The road to Google's Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is finally nearing its destination. As of yesterday, the Samsung made Galaxy Nexus went on sale in the UK. Its arrival in the US on Verizon is imminent, but it'll still be another couple of weeks before we can get our hands on a CDMA/LTE sample.

The Galaxy Nexus hardware platform isn't a significant departure from what we've already seen on Android. TI was chosen as the launch silicon partner with its OMAP 4460. The SoC takes a pair of Cortex A9 CPUs running at 1.2GHz and gives them a dual-channel LPDDR2 memory interface to talk to. The GPU is Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX 540. The CPU side of things is comparable to Apple's A5, although the cores are clocked noticeably higher than the 800MHz we saw in the iPhone 4S. Until Tegra 3 and Krait show up, the CPU side of the 4460 is as good as it gets.

The real advantage the Galaxy Nexus has is on the software side. All of the goodness of Honeycomb makes its way to a handset along with even further optimization work. One of the early Galaxy Nexus owners ran the usual browser benchmarks on his phone and shared the results with us. Google has obviously done a lot of browser optimization in ICS as performance is now better than even Honeycomb:

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9.1 - Stock Browser

Rightware BrowserMark

The GPU in the Galaxy Nexus isn't bad by any means - the SGX 540 is competent, but it is outgunned by ARM's Mali 400 (Samsung Exynos 4210) and the SGX 543MP2 (Apple A5). As I mentioned earlier, the Galaxy Nexus wasn't about putting the fastest hardware in a phone but rather providing a stable vehicle for Ice Cream Sandwich. Results for the Galaxy Nexus have been in the GLBenchmark database for a while and show an overall improvement over previous SGX 540 implementations (the GPU clock in the 4460 is higher than in the 4430):

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt - Offscreen

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro - Offscreen

Performance is pretty much as expected in both areas: Google really pushed the performance of its software further with Ice Cream Sandwich, while GPU performance is limited by the SGX 540. The good news is that there's more than enough hardware at ICS' disposal to deliver a smooth experience. We'll be able to quantify that once we get our hands on a device.

Source: GLBenchmark, @SigThief

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  • tommo123 - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    on my sgs2, i can play 1080p AVC videos just fine as it's accelerated - MKV too. i tend to re-encode things i keep on the phone due to file size but other things i just want to watch and delete on a train or whatever - i'll just throw the mkv on there and the default video app works just fine.

    mx video player on android also does accelerated decoding for some file types.
  • iuqiddis - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    There are actually several players that support hardware accelerated video in mkv containers for android. Dice player, mentioned by the poster above me, is probably the best. On a HTC Sensation, I can watch 720p mkv's perfectly. The developer claims that 1080p is also possible, but I haven't had the opportunity to test that yet.

    Out of curiosity, does anyone know a hardware accelerated video player for iOS that can play h264-encoded mkv files? I've been looking for one (VLC isn't in the market any longer), but can't find one that works. Thanks.
  • piiman - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    "Android has NO GAMES"

    Say what? Perhaps you meant games you like because it certainly does have games.
  • augustofretes - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - link

    The game selection is crap compared to iOS selection (SGS II owner, waiting anxiously for ICS).
  • jalexoid - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    Dungeon Defenders game developer will disagree with NO GAMES statement.
  • tipoo - Sunday, November 20, 2011 - link

    "Android has NO GAMES"

    Trollface.jpg. Infinity Blade aside, I've never been left wanting for Android games, it has more than I could possibly get through, some of quite high quality like Nova 2 and Need for Speed.
  • steven75 - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    Those games are quite old hat for iOS though.
  • Exodite - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    And if you don't play games on your phone?

    Or the games you do play are Wordfeud or Angry Birds?

    At what point does it stop being worthwhile to include a SoC that's literally twice as big, potentially using more juice for GPU operations due to the higher complexity of said part?

    I can see the allure of top everything in a phone but frankly it's the whole package that matters. Personally I'd consider the lack of microSD-slot and 'meh' camera to be far worse issues than not standing up to the A5 or Exnyos in GPU performance.

    It makes sense to wait for 28nm SoCs before pushing significantly improved GPU performance.
  • B3an - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    ....Yet the iToy 4S or even the SGSII both prove that you can have far better GPU's but ALSO have great battery life and in a small and thin form factor. Theres simply no reason not to have a better GPU in this phone, and with a res of 720p it really needs it.

    Even the UI will suffer not just games - the Android UI is laggy on Honeycomb tablets with the same res as this phone. One of the things causing this lag is the underpowered Tegra 2 GPU, and this phone has a GPU in the same league as that.
  • Pipperox - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    Laggy UI on Android come from a lack of proper GPU acceleration, not from Tegra II being too slow.

    The iPhone 4 (non -S) had a GPU which was HALF as fast as the SGX540, a high resolution retina display, and yet the UI was butter smooth all the time.

    ICS seems to run super smooth on the Galaxy Nexus, thanks to the new sw optimizations, without any need for a faster GPU (except for demanding 3d games).

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