SOC Royal Rumble!

iPad Air 2 vs. Nexus 9 vs. China Tablet SOCS

Now that Google has officially announced the new Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, we can finally see how the new 64-bit dual-core 'Denver' SOC fares in comparison to the existing Tegra K1 which itself is mighty impressive and offers easily the most powerful GPU in the Android world! Not only that but Apple has also launched its latest and greatest SOC with the new iPad Air 2 in the form of the A8x, an upgraded version of the A8 found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Pitted against these are selection of SOCS you'll find in the top end china tablets currently available, see below for the full list of SOCS compared.

Device SOC Brand SOC Core (s) CPU Bit Frequency (Mhz) GPU Frequency (Mhz) GFLOPS
Applie iPad Air 2 Apple A8X 3 Cyclone 64 1500 PowerVR GX6650 ? ?
Nvidia Shield Nvidia K1 4+1 Cortex-A15 32 2300 Kepler 192 core 950 364.79
Nexus 9 Nvidia K1 64-bit 2 Denver 64 2300 Kepler 192 core 850 326
Galaxy Tab S 10.5 Samsung Exynos 5433 4+4 Cortex-A57/A53 64 1300/1900 Mali-T760 MP6 700 170*
Asus Memo Pad 8 Intel Atom Z3580 4 Moorefield 64 2330 Power VR G6430 533 136.4
Pipo P1 Rockchip RK3288 4 Cortex-A17 32 1600 Mali-T760 MP4 600 81.6
Onda V989 Allwinner A80 4+4 Cortex-A15/A7 32 2000/1200 Power VR G6230 533 68
Onda V975M Amlogic M802 4 Cortex-A9 32 2000 Mali-450 MP8 600 54
CHUWI V99i Intel Atom Z3735E 4 Bay Trail 32 1333-1826 HD 4000 311-677 ?
Cube U65GT Mediatek MT8392 8 Cortex-A7 32 1.7 Mali-450 MP4 700 53.8

Update: added devices used for benchmark and replaced Xaomi Mipad with Nvidia Shield for 32-bit Nvidia K1

We'll leave it there as far as the technical details are concerned, we want to see how these new beasts perform!On paper Nvidias new K1 certainly looks impressive, with the same ridiculously powerful Kepler GPU and in place of the old A15-based CPU comes something completely new and different from Nvidia featuring 2 powerful 'superscalar' cores in place of the previous 4 less powerful cores. As for the A8x in the new iPad Air 2, on paper all we see is a slight increase in clock speed but we know from the iPhone 6 that this SOC offers very impressive performance per mhz so that could well mean good things! On the GPU side of things, Apple expects 2.5x the performance of the old Apple iPad Air which puts it right up there with the K1.

CPU - Geekbench Single Core


Its clear to see in the Geekbench single-core results, the new 64-bit Denver SOC absolutely destroys the competition bar the A8x, with few competing SOCS even able to match half of the performance. The A8x comes very close to matching the single-core performance, an impressive feat considering it operates at a much lower frequency. Beyond this the only other SOC that comes remotely close is the latest Exynos 5433 from Samsung which offers around 70% of the single core performance of the Denver core..

Its interesting to note that Mediatek, the up and coming SOC manufacturer so dominant in china phones, has its flagship tablet SOC firmly at the bottom of the tablet with performance less than 25% of the Denver cores, a frankly pitiful performance achieved through the use of the competitively weak A7 cores.

CPU - Geekbench Multi-Core


Moving on to multi-core scores we can see that the Denver cores lose their crown to both the A8x and Exynos, both of which have a core advantage with the A8x having 3 cores and the Exynos 4. In real-world usage most apps and games will only use 1 or 2 cores so these scores are slightly misleading and given the choice, we would always prefer 2 fast cores rather than 8 weak ones. The A8x offers undoubtedly the best CPU available in a tablet right now, with a sensible number of cores and blistering single-core performance offering the best overall performance as can be seen above.

The new 64-bit Denver cores in the Nexus 9 offer impressive single-core performance but with only 2-cores, its unable to match the overall performance of the A8x and in the multi-core benchmark perform much closer to the old 4-core K1. The Exynos 5433 from Samsung meanwhile is not able to compete on the same level as the others in the single-core benchmark but offers decent performance when apps can take advantage of all of its 4 cores.

In both single and multi-core benchmarks all of the SOCS most likely to be found in flagship china tablets really come up short, with the RK3288 offering the best performance within this group, but still only around 50% of the performance of the A8X.

GPU - T-Rex


Update: the A8X previously showed the 'best' rather than the 'median' result giving it a slight advantage, this has been corrected.

Its clear to see, the A8x and its super-powerful PowerVR GX6650 flat-out destroys most of the competition with a ridiculous score of 70.4 fps on the T-Rex test! The new 64-bit Kelpler performs worse than the old one in the Nexus 9 if comparing to the Shield tablet but offers very similar performance to the Xaomi Mipad suggesting that there are some Shield specific changes resulting in better performance. In the T-Rex benchmark the K1 in the Shield offers 93% of the performance of the PowerVR GX6650 in the iPad Air 2, a very impressive result. The rest of the competition are nowhere near the iPad Air 2 with Samsung's 5433 managing roughly half the performance.

