A8 Versus A8 Versus ARM11
A8 versus A8 versus ARM11 – we haven’t had a good showdown in a while. Today I was fortunate enough to get a Freescale iMX515 Cortex A8 based tablet to play with, and decided to pit it against its half brother, the Texas Instruments (TI) OMAP3530 Cortex A8 based counterpart, the MIDnite, as well as our latest tablet offering on the MP4 Nation store, the Telepad, powered by the ARM11 TCC8902 processor. Invigorating stuff. The Freescale and TI A8 processors were both clocked at 800MHz while Telepad’s Telechips ARM11 CPU comes in clocked at a lower 720MHz – I know, it’s not quite a fair test, especially when considering the latter runs Android 2.1, while the former two A8 brethren run Android 2.2. We (attempted) to use 3 benchmarks: Quadrant Standard Edition, Linpack for Android and Qualcomm’s Neocore… the results were interesting, to say the least.
The Contestants - let’s take a closer look.
#1 – Nationite MIDnite
The MIDnite is a 7-inch (800×480) device powered by a TI OMAP3530 Cortex A8 processor clocked at 800MHz with 256MB RAM. It’s both the MID community’s darling and disappointment. Never has a MID so polarised its buyers. It runs on Android 2.2.
#2 – Generic Freescale Tablet
Our Freescale tablet did not have a brand name associated, it’s just a generic housed in an APAD shell. It’s cheap looking (and more than a few times crashed on us). An 8-inch (800×600) device with a 4:3 non-widescreen aspect ratio, aping the iPad, the generic is powered by a Freescale iMX515 Cortex A8 processor clocked at 800MHz with 256MB RAM (they told us it had 512MB though…). The Freescale tablets are being touted as the next big thing. It runs on Android 2.2.
#3 – Telepad 10.1-inch Tablet
The Telepad is a 10.1-inch (1024×600) tablet powered by the ARM11 Telechips TCC8902 processor. It does 1080p HD video at a pace that makes most other MIDs run for shelter but is on the lower end of the scale in terms of raw processing power. It runs on Android 2.1.
The Results – Linpack
Linpack is a synthetic benchmark designed to test a device’s floating point performance, results being reported in Millions of Floating-point Operations Per Second (MFLOP/s). What does it mean? Well, according to Greenecomputing, it represents more the state of the Android VM rather than the raw processing power of the CPU, which makes sense in lieu of our results comparing the two A8′s below. Take a look.
While the difference is minor, we see the Freescale iMX515 tablet come away with the lead, pushing 11.4 MFLOPS and completing the benchmark in 7.35 seconds. The MIDnite, with its TI OMAP3530 processor, comes in a close second pushing 10.627 MFLOPS and completing the benchmark in 7.89 seconds. To give you some perspective, the Telepad Telechips-based tablet comes in last, pushing 4.699 MFLOPS and taking 17.84 seconds to complete the benchmark. Can the difference in the two A8 tablets be down to the implementation of Android rather than the actual processing power? The results of the Quadrant benchmark speak toward that.
Before that, though, the pictures from which these result images were cropped for those doubters.
The Results – Quadrant
Quadrant is one of the more popular Android benchmarks out there, offering a suite of tests that tax CPU to I/O to 2D and 3D. The standard edition we used spits out a standard score and we can’t analyse where certain tablets did better and where they did worse, which was a shame considering our interesting results with the two A8 competitors…oh, and please excuse the terrible photography.
The MIDnite, as we’ve seen before, comes out on top of the pile, with an impressive 1554 score topping even the Nexus One, according to the results browser of the Quadrant spp. This is in stark contrast to the Freescale iMX515, imaged below.
The Freescale tablet turns in a rather disappointing 999, which leads me to believe that the Android implementation isn’t particularly well polished. Considering the comparable nature of the processors, it seems too large a performance drop that we can pin it on the different processor makes. However, as we mentioned earlier, the Freescale tablet did crash on us a few times and is, for lack of a better term, very much a work-in-progress, even when compared to the MIDnite, which should shock a few. Lastly, the build quality of the Freescale tablet left quite a lot to be desired… it could be the case that inferior components (eg. PCB) also lead to lower performance, though this is just speculation.
The Telechips puts in a performance that we expected. It lacks the sheer processing power of its A8 competitors. There’s not much else to say. What is not represented is the TCC8902′s is the 1080p capability it possesses, which is something not to be taken lightly in these high-def days.
Lastly, the images that these were cropped from for doubters.
The Results – Qualcomm Neocore
Unfortunately, our fun was cut short here. It appears that the Telepad, much like the Tellybelly, didn’t like to run Neocore, and resulted in a mishmash of blue/white textures. Sadly, the MIDnite with its 11.02 firmware also exhibited this, though with the original 08.31 firmware, it ran fine. We’ll be looking into resolving this soon. However, the Freescale iMX515 did run the benchmark and threw out a score of 22.1 FPS. When comparing this to an old score that we ran on the MIDnite, it comes out disappointingly behind, as the MIDnite nets itself 26.9 FPS. Perhaps, again, we are looking at limitations that extend beyond processor difference. In fact, I’d almost be willing to bet that processor difference doesn’t account for these scores.
The image of the Freescale Neocore run for your reference.
And there you have it. Take the results how you will. My interpretation would be that the generic Freescale tablet we dealt with still needs a lot of work done under the hood. The MIDnite is doing a fair bit better but, as you can clearly see, still has a ways to go. The benchmarks don’t really reflect the Telepads contribution to the tablet market as they don’t measure video playback performance where the Telepad easily outdoes both the A8 tabs. However, it falls down elsewhere, such as slower Android usage and browsing, and is perhaps aimed more at those multimedia-inclined buyers.