A Grounded Evaluation Of The iPad Air

Performance: Graphics and GLBenchmark

GLBenchmark (now known as GFX Bench) is a unified 3D graphics performance benchmark suite. We use the fillrate test and the Egypt Off Screen test to measure 3D performance in frames per second.  The Off Screen test renders workloads at 1280x720 for all devices, but off-screen so Vsync and screen resolution are not limiting performance factors.

Graphics testing
iOS and Android Graphics testing

The iPad Air continues its dominating benchmark performance, crushing previous generation tablets, including the iPad 4 and iPad 3, which take up distant second and third place finishes, respectively, in GFX Bench's graphics fillrate test.

After cruising through our initial set of benchmarks going mostly unchallenged by the competition, we have our first tie, with the iPad Air posting the same 56fps as the NVIDIA SHIELD. To tie in GPU performance against a dedicated gaming handheld speaks volumes about the gaming prowess of the iPad Air.

We like running the Basemark X benchmark because it's built on top of an actual game engine, Unity 4, and features workloads modeled after real games designed for smartphones and tablets. Basemark X utilizes features like particle effects, advanced lighting effects, and post processing, giving us a good metric of real-world gaming performance.

The iPad Air topped the chart in the off-screen test, though it couldn't keep up with NVIDIA's SHIELD in the on-screen test (mostly because of the SHEILD's lower screen resolution). Still, this yet more evidence that the A7 SoC inside the iPad Air is capable of playing games and handling heavy graphics workloads.

We wrap up our graphics testing with Futuremark's cross-platform 3DMark Ice Storm benchmark. Only the iPad Air's Physics scored trailed the NVIDIA SHIELD. The iPad Air led the way with the highest Graphics and Overall Ice Storm score, far outpacing the iPad 4.

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