Adreno-powered Nexus 6, Galaxy Note 4 deliver poor graphics performance vs. iPhone 6 Plus

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2014
Despite using one of the fastest Qualcomm mobile Application Processors now available, Google's new Nexus 6 and Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 fall flat in running GPU intensive apps and games--particularly in comparison to Apple's iPhone 6 Plus.




The first benchmarks showing off the actual performance users will get from these new Android "phablet" models highlight that Samsung and Google's other Android licensees appear to be making the wrong engineering choices, and that by itself, Apple is maintaining--and advancing--its lead over other mobile hardware manufacturers and chip designers.

Qualcomm Snapdragon beats Samsung Exynos

AppleInsider previously detailed Samsung's struggling efforts to build its own Exynos 5 "Octa-core" Application Processors for use in its most expensive Galaxy S5 and Note 4 products sold in a few markets internationally. While Samsung heavily markets its "Octa-core" Exynos chip, the majority of the company's Galaxy devices actually ship using more conventional quad-core chips from Qualcomm.

The latest Galaxy Note 4 uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805, which incorporates Adreno 420 graphics. Motorola's new Droid Turbo and its Google-branded Nexus 6 (just announced today) also use the Snapdragon 805, similarly clocked at 2.6-2.7 GHz. All of these also use the same 2560x1440 resolution as the Note 4.

Now that the first Qualcomm-powered Note 4 models have shipped, we can compare real-world Snapdragon 805/Adreno 420 graphics with Apple's A8. The results are not surprising: just as with Samsung's Exynos chips, Snapdragon delivers impressive low level graphics performance that falls completely flat in actually rendering OpenGL ES 3.0 at the native resolution of these Android devices.




With Intel and AMD having little to offer mobile makers, Qualcomm is the primary Application Processor supplier for high end Android devices, particularly since Texas Instruments pulled out of the consumer market and abandoned work on its own OMAP 5 chips.

The other major, high volume chip design family is Apple's own Ax series, which Android licensees have no access to. Last year's A7 chip gained a 64-bit architectural lead over Qualcomm, in addition to featuring an advanced GPU by Imagination Technology: its PowerVR Series6 "Rogue" architecture. This year, Apple has maintained its 64-bit lead while greatly enhancing power efficiency, enabling its slower clocked A8 with less RAM to match or beat the raw performance of 32-bit Qualcomm-powered devices and Samsung's 32-bit Exynos-powered Galaxy products. Moving from Samsung's Exynos to a Qualcomm 805 doesn't help much: the Adreno-powered Note 4 delivered 11.1 fps in the same test, almost half that of iPhone 6 Plus

More importantly, however, Apple has designed elements of its products together, achieving far better real world performance. The native resolution onscreen performance of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus reaches 25.9 and 18.4 fps respectively (in tests that make no use of Apple's Metal API to radically improve the performance of games and other graphics-intensive apps).

The difference in those scores is attributable to the extra pixels on iPhone 6 Plus. AppleInsider previously reported that Apple's leap to a Retina HD 1080p screen on iPhone 6 Plus resulted in graphics that were in some cases slower at their native resolution than last year's iPhone 5s: rendering a challenging OpenGL ES 3.0 3D scene dropped frame rates from 24.4 to 18.4 fps. In the middle, iPhone 6 achieved 25.9 fps.

Unsurprisingly, Samsung's own even-higher resolution Note 4 (or equally high resolution Galaxy S5 flagship) both turn in benchmarks far lower than Apple's new 6 Plus--and less than half that of last year's iPhone 5s. In terms of fps, benchmarks show that Samsung's Exynos-powered Note 4 drops down to 10.5 fps--almost half that of iPhone 6 Plus--in the same test.

Moving from Samsung's Exynos to a Qualcomm 805 doesn't help much: the Adreno-powered Note 4 delivered 11.1 fps in the same test of Open GL ES 3.0, and the similarly configured Motorola Droid Turbo only achieves 11.3 fps. This is data publicly available from Kishonti Informatics' GFXBench.

Engadget's phony report of competitive Note 4 graphics performance

Brad Molen, writing for Engadget under the headline "Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review: the best big-screen phone you can buy right now," reviewed these scores and decided to report only the hypothetical "offscreen" numbers, which appear to be flattering to Samsung.

"The numbers essentially confirm something I already knew: This phone is fast and powerful," Molen wrote.




