Mar 16 AT 4:33 PM Taylor Wimberly 61 Comments

Preview: How will upcoming dual-core CPUs like Exynos, OMAP4, and Snapdragon match up with Tegra 2?

NVIDIA was first to market with a mobile, dual-core CPU and their Tegra 2 took the lead in our last round of performance benchmarks. Now the competition has finally caught up and we will soon have four legitimate super chips to choose from in the next six months. Which dual-core platform will be the fastest this summer? Read on after the jump for a performance preview of the Exynos, OMAP4, and Snapdragon to see how they stack up with Tegra 2.

Dual-core Android phone lineup

For this round of comparisons we will match up five different dual-core smartphones. We have two released phones based on Tegra 2 (Atrix 4G and Optimus 2X) and three upcoming phones, each with a different system-on-a-chip (SoC).

Keep in mind that the Optimus 3D, Galaxy S II, and HTC Shooter were all benchmarked on pre-production software so the final performance numbers could be enhanced.

Also note that the Atrix 4G and HTC Shooter feature qHD displays that have a higher resolution (960 x 540) so they have to push 30% more pixels.

Smartbench 2011 productivity

Smartbench 2011 is a rather new benchmark, so we have been unable to run it on the LG Optimus 3D or Samsung Galaxy S II.

Qualcomm has not allowed us to benchmark their dual-core Snapdragon, but Smartphonebenchmarks.com spotted a test result in the Smartbench 2011 database of the HTC Pyramid (Shooter).

In the Smartbench 2011 Productivity suite the Atrix 4G scored 2856, the Optimus 2X scored 2791, and the HTC Pyramid (Shooter) scored 1743.

This is one of the few benchmarks that is multi-threaded so we expected the dual-core Snapdragon to perform better. In this round of tests, the Tegra 2 phones are around 60% faster.

Smartbench 2011 Games

Once again, Smartbench 2011 is a rather new, so we have been unable to run it on the LG Optimus 3D or Samsung Galaxy S II.

For some reason it does not appear that the different resolution has a great impact on results in this test. Both the Optimus 2X and Atrix 4G feature a Tegra 2 and have similar scores (~5%), even though the Atrix has to push 30% more pixels.

Surprisingly, the Tegra 2 devices score 45-50% faster than the dual-core Snapdragon.

GLBenchmark 2.0.3 Egypt

The HTC Shooter benchmark score was spotted on the GLBenchmark.com database. Scores for the Optimus 3D and Galaxy S II were taken from Anandtech.

In the GLBenchmark 2.0.3 Egypt test we can see the OMAP4-powered Optimus 3D take the lead. The OMAP4 uses a similar PowerVR SGX540 GPU as the Galaxy S devices, but Texas Instruments bumped up the clock speed.

The HTC Shooter and Motorola Atrix 4G both feature qHD displays, so we can see the Adreno 220 GPU outperforming the GeForce GPU in this test.

Bringing up the rear is the Samsung Galaxy S II with its ARM Mali 400 GPU. It scored lower than two devices that have higher resolutions, so we don’t know what’s going on in this test.

GLBenchmark 2.0 Pro

Scores for the Optimus 3D and Galaxy S II were taken from Anandtech. I benchmarked both of these devices at Mobile World Congress last month and found similar results. We have no score for the HTC Shooter in this test.

Once again the OMAP4 with its PowerVR SGX540 GPU takes the lead. The Atrix 4G is the only device in this test with a qHD display, so it has the lowest score as we would expect.

Conclusions

It is really hard to draw conclusions from a handful of benchmarks run on pre-production software, but we can still get an idea of how these future devices might stack up.

  • Samsung Exynos 4210 (Samsung Galaxy S II) – Even though we don’t have productivity benchmarks for the Exynos CPU, we expect it will be similar to Tegra 2 since both feature two of ARM’s 1 GHz Cortex-A9 cores. The scores of the ARM Mali 400 GPU were mixed, so we need to put it through some more testing when it comes out. The Galaxy S II was unveiled last month at MWC, but no US versions have been announced. Hopefully we will get some more info at this month’s CTIA and products should be in stores by late Q2 or early Q3.
  • Texas Instruments OMAP4430 (LG Optimus 3D) – The OMAP4 produced good results in a select few GPU benchmarks. This chip also has dual-core 1 GHz CPU using the Cortex-A9 cores, so it should offer similar productivity performance as the Tegra 2 and Exynos. The LG Optimus 3D is the only OMAP4 phone that has been announced, but Motorola’s Droid 3 is also rumored to include a chip from Texas Instruments. Look for these devices to debut in Q3.
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8x60 (HTC Shooter) – Qualcomm’s Scorpion core is beginning to show its age. It underwent a die shrink from 65nm to 45nm and received a faster GPU, but this is the same CPU architecture that has been used since the first-generation Snapdragon. The original Scorpion core offered productivity performance similar to a Cortex-A8, but it is an entirely custom architecture designed by Qualcomm. The GPU benchmarks for the dual-core Snapdragon provided mixed results, so we need to put it through some more testing. Look for the HTC Shooter to debut on Sprint in late Q2 or early Q3.

Back in January I predicted that Tegra 2 won round 1 of the multi-core wars before these other devices were benchmarked and it looks like that might still come true. To summarize I thought Tegra 2 would become a hit since it was first to market, featured premium content, and was the reference platform for Honeycomb tablets.

NVIDIA has the most dual-core smartphones (Atrix 4G, Optimus 2X, Droid X2, Droid Bionic, and a Galaxy S II version) and so they should move the most units shipped this year. That means game developers are likely to target and optimize for the platform that has the largest user base.

I never focussed on performance because I figured most of the dual-core chips would have benchmark scores that were comparable. We can now see that the OMAP4 might end up with the fastest GPU, but we will have to wait and see how many game developers optimize their content for Texas Instrument’s chip. When it comes to productivity performance all of the devices with Cortex-A9 cores should offer similar, leading performance while the Snapdragon and its Scorpion core might lag behind.

AT&T is the only carrier with a dual-core Tegra 2 phone (their Atrix 4G), but we expect every carrier should have something to offer by Q2. T-Mobile will receive the LG G2x, Verizon will get the Motorola Droid Bionic, and Sprint has a few Tegra 2 surprises also in the works.

In closing, 2011 is the year of the dual-core CPU. We have already covered the numerous benefits of multi-core over single-core, so I suggest waiting for a dual-core phone on your carrier if you plan to upgrade in the next three months. If you already upgraded this last year and want to wait a little longer, we should have the first quad-core phone by Christmas with several more to follow in early 2012.

Which dual-core chip would you like to see in your next Android phone?


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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