Jun 11 AT 2:20 PM Taylor Wimberly 36 Comments

High-end Android GPU showdown

During our last high-end Android phone showdown we learned that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon was the fastest mobile processor currently available in the United States, but faster platforms are coming later this summer.

The Samsung Galaxy S features the 1 GHz Hummingbird CPU (S5PC110) which they claim has the fastest GPU and the upcoming Droid 2 (and Droid X) feature the new Texas Instruments OMAP3630.  Both of these new processors, the Samsung S5PC110 and TI OMAP3630, use a 45nm production process which offers lower power consumption and they are cheaper to make.

I’d love to put both of these new phones through a series of benchmarks, but I have neither on hand at this time. Instead we are going to look at graphics processing units (GPU) and see how they match up.

We know which current U.S. phones have the fastest processors (Snapdragon), but which Android phones have the fastest GPUs?

The Players

For this round of testing, we are going to be looking at five current Android phones, plus a preview of one upcoming. We are mainly comparing the two most dominant GPUs found in Android phones – the Adreno GPU found inside several Qualcomm chipsets and the PowerVR SGX that appears with a couple different CPUs.

  • myTouch 3G Slide: 600 MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 – Adreno GPU
  • Droid: 550 MHz OMAP3430 – PowerVR SGX 530
  • Nexus One (Android 2.2): 1 GHz Snapdragon – Adreno GPU
  • EVO 4G: 1 GHz Snapdragon – Adreno GPU
  • Droid Incredible: 1 GHz Snapdragon – Adreno GPU
  • Galaxy S: 1 GHz S5PC110 “Hummingbird” – PowerVR SGX 540

All phones in this test are running Android 2.1, except for the Nexus One which has Android 2.2 installed. I had three Snapdragon phones, so I wanted to try and measure the graphics performance increase (if any) from the update to Android 2.2.

Every phone in this benchmark was also running a stock version of Android.

GLBenchmark 1.1

First up is GLBenchmark which can be downloaded from GLBenchmark.com. This application includes over 30 individual benchmarks, but we are going to focus on two tests – GLBenchmark HD ES 1.1 and GLBenchmark PRO ES 1.1.

GLBenchmark

As you can see, the mid-range myTouch 3G Slide comes out on top in this first test. This is because the Slide is the only phone tested with a HVGA display while the others are WVGA. The Slide only has to push 153,600 pixels (480×320), while most of the other phones mentioned are pushing 384,000 pixels (480×800). The Droid runs at the highest resolution (480×845) and pushes the most pixels at 409,920.

Even though the myTouch 3G Slide has the slowest CPU, it is able to perform quite well in GPU tests because it has to do less work than the higher resolution phones.

For the high-res phones, the Droid and its PowerVR SGX GPU come out on top. This is a complete reversal from our previous system benchmarks, where the Droid was coming in behind all the Snapdragon phones.

Looking at the Snapdragon phones, we find some interesting results. Even though the Incredible and EVO are essentially the same hardware, we see the Incredible is slightly faster. This could be evidence of the 30 fps limit in place on the EVO, which looks like the Incredible is lacking. The Nexus One with Android 2.2 comes out on top, which we expected thanks to the new JIT compiler.

NenaMark1

NenaMark is a benchmark of OpenGL ES 2.0, using programmable shaders for graphical effects such as reflections, dynamic shadows, parametric surfaces, particles and different light models to push the GPU to its limits. It can be downloaded from the Android Market or nena.se.

NenaMark1

Once again we see similar results as the GLBenchmark tests. The lower resolution Slide pumps the most frames, the Droid tops the high-res phones, and the EVO brings up the rear.

Neocore

Neocore is an OpenGL ES 1.1 graphics performance benchmark for Android devices. It shows off some of the techniques that are possible on accelerated platforms such as 1-pass light maps and bump mapping. This benchmark was developed by Qualcomm to show off the graphics capabilities of the Adreno GPU.

Neocore

Wrapping up our GPU testing we turn to Neocore, which is one of the oldest Android benchmarks. This time around we threw in a result from the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S. I did not have the Galaxy S on-hand, so we borrowed some benchmark scores from a post over at FrAndroid.

In this test the Galaxy S easily crushes all other Android phones with its newer PowerVR SGX 540 GPU. We were told the Galaxy S could deliver 2x-3x the graphics performance of Snapdragon phones and it appears to deliver.

Surprisingly or not, the Droid comes in last for this benchmark. Neocore was designed for Adreno graphics (featured in the Qualcomm chipsets) and the Droid features the PowerVR SGX 530.

Conclusions

This is by all means not the end of this debate, but I think we can draw several conclusions from this round on GPU benchmarks.

  • The Droid and its PowerVR GPU is faster than the Snapdragon phones in game performance.
  • Most Android phones will see a graphics performance boost with Android 2.2.
  • Phones with lower resolution displays (Slide) produce big results because they do less work.
  • The Samsung Galaxy S appears to have the fastest GPU – the PowerVR SGX 540.

We should also note that the upcoming Droid 2 and Droid X on Verizon will likely feature the newer TI OMAP 3630 processor, but it still uses the same PowerVR SGX530 GPU found in the Motorola Droid. We should expect better performance in the new phones thanks to the faster CPU (and maybe higher clocked GPU), but it looks like the Samsung Galaxy S will be the king of graphics performance.

Feedback

For those that hack and overclock, what kind of scores are you seeing? What other Android GPU benchmarks have you tested and which do you think provides the most accurate results? Are you surprised by the results of the lower-resolution Slide? Does the fast GPU found in the Galaxy S change your mind about purchasing it?

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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