This is completely misleading however, because users don't care how fast the device performs at an artificial level; they care about how it will actually work at real world tasks. The Note 4, just like Motorola's Droid Turbo, Nexus 6 every other Adreno 420-powered Android flagship with 2560x1440 graphics, doesn't have the horsepower to pull its own weight.

The only reason for printing just the "offscreen" numbers is to hide the terrible GPU performance of Google's Android implementation of OpenGL, and terrible spec-oriented engineering choices that create products that are designed to win feature checklist reviews rather than to serve as good products for users.

Bad Engineering Choices

In an apparent effort to win the "spec war," Android licensees--led by Samsung--began aggressively cranking up device resolutions on their most expensive premium flagships after Steve Jobs demonstrated iPhone 4's Retina Display back in 2010. Prior to that, Samsung was internally focused on smaller devices, not larger, higher resolution displays.

In contrast, Apple has only changed its flagship iPhone resolutions twice since then, making iPhone 5 taller and the new iPhone 6 & 6 Plus both larger and more pixel dense in the move to "Retina HD" displays.Samsung has pushed screen technology ahead of its own processor capabilities, resulting in extremely poor performance in high definition

The most obvious result has been that iOS app developers have had a much easier time managing the changes in resolution, so they can focus on new apps and features rather than testing across a broad range of configurations. That's apparent in the fact that nearly all new apps and games appear for iOS first, and only arrive on Android later after they've proven to be broadly popular in the App Store.

However, there's also another problem: by pushing resolution numbers so fast (and without any regard for whether having more pixels actually makes a discernible, qualitative difference), Samsung has pushed screen technology ahead of its own processor capabilities, resulting in extremely poor performance in high definition.

Looking at the fairly decent, low level theoretical scores of the GPUs Samsung uses (combined with much higher clock rates and more RAM), it appears that the company's devotion to extremely high resolution numbers is a spec list checkmark (rather than a real feature that benefits users) and is a primary contributing reason for poor real life scores in rendering 3D OpenGL scenes.

Samsung's high res screens, low graphics power strategy implodes

Last year, Samsung outlined this as its strategy for 2014 in a presentation in front of analysts and investors. Dr. Namsung Stephen Woo, president of Samsung's System LSI silicon design and fab group, unveiled aggressive plans to give its mobile phones a 2K resolution of 2560x1440 this year (below), nearly as great as a 13 inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display.



Woo also predicted that even higher resolution 4K "UHD" 3840x2160 displays would come into the mobile device market by 2015. He didn't specify why mobile devices would immediately need such incredible bit densities, but did note that such resolutions would demand far higher processing power.

But when asked about the processing technology to drive such extreme screen resolutions, Woo told his audience, "let me just tell you, we are... we have planned for it, we are marching on schedule. We will offer the first 64-bit AP based on ARM's own core [reference design].

"For the second product after that we will offer even more optimized 64-bit based on our own optimization. So we are marching ahead with the 64-bit offering, and even though it's a little too early, I think we are at the leader group in terms of 64-bit offerings."A year later, Samsung still doesn't have 64-bit chips it can use.

A year later, Samsung still doesn't have 64-bit chips it can use. Looking at the fairly decent, low level theoretical scores of the GPUs Samsung uses (combined with much higher clock rates and more RAM), it appears that the company's devotion to extremely high resolution numbers is a spec list checkmark (rather than a real feature that benefits users) and is a primary contributing reason for poor real life scores in rendering 3D OpenGL scenes.

In other words, the chips Samsung is choosing to use could theoretically match Apple's latest iPhones if they were not also driving tons of additional pixels that contribute little to no benefit to users. That's exactly what Molen's "offscreen" numbers suggest: if the Note weren't a bundle of poor engineering decisions, it would deliver benchmarks similar to Apple's.

Samsung itself has been marketing Note 4 to less sophisticated buyers as a "for the colorful" device along the lines of Apple's iPhone 5c.



However, even for a consumer device, Samsung appears to have picked the wrong screen resolution for Note 4, given the horsepower of its own Exynos 5 Octa Core Application Processor, or even Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805, which Samsung will use in most international markets (including North America and Japan).

Of course, at the same time there are also a variety of other Android devices with the same 1080p resolution as iPhone 6 Plus, and they don't score as well either. That's a fact we earlier blamed on Google's Android, particularly its shoddy implementation of OpenGL that squanders the capabilities of faster chips with more cores and more available RAM.

