GPU And Gaming Performance
Mobile GPU performance is becoming increasingly important as people begin to see their phones and tablets as portable gaming machines. This section explores GPU performance with several synthetic and real-world game engine tests. To learn more about how these benchmarks work, what versions we use, or our testing methodology, please read our article about how we test mobile device GPU performance.
The Galaxy S6 improves upon the S5’s graphics score by about 15%, but trails the other Adreno GPUs in 3DMark. When it comes to vertex processing, the Mali-T760MP8 GPU in the S6 matches the Galaxy Notes 4’s Adreno 420, but is 24% slower than the Adreno 430 in the HTC One (M9). In the second graphics test, which focuses on pixel processing, the Adreno 420 is 17% faster than the Mali in the S6, and the Adreno 430 is 44% faster.
The Physics test focuses on CPU performance, so it’s no surprise to see the S6 lead the pack. Similar to the AndEBench memory latency test, the 3DMark Physics test uses a data structure that requires random memory accesses, which the Snapdragon 810 in the HTC One (M9) seems to struggle with, further suggesting that the 810’s memory controller is optimized for sequential accesses like the A8 in the iPhone 6.
The Mali-T760MP8 performs well in Basemark X, topping the performance chart at the medium quality setting. When rendering offscreen, the S6 shows a 67% improvement over the S5 in Dunes and 46% in Hangar, even though it never pushes the Mali GPU past 700MHz.
Despite having to render almost twice as many pixels, the Galaxy S6 still manages to outpace both the S5 and M9 in the onscreen test.
Changing the quality setting to high produces similar results. The S6 uses its superior memory bandwidth to extend its lead over the previous generation S5 to more than 2x in Dunes and 2.5x in Hangar. To handle these more challenging tests, the S6 pushes GPU frequency up to the maximum of 772MHz.
We saw in 3DMark that the Mali-T760MP8 performs better, relative to the Adreno GPUs, in the first graphics test, which emphasizes vertex processing. Basemark X can use up to five times as many triangles as 3DMark: Ice Storm Unlimited, which seems to play to its strengths.
While the Adreno 420 and 430 perform well in the GFXBench synthetic tests, this advantage does not extend to the shader heavy OpenGL ES 3.0 based Manhattan. The S6 edge, which holds a slim lead over the regular S6, outperforms the M9 by 20% and the Note 4 by 41% when rendering offscreen at 1080p. It’s also more than twice as fast as the Adreno 330 in the S5 and maintains an advantage even when rendering at a higher onscreen resolution.
T-Rex results look similar to Manhattan, with the curved-screen S6 having an edge over the regular S6 and extending its lead over the M9 and Note 4.
Something seems to be amiss in the Alpha Blending test. We should see performance remain about the same or decrease when rendering onscreen versus offscreen. This is indeed the case for all of the phones except the S6 and S6 edge, which actually perform significantly better in the onscreen test. Since we do not see this behavior in any of the other benchmarks, this is likely caused by a driver quirk or in how the test is coded.
Adreno wears the crown in the ALU test, where even the Adreno 330 in the S5 outperforms the S6. While we know next to nothing about the Adreno architecture, we do know that the Mali-T760MP8 can process 160 FP32 FLOPs/clock. The PowerVR GX6450 in the iPhone 6 can process 256 FP32 FLOPs/clock, but because of the S6’s higher GPU frequency, it should have the advantage in ALU performance, which it does. The results in this test reflect Qualcomm’s focus on improving ALU performance over the past few generations, and it certainly appears like the Adreno 430 has more ALUs than the Mali-T760MP8.
The S6 sees a 26% improvement over the S5 in the Fill test. Both the Mali-T760MP8 and the PowerVR GX6450 can process eight texels per clock, but due to the difference in GPU frequency (700MHz for the S6 and ~450MHz for the iPhone 6), the S6 should have a 56% advantage, which happens to be very close to the 52% difference we measured.
For the Adreno 420 in the Note 4, Qualcomm increased the size of the texture cache and optimized the ROPs. Based on performance results, it does not seem any further changes were made to cache sizes or the later stages for the Adreno 430. Still, the improvements introduced in the 420 give the latest Adreno GPUs an advantage over the Mali in the S6 in the Fill test. With up to a 50% lead in offscreen performance, the Adreno 420/430 likely have more ROPs than the Mali-T760MP8 too.
The Galaxy S6 sees a significant upgrade in GPU performance over the S5, even when rendering at its higher onscreen resolution. With a max frequency of 772MHz, the Mali GPU in the S6 also outperforms the PowerVR GPU in the iPhone 6. The comparison between the S6, Note 4, and M9 is less clear, however. Both the Adreno 420 and 430 offer better synthetic performance in GFXBench, but trail the S6 in the Manhattan, T-Rex, and Basemark X game engine tests. Regardless of who’s faster for a given scenario, the Galaxy S6 has the performance to fuel a premium gaming experience.