GPU Performance

Even to this day, Tegra K1 has held the crown for best GPU performance in a mobile Android device. From one point of view this is quite impressive, as it shows how NVIDIA was able to build a GPU that no other SoC vendor apart from Apple was able to beat. From another point of view, it's quite concerning to see that nobody apart from Apple values GPU performance enough to try and beat NVIDIA's chips.

Being an NVIDIA SoC, Tegra X1 is paired with a GPU designed in-house by NVIDIA. More specifically, it’s a 256 core part based on their Maxwell architecture. We’ve already seen how this GPU performs in the SHIELD Android TV, but due to being battery powered and having stricter thermal constraints, there will obviously be differences in performance between it and the Pixel C. In this case, it appears that the GPU is also running at a lower frequency than the SHIELD Android TV. While it has been estimated that the SHIELD Android TV's version has a peak GPU frequency of 1GHz, I believe the implementation used in the Pixel C has a peak GPU clock of approximately 850MHz. It’s also worth noting that the Pixel C uses the open source Nouveau kernel drivers that differ from NVIDIA’s kernel drivers on the SHIELD Android TV and SHIELD Tablet K1, and it doesn’t have full OpenGL support which has been the case with Google’s previous Tegra-powered devices as well. With all that in mind, lets dive into our standard mobile GPU test suite to evaluate the GPU performance of the Pixel C.

BaseMark X 1.1 - Dunes (High Quality, Onscreen)

BaseMark X 1.1 - Hangar (High Quality, Onscreen)

BaseMark X 1.1 - Dunes (High Quality, Offscreen)

BaseMark X 1.1 - Hangar (High Quality, Offscreen)

There's not a whole lot to be said about the Pixel C's performance in BaseMark X beyond saying that it's faster than any other Android device by a large margin. Even in the on screen tests, the Pixel C with its substantial resolution is still the fastest device on the charts. Absolute GPU performance as shown in the off screen tests shows a 43% performance improvement over the Tegra K1 used in the Nexus 9.

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD (Onscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan (Onscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD (Offscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan (Offscreen)

In GFXBench's T-Rex on screen test the Pixel C comes very close to hitting the Vsync limit despite its relatively high resolution. Off screen performance in both T-Rex and Manhattan is exceptional, and both tests make it clear that the Pixel C has the most powerful GPU in any mobile Android device. The gap between it and the next fastest device is quite large too, and the only tablet that can beat it is the iPad Pro with its A9X SoC.

The GPU performance of the Pixel C is unparalleled in the Android space. Not only that, but it ends up being faster than any similarly sized tablet, including the iPad Air 2 and of course the Nexus 9. It’s certainly impressive, and while I don’t mean to take away from the achievement, I can’t help but wishing that we had seen Tegra X1 come to market a bit sooner. Beating out A8X and Tegra K1 is great, but the former of those SoCs is also now well over one year old. While comparing to the iPad Pro is unfair in some respects due to the size difference, both devices do sell themselves as tablets priced for productivity, both launched at around the same, and NVIDIA’s GPU isn't as fast as the one in A9X. That being said, at $799 the iPad Pro is also significantly more expensive than the Pixel C, and relative to its price the Pixel C offers amazing GPU performance. The only concern would be if A9X shows up in some sort of regular sized iPad priced at the same level as the Pixel C. While I certainly do wish we could have seen Tegra X1 in some sort of tablet a bit earlier in the year, right now it does stand as the chip with the fastest GPU to ship in a standard size tablet, and I don’t think it will disappoint even when playing the most intensive 3D games.

Storage Performance

Something that hasn't been investigated very thoroughly in the past is smartphone storage performance. However, among high end devices this is now becoming a point of differentiation. Apple has moved to their own storage solutions that use NVMe and run over PCIe, while Samsung is pushing forward with UFS 2.0. While the Pixel C is a premium tablet, it ships with a standard eMMC storage solution. It also has Google's disk encryption enabled, which has been shown to impact storage performance in the past.