Apple's iPhone 6 A8 GPU destroys Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, Moto X & Nexus 5 /w fewer, slower cores & much less RAM $AAPL pic.twitter.com/SMgPqoYYrC

-- Daniel Eran Dilger (@DanielEran)

Pedal to the Metal

Apple's combination of A8 Application Processors and iOS is not only outpacing the mobile industry as represented by Qualcomm and Android licensees, but is also benefitting from vast economies of scale, which are in turn driving rapid technical advancement.

On top of this rapid advancement of Apple's Ax series of Application Processors, the company has also developed its own Metal API as a superior performance alternative to the more general purpose, cross platform OpenGL ES and OpenCL for general computing on a GPU.

Metal was already seeing adoption just days after iOS 8 became available to consumers; top App Store games have been ported to Metal before even getting to Android.

Using Metal, developers can achieve higher frame rates (and animate more details at any target frame rate) on the same hardware, allowing games on iPhone 6 Plus to further outpace competing devices in its category, widening the nearly 2x performance gap it already enjoys over Samsung's Galaxy Note 4, Nexus 6 and other similarly specced mobile devices in OpenGL benchmarks.
«1345678

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 151

    err, where are the Nexus 6 numbers?  I would think you would have them based on the subject / title of this article...

  • Reply 2 of 151
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,154member
    Remember when the iPhone was continually bashed for having lower specs, and lower benchmarks than others, even while it had a much better user experience? Now it leads on both.
  • Reply 3 of 151
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    I thought Apple (and Apple users) didn't care about specs.
  • Reply 4 of 151
    cash907cash907 Posts: 893member
    Look at the very bottom of that chart on top till you find screen resolution. Compare. Apples and Oranges, AI, and misleading headline.
  • Reply 5 of 151
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post



    Look at the very bottom of that chart on top till you find screen resolution. Compare. Apples and Oranges, AI, and misleading headline.



    As the article clearly details, the apples being compared here are smartphones, not theoretical capabilities of the chips inside them, were they not squandered by third rate Android code and incredibly foolish (or perhaps "good enough carrier friendly") decisions to cram 2K screens on a mobile device without also giving it a powerful enough processor.

     

    Seriously, when you look at two pictures, one of the simple truth and one of a cowardly lie, and all you can see is "misleading" truth because you don't want to believe the truth, there's not much more to say.



    Android is a confederation of the corporate losers who survived Windows Mobile and JavaME. It's awesome to see them all fail by their own greed and incompetence and inability to innovate anything beyond distractions to entertain simple people with no money. 

  • Reply 6 of 151
    kpomkpom Posts: 617member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post



    Look at the very bottom of that chart on top till you find screen resolution. Compare. Apples and Oranges, AI, and misleading headline.

     

    But that's the whole point. Samsung is saddling their processors and GPU with ultra-high resolution screens that offer questionable benefits to the end user over the 1920x1080 resolution that Apple is using, or that they used in the last generation.

  • Reply 7 of 151
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    Who cares about specs?

    What about that name!

    Google blew me away when they finally revealed "L" to be "Lollipop".

    Nobody is as innovative as them.
  • Reply 8 of 151
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Metal iOS vs. OpenGL Android tests will be interesting! Benchmarks from the same game title, say, set to the same detail levels.
  • Reply 9 of 151
    I think the most important benchmark is still missing - long term performance. Those numbers show the peak performance of a single run. The big advantage of PowerVR graphics is the constant performance. GFXBench offers an long term performance test running the T-Rex bench 30 times onscreen and checks the frame rate in the last run. Based on this test the performance of the Note 4 cents down 55% in the last run, the iPhone 6 plus in comparison performs only 17,5% lower (the iPhone 6 is even completely constant). I think these numbers are more important for game development than peak performance for a short moment. Normally this is all about heat, so the Nexus 6 could perform better than the Note 4 if it can handle the heat better. Anyway because of the lower resolution of the iPhones there will be more room for better effects or smoother frame rate.
  • Reply 10 of 151
    Daniel & Team, you guys ROCK! Thank you for all your hard work and kick-a$$ research!

    Respect! :smokey:
  • Reply 11 of 151
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,596member

    This is what happens when you do not control HW and SW, and pumping the clock speed can not longer make up for poor software programming habits. Apple show the same thing back when they moved from PPC to Intel, their benchmarks for the same Intel Processor and PC was better. For years the wintel world solution for poor performance was increase clock speed and more memory.

     

    The only way out from under this in the Android world is first google will need to rewrite Android to optimize its code and make stream line code execution to get rid of the overhead and they will have to work with SOC companies and stream line their design to get rid of circuits which are not needed. Guess what, it will not happen.

