Normally it is a primary prerequisite to insure that all systems under test have been configured identically prior to benchmarking. Unfortunately, this is impossible to achieve in this report given the highly integrated nature and grossly dissimilar "ecosystems" of ARM versus x86 microprocessors. For instance, the Freescale i.MX515 system that we used in our tests only supports DDR2-200 32-bit memory, much slower than the VIA Nano L3050 system’s DDR2-800 64-bit memory. Worse, the i.MX515’s integrated video solution is far more limited, maxing out at 1024x768 at 16-bit color depth, than the graphics solutions on any of the x86 systems.
Given this rigidly set, unlevel playing field, we deployed a battery of benchmarks that run primarily within the CPU’s caches. In other words, we made an attempt to only measure CPU-bound performance. We verified the CPU sensitivity of each test by increasing the clock speed of the VIA Nano from 800MHz to 1800MHz. Tests should scale closely to the clock speed ratio of 225 percent.
As shown in the table on the right, all of the benchmarks scaled appropriately with the exception of Google V8 and Stream Add, a memory bandwidth test that is constrained by memory performance and is included here as a counter example. Benchmarks that scale superlinearly
like Google V8 usually are not good benchmarks. Indeed, Google V8
Speaking of run-to-run variation, we ran each test at least three times and calculated the coefficient of variation
[CV] to insure result validity.
For this report, we placed four CPUs under test: the 800MHz Freescale i.MX515 which is based upon the ARM Cortex-A8, the new VIA Nano L3050 downclocked to 800MHz, the new Intel Pineview-based Atom N450 downclocked to 1GHz and, for historical perspective, an 800MHz Mobile Athlon [Barton core].
Unfortunately, it was impossible to downclock the 1.67GHz Atom N450 below 1GHz, but, as you will see, the results we obtained are still very interesting. The Atom N450 introduces an on-die GPU which significantly reduces overall platform power consumption compared with the older Silverthorne-based Atom platforms.
I purchased a Gateway LT2104u netbook from Best Buy for this report in order to test the Intel Atom N450. The Gateway is a very well executed netbook design with a solid feel, attractive appearance, excellent battery life and good feature set.
The VIA Nano L3050
is the second generation, "CNB" Nano that boosts performance from 20-30 percent beyond the original "CNA" Nano, while also reducing power demands by similar amounts. The CNB-based Nano is still based upon the same 65nm Fujitsu process leveraged with the original CNA-based VIA Nano. Despite these improvements, the CNB Nano die-size is almost identical to its predecessor’s at around 62-64 square millimeters.
The table below summarizes relevant system details.
All systems ran Ubuntu Linux Version 9.04 with the exception of the Atom netbook where we had to install Jolicloud Linux because of video driver issues. However, Jolicloud is based upon Ubuntu 9.04, so programs installed from the Ubuntu repositories were identical. We chose Ubuntu 9.04 because the ARM-based Pegatron nettop we used in this report came with Ubuntu 9.04 preinstalled. An attempt to upgrade that box to the latest version of Ubuntu failed due to insufficient disk space. The Pegatron device was equipped with a 4GB flash drive.
We underclocked the 1.8GHz VIA Nano L3050 to 800MHz by using the CPU multiplier setting in the Centaur reference system’s BIOS. We verified the proper clock speed by reading MSR 0x198. For the Atom N450 Gateway netbook, we underclocked the Atom to 1GHz using the Gnome CPU Frequency Monitor taskbar applet. This handy applet does not support the VIA Nano yet.
Pegatron Nettop powered by ARM Cortex-A8 Processor
The Pegatron "nettop" is only slightly larger than a CD case yet it boasts a full complement of features including 512MB of DDR2-200MHz memory [32-bit interface], a VGA connector, Wireless "N" networking, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a flash memory card reader, and audio, headphone, Ethernet and USB ports. Total system power usage rarely rises much above 6 Watts.
Unless specified otherwise, all benchmark results are reported so that larger numbers correspond to better performance. Many tests have been "normalized" against the ARM Cortex-A8 so that results are reported in terms of the performance ratio with the Cortex-A8. For instance, if the Atom is twice as fast at the Cortex-A8 on a certain test, it will score 2.00.
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