The china chipsets fail to deliver even half of the performance of the A8x, with the M802 offering the best performance of the bunch and yet still only manages to provide around 30% of the performance we see from Apples SOC.


Update: the A8X previously showed the 'best' rather than the 'median' result giving it a slight advantage, this has been corrected.

In the more demanding Manhattan test the A8x leads the way again but the gap between the Nvidia Kepler GPU is less pronounced, offering 95% of the performance. The gap between the rest is still very large and many of the china tablet SOC GPU's failed to even run the test.

iPad Air 2 vs. Nexus 9

There is no doubt about it, with the release of the iPad Air 2 Apple has raised the bar for performance, both in CPU and GPU benchmarks where it offers a sizeable performance improvement over the next closest competitor, the Nexus 9.

The Nexus 9 however is still one powerful device and most certainly the most powerful android tablet available now, thanks to the new 64-bit Nvidia Denver SOC, although GPU performance is bettered by the Kepler GPU in the Nvidia Shield. What's more, there doesn't appear to be any SOC  on the horizon that has the grunt to dethrone this beast any time soon within the world of Android deices, with its successor being the most likely candidate. So if you're an android fan and value performance, your only choices are the Nvidia K1 powered devices, namely the Nexus 9, Xaomi Mipad or Nvidia Shield.

So, right now Apple holds the performance crown and Android fans will have to accept that their gadgets are not quite up to the lofty standards of the iPad Air 2, at least for now...

Budget Performance Alternatives

Firstly, lets just confirm to you what is clear from the above benchmarks, if you value performance then a budget alternative, is simply not a viable alternative. The budget SOC manufacturers of the likes of Mediatek, Amlogic, Allwinner and Rockchip similarly cannot currently offer anywhere near the same level of overall performance as Apple, Nvidia, Samsung or Nvidia but naturally, they are cheaper and the reality is that you really do get what you pay for, nothing more, nothing less in this case.

All that said, most of the SOCS available today will be more than good enough to ensure smooth operation and decent performance in most games. The only concern with the budget SOCS is when they attempt to power screens above 1080p, at which point we would recommend instead raising your budget and looking to more established brands, that is until these china tablet manufacturers raise their game and introduce ever more powerful SOCS!

The Nexus 9 starts at $399 and the Xaomi $270 so if your can afford those and you love performance, buy them! But what if your budget is a little less substantial? If we look at the sub $200 tablets which SOC should you look for? Well at that budget your limited to M802, A80 and RK3288 or MT8392.

Immediately you should ignore the MT8392 which posts the worst single-core results and the worst GPU performance. Next to go is the A80 which offers decent GPU performance which is just slightly ahead of the RK3288 but CPU performance is lacking in comparison. That leaves the M802 to compete against the RK3288, offering a moderately more powerful GPU but significantly worse CPU performance utilising a less power efficient architecture.

So, if your looking for pure performance from your android tablet and can't stretch to something  powered by the mighty Nvidia K1, then the Rockchip RK3288 is the only choice in our opinion.

Credit to for some of the nitty gritty details.

Post tags:

  • android
  • China tablets
  • comparison
  • iPad Air 2
  • Nexus 9

About the author

Jamie Englert has been writing about Android devices since he we was just a wee boy. Ok, that's a lie there were no Android devices back then but if there was he would have wrote about them. He is particularly excited about the growing wealth of awesome android mobiles coming from china and other eastern countries.

  • Scott R. Frost

    Here are links to the actual numbers from GFXBench themselves, since the author is overstating iPad 2 results iPad 2 – 32.4, Shield – 31.0 iPad 2 – 70.4, Shield Tablet – 65.0

    • Thank you for pointing this out Scott, the difference is that I used the ‘best’ rather than ‘median’ result for the iPad – this wasn’t done consciously and I will update the post shortly. This is an Android focussed blog so I definitely wouldn’t want to overstate Apple’s dominance!

    • Thanks for letting me know Scott, it wasn’t a concious decision (this is an Android fan site afterall!) I just accidentally used the ‘best’ rather than ‘median’ score for the iPad. Corrected now!

  • jmga

    Take a look at 3D Mark and Antutu results too. A8X is over K1 in some tests but in others is far below.

  • P0l0nium

    Why would you chose an RK3288 over an AtomZ3580 or an Exynos5433 as “second choice” ??

    Both those parts outperform the RK3288 in all 4 of your benchmarks.

    • Purely because those two SOCS are only found in a very limited number of tablet devices at the moment, the RK3288 is the best pick out of SOCS most likely to be found in budget china tablets but agreed, the Atom Z3580 or Exynos 5433 would be better choice outside of that!

  • sinekonata

    What many/most these tablets have in common is the 4:3 ratio ~300ppi displays, which is the only important thing to me besides long term battery life. I thought the article would be about more than simply benchmarks. To people, that I know, my criteria as well as daily battery life, price, bugs/annoyances, longevity are what matter most, not benchmarks…