  • Reply 12 of 151
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,068member

  • Reply 13 of 151
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,154member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post



    Look at the very bottom of that chart on top till you find screen resolution. Compare. Apples and Oranges, AI, and misleading headline.

     

    How the **** is the headline misleading when these phones DO deliver poorer graphics performance, regardless of guts and resolution? Would you like an 8K phone that can deliver 1fps? The point is offering a good useable experience with power and resolution tightly tuned, but these companies don't give a shit about that. The fact that you can't look past the specs and understand that is telling. 

  • Reply 14 of 151
    Can you just clarify something for me, Dilger - is Samsung's devotion to extremely high resolution numbers a spec list checkmark? You said it twice in the article, so I thought you might like to say it a third time in the comments. Hey - if you posted under one of the additional usernames you use when you want to comment on an article without being associated with it, maybe you could say it a fourth or fifth time!

    But seriously, do you even proofread this drivel?
  • Reply 15 of 151
    sirlance99sirlance99 Posts: 1,143member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Corrections View Post

     



    As the article clearly details, the apples being compared here are smartphones, not theoretical capabilities of the chips inside them, were they not squandered by third rate Android code and incredibly foolish (or perhaps "good enough carrier friendly") decisions to cram 2K screens on a mobile device without also giving it a powerful enough processor.

     

    Seriously, when you look at two pictures, one of the simple truth and one of a cowardly lie, and all you can see is "misleading" truth because you don't want to believe the truth, there's not much more to say.



    Android is a confederation of the corporate losers who survived Windows Mobile and JavaME. It's awesome to see them all fail by their own greed and incompetence and inability to innovate anything beyond distractions to entertain simple people with no money. 


  • Reply 16 of 151
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,336member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    I thought Apple (and Apple users) didn't care about specs.



    No we don't. That's because our iPhone 4S still outperforms anything on Android and does it's job. You don't need to lust after bigger numbers if you're happy with what you have.

  • Reply 17 of 151
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    rogifan wrote: »
    I thought Apple (and Apple users) didn't care about specs.

    Apple doesn't market specs because the vast majority of their customers don't care about specs. you're on a niche tech enthusiast website, where people are interested in them.

    did you really need that explained?
  • Reply 18 of 151

    Just gonna leave this here.

     

    How come a 32 bit tablet with a higher resolution owns the iPad air? I thought 64 bit made everything magical? Where are the stats for this? Beat the drum folks, make as much noise as you want, these benches don't lie. Now wait for the nexus 9 announced today. I am sure it will keep up with the A8x. Nice cherry picking, as the note flies. Try it out next time you are at best buy, you guys will be disappointed with the preformance. It also has floating apps, dual windows, and a Wacom digitizer. All while running an outdated version of kitkat, can ios 8 do this? So multitasking is still gimped, and this article complains about the nicest screen on the market. You guys all trotted out display mate when they said the iphone had the best screen, and now you have to find a excuse as to why the screen is a Achilles heel. Apple insider=circlejerk.  At least most android sites right about how good android is. They don't bash ios. I expect a lot of hate thrown back at me, but it just shows the cracks in the wall even more.

  • Reply 19 of 151
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,732member
    A bit surprised that Android5.x Lollipop will be coming to the old Nexus 4's and original Nexus 7 (2012). I thought Google had considered 18 months as the update limit ( I read that here IIRC), but apparently that's not accurate. That old Nexus 7 is more than two years old now, dating back to June of 2012. I still have that one, dragging it out once in awhile for reading magazines. Still not sold on the need for tablets, personally preferring devices with attached keyboards if I want to use something larger than a smartphone.

    Yeah I know I can buy tablet keyboards but why? If you need a keyboard why not get one integrated with the device and display in the first place? Apple sells 'em as do many others. I suppose if money has little importance having multiple form-factors laying around for specific uses is all fine and good.
  • Reply 20 of 151
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,680member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    I thought Apple (and Apple users) didn't care about specs.

     

    It depends.

     

    Performance matters of course. That's what's most important.

     

    Apple devices in many cases deliver far superior performance compared to Android devices, even though the specs on paper might be less. 

     

    Specs are often very deceiving, because most people, including Fandroids, are too stupid to understand them, and figure out how they actually relate to real world performance. What good is a shitty quad core Android phone if another dual core Phone has better performance? What good is a 2.7 Ghz processor if another 1.9 Ghz processor is more powerful? What good is a big battery if your phone only lasts a few hours?

     

    And what good is specs at all, if your phone is running Android, which is complete garbage?

Sign In or Register to comment.