Updated July 31, 2012 at 10:40AM PST - Following the publication of our story, we got contacted by ARM representatives from the company and Racepoint Group. After a conversation with Ian Smythe, Director of Marketing for Media Processing Division at ARM Holdings PLC, we requested a statement with the company in which it would be clear why for example, a VP or a C-Level executive from financial side of a large tablet or smartphone vendor would state that the Mali GPU "is offered ‘free of charge’ to silicon makers". We’re publishing the statement in full:

"ARM Mali GPUs are never provided free of charge. The ARM business model entails a license payment for any GPU adopted by an ARM Partner, and that will lead to royalties paid to ARM for each SoC sold by that partner. ARM Partners sometimes license single or multiple GPUs and other ARM intellectual property. The value of licensing ARM technology is the scalable nature of the ARM architecture, as well as the tools and system approach to design that are also available."

Original Article

A lot is being said about the smartphone market and about who’s capturing and who’s bleeding the market share. But, who has the best hardware packed under the hood (well, touchscren)? Thanks to Rightware’s PowerBoard database with hundreds of smartphones, we can provide you with that answer.

Rightware PowerBoard is an ORB (Online Result Database), similar to the one created by Futuremark Corporation. However, while Futuremark’s ORB focuses on user submitted desktop and notebook performance with 3DMark and PCMark scores, PowerBoard is targeted towards the professional users, featuring results from Basemark and BrowserMark (consisting mostly of smartphones and tablets).

Basemark ES 2.0 Taiji is perhaps the most interesting test, since it squeezes every last rendered pixel and determines the 3D performance of a mobile device at hand. This is the closest you can get to measuring the 3D experience on your mobile phone. Do note that at current time, Basemark ES 2.0 exists solely for Google Android operating system. 

Excluding the different carrier versions, these are (currently) the fastest 10 mobile devices utilizing OpenGL ES 2.0 API:

  1. 49 fps – HTC One S (960×540, Qualcomm Adreno 225 GPU)
  2. 48 fps – ASUS PadFone (897×540, Qualcomm Adreno 225 GPU)
  3. 41 fps – Samsung Galaxy SII SGH-I777 (800×480, ARM Mali-400MP GPU)
  4. 37 fps – Samsung Galaxy SIII GT-i9300T (1280×720, ARM Mali-400MP GPU)
  5. 36 fps – OPPO X907 (800×480, Qualcomm Adreno 220 GPU)
  6. 36 fps – LG MS840 Connect 4G (800×480, Qualcomm Adreno 220 GPU)
  7. 35 fps – Lenovo S2005A-H (800×480, Qualcomm Adreno 220 GPU)
  8. 35 fps – T-Mobile Galaxy S Blaze 4G (800×480, Qualcomm Adreno 220 GPU)
  9. 34 fps – Xiaomi MI-ONE Plus (854×480, Qualcomm Adreno 220 GPU)
  10. 34 fps – Pantech Burst (800×480, Qualcomm Adreno 220 GPU)

You can see the original version of the Top 10 with numerous carrier phones is here (screenshot below). However, our decision to remove the different carrier versions was solely for the sake of clarity, unless the mobile phones had different chipsets (which was not the case).

Rightware's Top 10 list features same phones from different carriers, prompting us to create our own list
Rightware’s Top 10 list features same phones from different carriers, prompting us to create our own list

Regardless of the list you look at, we can all see that Qualcomm absolutely dominates the Top 10 list, with Adreno 225 GPU being the fastest GPU your money can buy. Even though ARM’s Mali-400MP is offered ‘free of charge’ to silicon makers, at present time we’re not seeing a competitor that can match Snapdragon processors.

If you are wondering where are the NVIDIA or Vivante-based smartphones, the answer is simple – NVIDIA Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 simply don’t carry enough graphics power (no, it’s not a joke) to compete against the Adreno GPU, which carries ATI legacy. Back in 2009, AMD sold off mobile graphics unit to Qualcomm for mere $65 million, which we believe to be the biggest mistake Robert "Bob" Rivet (ex-CFO) and Dirk Meyer (ex-CEO) made. At the same time, Vivante GPUs dedicated themselves to build in GPGPU capability inside its silicon and currently does not compete for the performance crown.

Coming back to the list, Samsung Galaxy SIII surprised being slower than SII, as keeping the same GPU (Mali-400MP) and squeezing in two more cores proved to be quite a difficult task for Samsung’s engineers.

Samsung’s Exynos SoC chips feature a significantly different clock management between a quad-core 4412 (4 Cortex-A9 cores at 1.4GHz) and a dual-core C210 (2 Cortex-A9 cores at 1.2 GHz). Thermal load between the two chips was too high to keep the GPU clock at the same rate, and the difference in performance is far from being negligible. 

Still, it is HTC that takes the cake with One S – the closest mobile phone to crack the 50 score.