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Google Nexus 10 Review: Is 2560x1600 High-Def Enough?

Results: GPU Performance

We don't have the explicit pricing data to prove it, but ARM's Mali GPUs have to be some of the most value-oriented designs available, which is why cheap SoCs like Allwinner's A10 employ the Mali-400 MP. The performance of that design isn't particularly impressive. However, the Mali-T6xx family is based on a new architecture called Midgard that promises significantly better results (up to five times higher, according to ARM).

ARM chooses not to divulge much of its architectural detail. However, the simple fact that Exynos 5 Dual offers so much memory bandwidth, seen on the previous page, suggests that a much more powerful GPU wouldn't be hamstrung by a lack of throughput, which is particularly important given the Nexus 10's native resolution. Fortunately, tests like GLBenchmark allow to dig into subsystem performance at a more granular level.

The native resolution tests are device-specific, looking at a given graphics processor rendering on a specific tablet's screen. GLBenchmark 2.1 suggests that ARM's Mali-T604 at 2560x1600 is faster than the Kindle Fire's PowerVR SGX540 at 1280x800, but it's slower than third-gen iPad's PowerVR SGX543MP4 engine at 2048x1536.

Taking the same tests off-screen removes resolution from the equation, narrowing our analysis to further emphasize the GPU. Freed from the Nexus 10's demanding native resolution, we see ARM's Mali-T604 serving up exceptional performance, second only to the quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP4 in Apple's third-gen iPad. 

Compared to other devices, the Mali delivers 25% more performance than the SGX543MP2 in Apple's iPad 2 and iPad mini, and between 80 and 130% more than Tegra 3.

Even at 2560x1600, tons of memory bandwidth helps the Nexus 10 overtake its Tegra 3-based competition at much lower resolutions when we apply higher-quality textures in GLBenchmark 2.5.

The off-screen test of this more-demanding version of GLBenchmark shows just how much ARM's Midgard architecture relies on taxing workloads in order to show off its potential. We see the Exynos 5 Dual's Mali-T604 solution top the chart, ahead of the A5X's SGX543MP4.