In the early days of Android, most devices featured the same 528 MHz ARM11 Qualcomm processor and their performance levels were pretty comparable. It was not until Verizon launched the Motorola Droid that we began to see the next generation of chipsets being used, which offered new features like enhanced graphics processors.
Fast forward to today and we now have three major chipsets being used in high-end Android phones. HTC is using the Qualcomm Snapdragon, while Motorola has chosen the Texas Instruments OMAP, and Samsung has designed their own Hummingbird chipset.
All of these processors are based off a similar ARM Cortex-A8 architecture, but each one has been tweaked to offer unique features.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon was the first chipset to bring 1 GHz speeds to Android, but it has the slowest GPU of the three. We have measured this in graphics benchmarks and it has the lowest performance in 3D games (when compared to other 1 GHz chipsets). Qualcomm is hard at work producing a dual-CPU Snapdragon, but no products that use the new chipset have been announced.
Samsung and Texas Instruments have a step up on Qualcomm because they just released their own 1 GHz processors which are based on a 45nm process and utilize faster PowerVR graphics processors from Imagination Technology.
To summarize, the three high-end chipsets being used in Android phones are:
- Qualcomm: 1 GHz 65nm Cortex-A8 + Adreno GPU
- Texas Instruments: 1 GHz 45nm Cortex-A8 + PowerVR SGX530
- Samsung: 1 GHz 45nm Cortex-A8 + PowerVR SGX540
So which Android phones perform the fastest? I wish there was a simple answer, but it depends on a variety of factors including display resolutions, memory, and the version of Android that is installed.
To get a better idea of how the different phones stack up, we turn to Quadrant Professional from Aurora Softworks. A free version of this benchmark was available on the Android Market, but the new versions are only found at alternative app-store SlideME.
The phones we are testing today include:
- HTC Magic (CM6 RC1) – 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM7200
- Motorola Droid – 550 MHz OMAP3430
- HTC EVO – 1 GHz Snapdragon QSD8650
- HTC Nexus One (Android 2.2) – 1 GHz Snapdragon QSD8250
- Samsung Captivate – 1 GHz Hummingbird S5PC110
- Motorola Droid X – 1 GHz OMAP3640
All phones are running unmodified versions of the firmware, except for the HTC Magic which has CyanogenMod 6 installed since I wanted to preview what Android 2.2 might bring to the device.
In the CPU test, the Nexus One came out on top thanks to Android 2.2 and the new JIT compiler. Even though the HTC Magic has the slowest CPU, it came in second place also thanks to the performance boost of Android 2.2.
Of the phones running Android 2.1, the Captivate (Galaxy S) came out on top and the Droid was in last. When these phones are updated to Android 2.2, we should see scores that beat out the Nexus One.
I’m not exactly sure how the memory is tested in this benchmark, but the Droid X takes the lead. The Captivate is the only other phone with a 45nm processor and it generated a comparable score.
The EVO and Nexus One scored about the same so it does not look like Android 2.2 had any effect on the Snapdragon phones.
This is where things get interesting. When we break down the individual tests in Quadrant, we can see the I/O test is the main reason that the Droid X has been topping the Captivate (Galaxy S) in the overall scores.
The I/O part of the benchmark performs four test which include file system writes, file system reads, database writes, and database reads.
The Droid X generates scores that are three times faster than the closest phone and I really have no idea why. We have reached out to the developer of this benchmark in hopes he can give us a better explanation.
Update: As noted in the comments, it appears some open source devs have found a “fix” which brings the Galaxy S scores up to the levels of the Droid X.
Just like we found in our extensive GPU testing, the Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S) has the fastest GPU. This is because it has a PowerVR SGX540 and the Droid X has the older PowerVR SGX530.
Notice the difference between the Nexus One and EVO. Both phones have the same 1 GHz Snapdragon, but it appears that Android 2.2 helped increase the scores.
If the scores look out of whack on the HTC Magic, that is because it’s the only phone with a HVGA resolution so it pushes fewer pixels and performs less work.
QUADRANT PRO FINAL SCORES
When all the individual tests are added up, the Android 2.2-powered Nexus One generates the highest score in Quadrant. This is solely due to the CPU test which benefited from the new JIT compiler found in Android 2.2.
Coming in second place is the Droid X. Once again, this placement is mainly caused by the result of the I/O test where the Droid X scored 3x higher than the competition. We are still waiting to find out what caused this score, so be on the lookout for further updates.
The Samsung Captivate clearly has the fastest GPU and it performs neck and neck with the Droid X in the other tests (minus I/O). Even though Quadrant ranks the Droid X higher, I believe the Galaxy S has better overall performance (CPU + GPU).
This debate is far from over, but I think we can draw a few conclusions. I would love to hear what you guys think in the comments.
- The Snapdragon is the slower than the OMAP and Hummingbird
- Android 2.2 offers better CPU and GPU performance over Android 2.1
- Samsung’s Hummingbird chipset has the fastest graphics processor
- Android needs better benchmarks, but Quadrant Pro is a good start
If you have any theories on why the Droid X has such high scores in the I/O test, we would love to hear them. Make sure you visit SlideME.org if you want to download the new Quadrant and try these tests on your device.