Earlier this morning we published our first impressions on Apple's iPad 2, including analysis on camera quality and a dive into the architecture behind Apple's A5 SoC. Our SoC investigation mostly focused on CPU performance, which we found to be a healthy 50% faster than the A4 in the original iPad - at least in web browsing. We were able to exceed Apple's claim of up to 2x performance increase in some synthetic tests, but even a 50% increase in javascript and web page loading performance isn't anything to be upset about. We briefly touched on the GPU: Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX 543MP2. Here Apple is promising up to a 9x increase in performance, but it's something we wanted to investigate.

Architecturally the 543MP2 has more than twice the compute horsepower of the SGX 535 used in Apple's A4. Each shader pipeline can execute twice the number of instructions per clock as the SGX 535, and then there are four times as many pipes in an SGX 543MP2 as there are in a 535. There are also efficiency improvements as well. Hidden surface removal works at twice the rate in the 543MP2 as it did in the 535. There's also a big boost in texture filtering performance as you'll see below.

As always we turn to GLBenchmark 2.0, a benchmark crafted by a bunch of developers who either have or had experience doing development work for some of the big dev houses in the industry. We'll start with some of the synthetics.

Over the course of PC gaming evolution we noticed a significant increase in geometry complexity. We'll likely see a similar evolution with games in the ultra mobile space, and as a result this next round of ultra mobile GPUs will seriously ramp up geometry performance.

Here we look at two different geometry tests amounting to the (almost) best and worst case triangle throughput measured by GLBenchmark 2.0. First we have the best case scenario - a textured triangle:

Geometry Throughput - Textured Triangle Test

The original iPad could manage 8.7 million triangles per second in this test. The iPad 2? 29 million. An increase of over 3x. Developers with existing titles on the iPad could conceivably triple geometry complexity with no impact on performance on the iPad 2.

Now for the more complex case - a fragment lit triangle test:

Geometry Throughput - Fragment Lit Triangle Test

The performance gap widens. While the PowerVR SGX 535 in the A4 could barely break 4 million triangles per second in this test, the PowerVR SGX 543MP2 in the A5 manages just under 20 million. There's just no competition here.

I mentioned an improvement in texturing performance earlier. The GLBenchmark texture fetch test puts numbers to that statement:

Fill Rate - Texture Fetch

We're talking about nearly a 5x increase in texture fetch performance. This has to be due to more than an increase in the amount of texturing hardware. An improvement in throughput? Increase in memory bandwidth? It's tough to say without knowing more at this point.

Apple iPad vs. iPad 2
  Apple iPad (PowerVR SGX 535) Apple iPad 2 (PowerVR SGX 543MP2)
Array test - uniform array access
3412.4 kVertex/s
3864.0 kVertex/s
Branching test - balanced
2002.2 kShaders/s
11412.4 kShaders/s
Branching test - fragment weighted
5784.3 kFragments/s
Branching test - vertex weighted
3905.9 kVertex/s
3870.6 kVertex/s
Common test - balanced
1025.3 kShaders/s
4092.5 kShaders/s
Common test - fragment weighted
1603.7 kFragments/s
3708.2 kFragments/s
Common test - vertex weighted
1516.6 kVertex/s
3714.0 kVertex/s
Geometric test - balanced
1276.2 kShaders/s
6238.4 kShaders/s
Geometric test - fragment weighted
2000.6 kFragments/s
6382.0 kFragments/s
Geometric test - vertex weighted
1921.5 kVertex/s
3780.9 kVertex/s
Exponential test - balanced
2013.2 kShaders/s
11758.0 kShaders/s
Exponential test - fragment weighted
3632.3 kFragments/s
11151.8 kFragments/s
Exponential test - vertex weighted
3118.1 kVertex/s
3634.1 kVertex/s
Fill test - texture fetch
179116.2 kTexels/s
890077.6 kTexels/s
For loop test - balanced
1295.1 kShaders/s
3719.1 kShaders/s
For loop test - fragment weighted
1777.3 kFragments/s
6182.8 kFragments/s
For loop test - vertex weighted
1418.3 kVertex/s
3813.5 kVertex/s
Triangle test - textured
8691.5 kTriangles/s
29019.9 kTriangles/s
Triangle test - textured, fragment lit
4084.9 kTriangles/s
19695.8 kTriangles/s
Triangle test - textured, vertex lit
6912.4 kTriangles/s
20907.1 kTriangles/s
Triangle test - white
9621.7 kTriangles/s
29771.1 kTriangles/s
Trigonometric test - balanced
1292.6 kShaders/s
3249.9 kShaders/s
Trigonometric test - fragment weighted
1103.9 kFragments/s
3502.5 kFragments/s
Trigonometric test - vertex weighted
1018.8 kVertex/s
3091.7 kVertex/s
Swapbuffer Speed

Enough with the synthetics - how much of an improvement does all of this yield in the actual GLBenchmark 2.0 game tests? Oh it's big.

