Graphics Testing: 3DMark And GFXBench
Futuremark’s 3DMark and Kishonti’s GFXBench (the new name for DXBenchmark and GLBenchmark v2.7) are two very interesting new graphics tests that allow for cross-platform comparisons between x86-based PCs and ARM-based gadgets. With these benchmarks, we’re finally able to see how the graphics cores in smartphone and tablet SoCs fare against the good old PC.
Unfortunately, Futuremark still hasn't launched its iOS- and WinRT-compatible versions of 3DMark, so we have to say goodbye to the iPad 2 in this test. The LG Optimus Slider also has to sit this one out because its operating system is below 3DMark’s minimum requirement of Android 3.0. And finally, the Intel GMA 950 in the Dell Mini 10v prevents us from testing that system in either of the new cross-platform graphics benchmarks.
On the Net'sPC2 YF810-8G, games are locked to 1280x800, which is essentially 1280x672 once you factor in Android's navigation bar. We've done a fair bit of testing and it seems that this setting cannot be changed. So, if you set the YF810-8G to 1920x1080 and play Shadowgun, you're actually dealing with an up-scaled image. Performance is static regardless of resolution because the game is always rendered at 1280x672. So, fully utilizing our 27” 1080p monitor does not hinder the nettop’s graphics performance whatsoever.
For the first time in our testing, an ARM-based device is surpassing a Vista-era office PC. The Smart Buy Award-winning Nexus 7 takes a solid lead over the beige box. While the office PC does have integrated graphics, its five-year-old GeForce 6100 solution is no slouch, able to play through Source engine-based games with high settings at 720p.
This is a shocker. While the system-level benchmarks went pretty much like we expected, with x86 handily beating ARM, it appears that ARM-based SoCs are making far more progress in catching up to the PC when it comes to on-die graphics. Keeping the comparison based on cost and what you many of you already own, the $200 Nexus 7 surprises us yet again.
On the other hand, the ~$100 home/office PC still achieves a result that is approximately 2.5x higher than that of the Kaser.
The low amount of usable system memory in the LG Optimus S does not allow GFXBench’s scene tests (T-Rex and Egypt) to run properly. Luckily, the less intense Fill Rate and Triangle Throughput tests run just fine. While not directly reflective in-game performance, these micro-benchmarks are perfect for testing our unusually low-end gear.
These tests run off- and onscreen. The off-screen tests gauge performance irrespective of the attached display, allowing us to compare the SoCs in various devices with differing screen sizes and resolutions. Meanwhile, the on-screen tests illustrate how devices with attached screens perform in real-world usage.
The results of the fill rate tests closely mirror that of 3DMark, with the two ineligible units capping the top and bottom of the placing order. We can see that the Optimus S has an advantage in real-world usage due to its miniscule 320x480 screen resolution. However, when running the off-screen test at a resolution that the burner’s built-in screen cannot handle, performance drops by about 30 percent. The remaining devices all have screens between the 720p and 1080p range, so the performance difference between the on- and off-screen tests is minor.
The next three tests are interesting because we can see the performance of all five systems drop as more intense effects are applied.
In the first triangle test, Kaser's platform produces slightly better off-screen scores than it does on-screen. Once vertex lighting is applied, the results of the two tests even out. When we move to fragment lighting, the Kaser pops out more triangles per second on-screen than off, making it even with the real-world performance of the LG burner that sells for half the price.
Notice that the iPad 2’s lead increases as more complex effects are added. In the first two tests, the Nexus and Vista-era PC are neck-and-neck, while the final fragment-lit test takes advantage of the Google tablet's newer Nvidia chip. All three comparison systems put the Kaser and LG burner to shame, with Grandma's PC achieving ten times the score of the $100 Android nettop!