Skip to main content

The Nexus 7 Review: Google's First Tablet Gets Benchmarked

Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) Improves Performance

Android 4.1, code-named Jelly Bean, is one of the Nexus 7's greatest assets. It's an apropos combination: the Nexus 7 is a tablet aficionado’s hard candy, and Android turns out to  be a delicious filling. Google is using its first tablet offering as an opportunity to debut Jelly Bean, which contains several usability improvements, including voice dictation (read all about the operating system's new features).

As a hardware guy, however, it's also easy to be impressed by how Jelly Bean affects the Nexus 7’s CPU and GPU performance.

Google claims that Jelly Bean’s internal improvements make the Android user experience so much smoother that the company internally dubbed its efforts “Project Butter.” Page 2 of Reporting From Google I/O 2012: Nexus 7 And Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)details many of the enhancements, but we'll review some of the raw benchmarks comparing Jelly Bean to its predecessor, Ice Cream Sandwich. According to Android engineering director Dave Burke, the core changes include:

  • To quote Google's developer page, "To ensure a consistent frame rate, Android 4.1 extends v-sync timing across all drawing and animation done by the Android framework. Everything runs in lockstep against a 16 millisecond v-sync heartbeat—application rendering, touch events, screen composition, and display refresh—so frames don’t get ahead or behind."

  • Again, to quote Google's already-simple explanation, "Android 4.1 also adds triple buffering in the graphics pipeline for more consistent rendering that makes everything feel smoother, from scrolling to paging and animations."
  • Finally, "Android 4.1 reduces touch latency not only by synchronizing touch to v-sync timing, but also by actually anticipating where your finger will be at the time of the screen refresh. This results in a more reactive and uniform touch response. In addition, after periods of inactivity, Android applies a CPU input boost at the next touch event, to make sure there’s no latency."

In practice, battery life seems largely unaffected moving from Ice Cream Sandwich to Jelly Bean.