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Toshiba Thrive Review: The Swiss Army Knife Of Tablets

GPU Performance: 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.

SoCApple A4 (iPad)Apple A5Nvidia Tegra 2
TabletsApple iPadApple iPad 2Acer Iconia Tab A500Asus Eee Pad TransformerMotorola XoomSamsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Processor1 GHz ARM Cortex-A8 (single-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)
GraphicsPowerVR SGX535 (single-core)PowerVR SGX545MP2 (dual-core)ULP GeForce (single-core)
L1 Cache(Instruction/Data)32 KB / 32 KB32 KB / 32 KB32 KB / 32 KB
L2 Cache640 KB1 MB1 MB

Tegra is Nvidia’s SoC brand, and it represents the company’s effort to tap into the mobile market beyond its desktop-derived GeForce graphics processors. For those unfamiliar with Tegra 2, read page eight of our Motorola Xoom review for a full discussion of GPU architecture. On the CPU side, Tegra 2 shares the same dual-core Cortex-A9, which offers a substantial boost from Cortex-A8 used in the first-generation iPad. Read Apple's iPad 2 Review: Tom's Goes Down The Tablet Rabbit Hole for a full discussion of Cortex-A9 performance.

While we've already covered Tegra 2, it's important to examine the graphics performance of each tablet. Sy Choudhury, director of product management at Qualcomm, once stated, "There is a misconception that the same processor and operating system gives the same performance." Why is it wrong to expect the same performance from all Honeycomb-based Tegra 2 tablets? Hardware vendors get access to the same optimizations from the SoC developer, but not all of the software-based tweaks are enabled by OEMs.

GPU (System-on-Chip)PowerVR SGX 535 (Apple A4)PowerVR SGX 543 (Apple A5)ULP GeForce (Tegra 2)
SIMDUSSEUSSE2Core
Pipelines2 (unified)4 (unified)8 (4 pixel / 4 vertex)
TMUs222
Bus Width (bit)646432
Triangle rate @ 200 MHz14 MTriangles/s35 MTriangles/s?

The ULP GeForce has a maximum operating frequency of 300 MHz, but device vendors can tweak this setting to save on power. Nvidia provides less information on the Tegra 2 than it does for its desktop GPUs, so it’s best to move on to benchmarks. As in our iPad 2 review, we're turning to GLBenchmark. However, since the publisher of this benchmark recently released version 2.1, our scores are different from what you've seen in the past.

Overall, the Thrive offers performance typical of a Tegra 2-based tablet: better than the iPad, but worse than the iPad 2. However, the standard Egypt and Pro tests only measure performance at a tablet's native resolution. On 10.1" Android-based tablets, that is always 1280x800 (compared to the iPad/iPad 2's 1024x768). 

GLBenchmark 2.1 introduces a new off-screen test, which standardizes performance to 720p. Based on the new tests, we see a smaller gap between the Tegra 2 and PowerVR SGX543MP2, but the latter still outperforms the former by ~50%. As a result, it's not a surprise to hear that Sony will employ a quad-core PowerVR SGX 543MP2 on its PlayStation Vita, the successor to the PSP.

  • ChiefTexas_82
    Seems to me Nvidia should hurry up with Tegra 3...
    Reply
  • soccerdocks
    User replaceable battery is a big plus for this tablet. That way I can just buy a new one in a few years when it wears out. Instead of having to leave it plugged in all the time.
    Reply
  • LordConrad
    I already own one and love it, the expandability offered by this tablet is simply awesome.
    Reply
  • Lord Lollipop
    If you want nVidia to rush Tegra 3, don't complain when it comes out buggy.
    Reply
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    I call BS on EeePad not having "full size USB port". It does, just it's on the keyboard dock (and if you buy the Transformer without one, you're wasting money, the dock is the big part of Transformer's awesomeness). However, I love the fact that Thrive has SD card reader - most of my devices (e-book reader, cameras, netbook) use SD, not the stupid microSD, so it'd be a big plus.

    Huh, Galaxy Tab 10.1 is looking quite poor - doesn't have anything besides the cameras. Shame on Samsung.
    Reply
  • acku
    amk-aka-phantomI call BS on EeePad not having "full size USB port". It does, just it's on the keyboard dock (and if you buy the Transformer without one, you're wasting money, the dock is the big part of Transformer's awesomeness). However, I love the fact that Thrive has SD card reader - most of my devices (e-book reader, cameras, netbook) use SD, not the stupid microSD, so it'd be a big plus. Huh, Galaxy Tab 10.1 is looking quite poor - doesn't have anything besides the cameras. Shame on Samsung.Galaxy Tab 10.1 supports USB devices and HDMI output but you need to buy the separate adapters.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    Reply
  • assassin123
    hello everyone please tell me what are toshiba thrive swiss army of tablets
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    Every time I read a tablet review I keep thinking, man they are pretty; But I really dont know what I would use it for that is worth $500.

    Also, surprised that the processors is about 75% graphics, and still cannot do a separate 1080p output. Cloning the screen at low rez should not be that difficult. Netbooks have been able to do 1080p output for years as an extension of the desktop. Sure, they cannot handle video or gaming at that res, but they do just fine with a web page, presentation, or office applications.

    Also, I bet 2012-2013 will be a fun time for tablets once win8 is released. My bet is that it will become a race between Apple and MS, and Android will become irrelevant, or for media consumption only.
    Reply
  • SinisterSalad
    I picked up the 8GB version a month or so ago when the Egg had a promo going on. I'm a bigger guy, so I like the feel of this. Like Andrew said, it doesn't feel like it's going to slip out of my hands. Hopefully ICS will be available soon for it.
    Reply
  • nforce4max
    Just wait until someone has a accident and drops it only to find the screen digitizer or lcd panel cracked which is a very common issue. Most tablets are underweight and lack proper protection for the screen and flex to much making it easy to break. Second is removable internal storage for the os. Using internal storage for booting that can't be replaced limits the life of most tablets. Cooling is another issue when the soc starts to heat up performance tends to degrade slightly and the user often feels a hot spot on the back. I think that all those porst listen in this review should be standard on all high end tablets above $200 retail especially the $300+. I currently own three tablets and owned a archos 101 8gb before selling it.
    Reply