Tegra 4 Performance Benchmarks

Even though the focus of this article is really on the experience of using the new NVIDIA SHIELD, we would be remiss if we didn’t benchmark the device.  After all, it is the first Tegra 4 device to see the light of day and NVIDIA has promised a lot with this new SoC in terms of performance. 

Our comparisons are a bit limited right now, but after the next week or so we’ll be expanding our results for other hardware to make our data a bit more interesting.  For now though, we are going to be pitting the SHIELD against the ASUS Nexus 7, 2012 edition, powered by the previous generation Tegra 3 SoC.  This will allow a clear view of how much both the A9 to A15 upgrade has improved CPU performance and how much the upgraded GPU affects gaming performance.  Also in the mix is my Samsung Galaxy S4 (US edition) powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 SoC that integrates a quad-core Krait CPU and Adreno 320 GPU. 

First up, let’s take a look at the new 3DMark for Android.

Clearly in both CPU (physics) and GPU testing the Tegra 4 processor in the NVIDIA SHIELD is the dominant competitor, besting the previous generation Tegra 3 by nearly 7x in graphics and nearly 3x in processor performance.  Even the S600 falls victim to Tegra 4, falling behind by 47% in GPU performance and 25% in CPU performance. 

For these results, the on-screen and off-screens tests look at things a bit differently.  The on-screen test runs at the native resolution of the screen (720p on the SHIELD for example) while the off-screen test runs at fixed resolution and is the best way to compare SoC performance.  So even though the on-screen test results in an advantage of nearly 3x the performance for SHIELD over the GS4, the off-screen result is much closer, with the edge going to NVIDIA’s T4 by 36%.  Tegra 3 is 76% slower than the new Tegra 4.

For our CPU tests I decided to include two browser based results, one from BrowserMark 2.0 and the other from the ever-popular SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark.

In BrowserMark, the Tegra 4 is only 42% faster than the Tegra 3 part from last year and only 18% faster than the S600 found in the Galaxy S4.  SunSpider shows wider gaps in CPU performance between the T4 and T3 SoCs, hitting 318%!  Even the Qualcomm S600 falls behind by nearly 80% to Tegra 4 in this test.


Obviously the performance of NVIDIA’s new Tegra 4 SoC is damn impressive and is a massive jump over the previous generation Tegra 3. It becomes apparent that the move from Cortex-A9 to A15 is providing significant advantages. Of course the graphics portion of T4 is an even bigger step forward, and hopefully we’ll see more Android developers strive to take advantage of the horsepower T4 (and other upcoming GPUs) can provide for gaming. 

It should be noted however that Tegra 4 is more than likely using much more power than the SoCs in the Nexus 7 or the Galaxy S4.  Both of those other products are using passive cooling and are focused on getting as much battery life as possible from the unit.  NVIDIA’s SHIELD needs only be modestly mindful of power and heat – as is evident by the fact they are using an active cooling solution.

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