GLBenchmark 2.0 Egypt & PRO Performance
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  • Exodite - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    The real questions is how popular tablets are though.

    I've yet to see any evidence that actual people, as opposed to organisations, purchase tablets in any significant numbers.

    Not that I'm denying that the iPad 2 is the best tablet out there, I'm just not seeing how market share in an insignificant market plays any real part.
  • Concillian - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    "I've yet to see any evidence that actual people, as opposed to organisations, purchase tablets in any significant numbers."

    Hey, we own a tablet... because my wife's work gave one to every employee as a Christmas gift.

    Otherwise, we definitely would not.

    Most often used for:
    Angry Birds

    Not exactly pushing the envelope on technology... lol. Definitely wouldn't go buy one ourselves. It's a huge pain to use this thing on the web. easierr to use my wife's blackberry than to type on a touchscreen.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Compare it with other consumer electronics. In the first year the iPad sold more than the Nintendo Wii, and it took three years for the XBox 350 to hit 15 million sales.

    It is a blockbuster product by any measure, and I think it is pretty safe to call it "popular" :)
  • EarthCore - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    The iPad sold more than the Wii in its first year? Hmm, I highly doubt that. I remember the Wii being sold out everywhere online and retail for at least its entire year if not longer.

    The Wii sold something like ~85mil units in a little over 4yrs.

    Now, you just sound like a fan boy.
  • rquick - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    Yeah - go look it up on Wiki - iPad sold more units in its first 9 months than Wii. While they were both clearly wildly popular and to some extent supply limited, the Wii apparently sold about 10 million units in the first nine months while the ipad sold about 14 million. Not that it matters, the point is that the device is too popular for the only purchasers to be corporate. I would even bet that the corporate buyers were actually pretty late to the party as they usually are. Everybody I know (except me) bought their own ipad. Mine was a gift. I didn't want it but I couldn't talk her out of it - probably because she knew me better than I do.
  • vision33r - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    Maybe you live in a small town or campus. The iPad is everywhere in NYC. 14 million sold last year is no small number. Analysts are predicting 25 million iPads this year. With the strong initial sales, there's no doubt Apple will achieve that number in less than a year.

    Netbook is dead, I don't own any Netbook anymore. They are just subpar notebooks and not a replacement for a full notebook. iPad beats a netbook when it comes to web browsing and gaming.
  • eriku16 - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    I live in LA and only saw just 2 or 3 ipads. I don't hang out where they would typically be seen, ie Starbucks...

    The netbook is not dead. They serve a purpose as intended. They are full, fledge PCs with standard ports ,REAL OSs using REAL applications. Not some toy cellphone OS.

    My Atom/ION based, Ubuntu nettop HTPC can play 45Mbs M2TS streams the ipad/2 would choke on.
  • Aloonatic - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    Your response seems like he classic Apple hater/denier that we see on here all the time, who might know a great deal about technical aspects of computing and what can be done on a device like a linux netbook, but have almost zero comprehension of what the general pubic actually want.

    When will people here (and on DT) get it that a lot of people don't care about having "full fledged PCs..." and "...real OSs using real applications", whatever a "real" OS or application is?

    They want something that is fun and easy to use, that gets the job done, that's it. The technicalities of how it gets done is not something that the vast majority care about.

    People largely use MS OSes (windows) purely out of familiarity, and that they know about nothing else. Give people a go on these "unreal"(??) Oses and maybe you will be surprised at how easy people find the transition.

    The only thing that I can really agree with you about is the standard ports issue, which bugs the hell out of me. That companies like Apple and SONY insist on their proprietary stuff is so irritating.
  • EarthCore - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    How is not being able to view over 40% of the internet that uses Flash & Java getting the job done?

    Netbooks, my Apple fan boy friend, do NOT pose this problem.

    The average consumer doesn't know the technical specs of their netbook OS, but they sure do appreciate being able to share files with their friends and family w/o having to hook up their netbook to a....what do you call it? Real OS?

    The fact that ALL iOS devices have to be tethered to a "Real OS" to do any simple file management job sort of kills your whole argument of, "iPad it gets the job done" doesn't it?
  • Azethoth - Sunday, March 13, 2011 - link

    What is this 40% of internets I cannot see? Should I care about it? I mean I see "The Shockwave / Flash plugin has crashed" CONSTANTLY on my PC using Chrome. Am I missing out on something? Because even tho I had a Flash Crash, the website is still miraculously available ...? Weird rite? Was it like authored to be usable without flash?

    If I went there with my iPad would it say "go away iPad user" or will I just see a website and navigate around it?

    What is the benefit to me of some Adobe crapware that has outlived its usefulness and now serves only as an attack vector for malware?

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