consumption, all the while optimizing for performance and functionality. By putting execution resource, graphics processing, system memory, and several other subsystems in a single ASIC, data transfers can be achieved more efficiently without soldering a bunch of separate chips onto a PCB. Incidentally, the same SoC term applies to modern desktop processors like Intel's Sandy Bridge- and AMD's Bulldozer-based chips, which combine cores, cache, memory controllers, and other capabilities.

The Kindle Fire uses TI's OMAP (Open Multimedia Application Platform) 4430 SoC. We haven't had as much experience with this specific piece of hardware, but the underlying technology is similar to the more familiar Tegra 2 and A5 in that all three employ dual-core Cortex-A9s clocked at 1 GHz.

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SoCApple A4Apple A5Nvidia Tegra 2TI OMAP 4430
Processor1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 (single-core)1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 (dual-core)1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 (dual-core)1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 (dual-core)
Memory256 MB 333 MHz LP-DDR (single-channel)512 MB 1066 MHz LP-DDR2 (dual-channel)1 GB 667 MHz LP-DDR2 (single-channel)512 MB 400 MHz LP-DDR (dual-channel)
GraphicsPowerVR SGX535 (single-core)PowerVR SGX545MP2 (dual-core)ULP GeForce (single-core)PowerVR SGX540(single-core)
L1 Cache(Instruction/Data)32 KB / 32 KB32 KB / 32 KB32 KB / 32 KB32 KB / 32 KB
L2 Cache640 KB1 MB1 MB1 MB

Given the common CPU architecture, it shouldn't be a surprise that Linpack generates the same score on Amazon's Kindle Fire as it does on our Tegra 2-based Xoom.

Even so, the OMAP 4430 has more in common with Apple's A5 than it does with the Tegra 2. Why is this? Apple and TI both use A9s with an ARM SIMD engine, better known as NEON. It's capable of decoding MP3s on an ARM CPU running as slow as 10 MHz, which provides added benefits in power savings. Why don't all SoCs feature the Advanced SIMD extension? Architecturally, it imposes a physically larger and more costly SoC.

GPU: Better Than A4, Worse Than A5

SGX 540

On the graphics side, the OMAP 4430 employs Imagination Technology's PowerVR SGX 540. This should be familiar because it's derived from the same architecture as the GPUs found in Apple's A4 and A5. The key difference is in the shaders.

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GPU Subsystem(System-on-Chip)PowerVR SGX 535(Apple A4)PowerVR SGX 540(OMAP 4430)PowerVR SGX 543(Apple A5)
Bus Width (in bits)646464
Triangle rate @ 200 MHz14 MTriangles/s28 MTriangles/s35 MTriangles/s

The SGX 543 in the A5 includes four USSE2 (Universal Scalable Shader Engine 2.0) pipes. In comparison, the SGX 540 has the same number of pipes but uses the older USSE design. The SGX 535 hails from the same GPU generation as the SGX 540, but it only has two USSE pipes.

While the architecture is interesting, performance data is what we're after, which is why we're turning to GLBenchmark.

The OMAP 4430 falls expectedly between the A4 and A5. Though it's probably shocking to see the SGX 540 outperform Nvidia's ULP GeForce by such a large margin, remember that GLBenchmark tests at a device's native resolution. On our Tegra 2-based tablets, that's always 1280x800. Meanwhile, the Kindle Fire only has to do its work at 1024x600.

We can get normalize for that resolution issue by looking at the off-screen tests set to 720p. Based on those results, we see the SGX 540 core performing similarly as Tegra 2's ULP GeForce.

  • JeTJL
    Should of done other comparisons with Tablets around the Kindles Price range like the Coby Kyros. I personally don't have either the Kyros or the Kindle Fire. But recently My sister bought it and she is thoroughly enjoying it. I received a Ipad2 though because of the Academy at my School that I belong to and I'm quite pleased with it, even though I'm a big android fan.
  • How do I win a Radeon 6990?
  • acku
    9523250 said:
    How do I win a Radeon 6990?

    Ummm.... what? :heink: This is a Kindle Fire review.....

    Andrew Ku
  • Goldengoose
    ackuUmmm.... what? This is a Kindle Fire review.....Cheers,Andrew KuTomsHardware.comJust give him the 6990, the poor fellow just wants to play BF3.
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    ackuUmmm.... what? This is a Kindle Fire review.....Cheers,Andrew
    Ever heard of bots? There're tons of those on Tom's nowadays.

    GoldengooseJust give him the 6990, the poor fellow just wants to play BF3.
    A GPU of a 560 Ti level maxes it out @ 1080p, no need for a 6990.

    Back to topic...

    Notably, it's missing a slew of features, including a GPS, front- and rear-facing cameras, and a microphone.

    ROFL, and who needs a tablet without all that? That's right, Amazon fanboys. That company is an utter POS that is not unlike Apple, designing underpowered useless products and delivering them as "innovative". The only "innovative" thing here is a complete dependency on the company's online services... oops, nevermind, Apple did it first :kaola:
  • donovands
    Wait, what? Is there such a thing as an Amazon fanboy?
  • donovands
    The iPad took a part of the market away from the PC, in the sense that there are folks out there who don't need the full functionality of a PC and the media consumption tablet gave them a device more suited for their needs. The same thing is happening here, if not as dramatically. The Fire may not have all the functionality of an iPad, but there's a lot of folks out there that will get the Fire *instead* of the iPad because it provides all the functionality they need. It isn't an iPad killer. But it *is* going to hurt iPad sales.
  • SneakySnake
    I think it's hilarious how the best selling droid tab this year is completely closed off, limited, and controlled. Sounds familiar doesn't it :P

    And do not say "ya, but you can root it!!!". That's nice, people can jailbreak their iPads. You cannot include rooting and jailbreaking when you talk about something being open
  • acku
    __-_-_-__"That rules out video conferencing using Skype or mapping out directions to the bar across town."There are some new devices called WEBCAM and bluetooth or usb GPS that would enable that. you might want to check this huge innovation. -.-
    The Fire doesn't have either of those things. Not going to work. You should check out the specs of the Fire first.
  • BlackHawk91
    Actually this tablet surprised me, I didn't expect that much from the kindle fire.