3d-mark-ice-storm

One Benchmark to Rule Them All – 3DMark Arrives on Android

April 2, 2013 - Written By Lucian Armasu

Futuremark’s 3dmark benchmark is the most popular gaming benchmark ever on PC’s, but we’ve never had it on Android and iOS so far. Now we’re finally going to be able to benchmark the performance of GPU’s across operating systems since 3dmark is now available for Android, with the iOS version arriving soon (Windows already has it).

The cross-platform test is called Ice Storm. There are two other tests, but those will not be available to Android and iOS (at least for now) because they support only OpenGL ES 2.0, which is around the level of Direct3D9.1. More devices will be getting support for OpenGL ES 3.0 this year, which is around Direct3D10 level, but unfortunately it seems the mobile 3dmark doesn’t support OpenGL ES 3.0.

This is a little disappointing, but considering even the GLBenchmark hasn’t moved to OpenGL ES 3.0 yet, but I’m starting to think it either has something to do with the fact that there aren’t that many devices supporting it on the market, or even if they are, the device manufacturers haven’t made very good drivers for them yet.

Google has updated the Nexus 4 with some graphics drivers, which I believe included OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL support with Android 4.2.2, which could explain why Nexus 4 scores so much better compared to other devices that run the exact same chip, but with much lower performance, as you can see:

nexus-4-3dmark

For some reason, the Galaxy Note 2 seems to be testing extremely low in most of the tests. It doesn’t look like Samsung did a very good job with its driver there:

nexus-4-3dmark

The 3DMark benchmark will run on any Android version from version 3.1 and beyond, which means it won’t run on Gingerbread. It also doesn’t look like it will run on the ARMv6 architecture, and the kind of chips you see on very low-end smartphones – not that it would need to, since those phones don’t have powerful GPU’s at all.

This year and the next we’re going to  see more cross-platform benchmarks like this 3DMark one, the GLBenchmark, the Epic Citadel one with Unreal 3 engine, one from Unigine, too, and probably others, too, perhaps based on Unity and other engines. But it’s important to remember that while the differences in the performance of the operating systems may not be so big anymore (well Windows RT/8 still seems pretty slow on even “high-end” ARM hardware), the biggest differences will be on what kind of graphics API’s they support, and I hope the scores are not wildly different because of that, unless those extra graphics features actually help in real games, without killing battery life.