Apple made some bold claims about its new A5X chip, claiming it would give a 4x graphical boost over Nvidia's Tegra 3. At the same time, the Tegra 3 is a powerhouse of computational processing. So lets put 'em to the test.
First, the usual caveat: benchmarks only mean so much. There are a lot of anomalies that are hard to account for, and benchmarking across different operating systems is problematic at best. User experience is more important. K? K.
Results in the SunSpider test were extremely inconsistent, but the two tablets scored within the same range. In a race-type test in which lower times win, both had peaks in the 1680-millisecond range, and both had troughs down to the mid-1800s. We're calling this one a draw, but we go on record as being suspicious of the results because of the variance.
The BrowserMark test gave much more consistent results, with less deviation, which made it seem more reliable. Higher scores win this test, which is designed to test Java and HTML rendering. After several runs, the Transformer Prime averaged 107,632, and the iPad averaged 99,908, making the Android device 7.2-percent faster. But again, different browsers will yield different results.
The iPad definitely won the graphical performance tests. In the Egypt standard test, the iPad processed 6740 frames at 60fps; in the Pro standard test it processed 2974 frames at 60fps. Compare that to the Prime, which clocked 5080 frames at 52fps and 2775 frames at 56fps, and the winner is clear. Watching the tests go, the iPad looked very smooth, whereas the Transformer Prime struggled with artifacting and other graphical anomalies.
Did the iPad win? Yes, solidly. But not even close to the 4x performance Apple promised, so it's unclear where the company got that number they were boasting about.
To test user experience, we downloaded some apps that are available on both platforms (iOS and Android) and opened them both simultaneously. Facebook, Twitter, Fruit Ninja and others all opened and worked at nearly the exact same moment. How close was it? Close enough that it doesn't matter at all. That's the good news. Whichever tablet you have, it's super fast and great. Stop trying to brag to your friends about milliseconds and just enjoy your awesome toy already.
Sorry to disappoint you, but there was no clear winner here. Results seem to indicate that for blasting through graphics, the GPU (graphics processing unit) in the iPad's A5X is faster. But for your average day-to-day usage, the CPU on Transformer Prime takes it. I'd love to see a good, cross-platform CPU test emerge, but until then, we'll just have to listen to nerds screaming at each other. Get your earplugs ready.
UPDATE: Geekbench 2
How could we have forgotten Geekbench 2, the well-respected cross-platform app that measures CPU and memory performance. "Geekbench scores are calibrated using the 2003 entry-level Power Mac G5 as a baseline with a score of 1,000 points." We ran the test five times on each tablet then averaged the scores. The iPad with its A5X chip scored a very respectable 757. Then the Transformer Prime pretty much curb-stomped it, scoring 1438. That means it performed complex calculations almost twice as fast as the iPad and quite a bit faster than a G5, too! This translates into fast day-to-day use, opening apps, and within apps and games. Visuals will be smoother on the iPad, but in most cases, it won't be faster.
For the hardcore geeks, here are the two tablets' averaged scores by category. If you want to know what they mean, click here.