Internal NAND - Random Read

Internal NAND - Random Write

Internal NAND - Sequential Read

Internal NAND - Sequential Write

Like every Android device that Google has been involved in developing, the Pixel C doesn't fare well with our storage performance tests. Random reads and writes decent, although not competitive with new storage solutions like the SSD in the iPhone 6s and iPad Pro. Sequential speeds are simply not good at all, and definitely not competitive with what you'll get in an Apple device from the past two years or anything with an unencumbered and halfway decent eMMC or UFS storage solution. There's not much point in going over this issue again, because at this point it's clear that Google doesn't consider storage performance to be a metric worth competing on. I think it is, and I think that users end up appreciating the benefits of faster storage through quicker app installations, less loading when working with large files, among other benefits, even if they don't know what's driving those improvements behind the scenes. It's definitely something to think about when considering the Pixel C as a tablet, especially if you have a productivity focus.

System & CPU Performance Display Analysis


View All Comments

  • kurkosdr - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Split-screen is a problem devs aren't at fault, but Google. Reply
  • jbelkin - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Because android only sells when it's subsidized or discounted heavily. That is why android tablets sell fine at $99 but not beyond that. The facts are that android is only fit for low end products - look at Nest now, stops working periodically - an annoyance for a phone or a tablet but deadly when in cold climates when you need the temperature maintained ... but what does Google care* - as long as the tracking info arrives back, the rest - who cares? What, you want your "free" money back?

    * one reason why google is changing its name tio alphabet, non assiciation with google branding.
  • Speedfriend - Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - link

    Android only fit for low end products? I use iOS and Android products on a daily basis and my Android phone is far more stable than my iPhone, many of my Android apps work better too. And don't get me start on iPhone reliability. The number of hours I have wasted in my life trying to get an iPhone repaired because the touchscreen or fingerprint reader has broken again. We use iPhone as our work phone and the reliability is awful compared to our laptops and PCs. Reply
  • vanilla_gorilla - Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - link

    I've got right at 480 iOS devices registered in Air-Watch so my anecdote > your anecdote, and we don't have any of the problems you're describing. The only time an iPhone breaks is when someone drops it or the rash of iPhone 5 we had years ago with the battery issue (for which Apple had a replacement program). Reply
  • fastfreddy68 - Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - link

    jbelkin I read your stupidity and cant hold back . Tablets dont sell much because the "niche" they had is gone. Phablets replaced it. Apple six plus is a direct result of the popularity of Samsungs NOTE 4 and f,,,, Android. The Google pixel isnt sold to the poor Rube it cost more then some Iphones.Obviously you are some FANBOY. I'll put my LG V20 up against your Iphone any day.
    People like Android because of the creativity it allows.
    NFC and Waterproofing a direct result of Androids popularity. Claiming Android is only for the poor is so 5 years ago. Maybe instead of buying another Apple product you should buy a clue.!
  • extide - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    While I agree the Asian desire for CORESSSSSSS is a bit off, I don't think it really has anything to do with it. Ultimately most people don't care what processor is in the tablet. They care is it slow/crappy? If not, its ok.
    The software ecosystem, on the other hand, is the big deal. Android is well known for not having many good tablet focused apps. That is a much bigger issue than the cpu and stuff. I mean obviously this thing has great build quality, that's not holding it back.
  • easp - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    The lack of good Android tablet software is a problem, but the fact that the Android tablet and phone market is dominated by SoCs with too many cores and too little single-thread performance is a big problem.

    I don't think its fair to place blame solely at the feet of asian customers. Plenty of spec-obsessed western customers have taken the bait too.

    The poor single core performance means that javascript web apps are slow, because Javascript engines are single threaded.
  • jbelkin - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    it does matter. high spec high cost android tablets do not sell - just like $1,500 chromebooks or WIN PC's. The max price for an android tablet is $99 and $299 for a chromebook. Reply
  • johnnyzleong - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    "The Google ecosystem is focused on ignorant third-world consumers that think more cores are somehow better than faster individual cores."
    Holding a iPad makes you feel so good isn't it?
  • McDuncun - Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - link

    That`s the problem man, the Apple Market is so heavily condensed... Not with rational people or a well rounded product line but with the smug bastardized self righteous fumes that all Apple owners exude from their well bleached orifices. Stigmas are there for a reason and yes I can be petty and still make a good argument. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now