Earlier today Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S III, at the heart of which is Samsung's new Exynos 4 Quad SoC. Fortunately we got a ton of hands on time with the device at Samsung's unpacked event in London and are able to bring you a full performance preview of the new flagship, due to be shipping in Europe on May 29th.

The Exynos 4 Quad is an obvious evolution of the dual-core Exynos in many of the Galaxy S II devices. Built on Samsung's 32nm high-k + metal gate LP process, the new Exynos integrates four ARM Cortex A9s running at up to 1.4GHz (200MHz minimum clock). Each core can be power gated individually to prevent the extra cores from being a power burden in normal usage. Each core also operates on its own voltage and frequency plane, taking a page from Qualcomm's philosophies on clocking. There is no fifth companion core, but the assumption is  Samsung's 32nm HK+MG LP process should have good enough leakage characteristics to reduce the need for such a design.

The GPU is still ARM's Mali-400/MP4, however we're not sure of its clocks. Similar to the dual-core Exynos, there's a dual-channel LPDDR2 memory controller that feeds the entire SoC. The combination should result in performance competitive with NVIDIA's Tegra 3 (and a bit higher in memory bandwidth limited scenarios), but potentially at lower power levels thanks to Samsung's 32nm process.

While we won't know much about the power side of things until we get a review device in hand, we can look at its performance today.

Browser & CPU Performance: Very Good

As always, we start with our Javascript performance tests that measure a combination of the hardware's performance in addition to the software on the device itself. Sunspider performance is extremely good:

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9.1 - Stock Browser

While we thought we hit a performance wall around 1800ms, the One X from HTC, the Lava XOLO and now the Samsung Galaxy S III have reset the barrier for us. In this case the performance boost is likely more due to software than hardware, but the combination of the two results in performance that's better than almost anything we've seen thus far. The obvious exception being Intel's Medfield in the X900.

BrowserMark is another solid js benchmark, but here we're really able to see just how much tuning Samsung has done in its browser:


The Galaxy S III is significantly faster than anything else we've ever tested thus far. The browsing experience in general is very good on the SGS3, and the advantage here likely has more to do with Samsung's browser code and the fact that it's running Android 4.0.4 rather than any inherent SoC advantage. We know how 1.4GHz Cortex A9s should perform, and this is clearly much better than that.

Once again we turn to Qualcomm's Vellamo to get an idea for browser and UI scrolling performance:

Vellamo Overall Score

Although (understandably) not as quick as the Snapdragon S4 based One X, the SGS3 does extremely well here - likely due in no small part to whatever browser optimizations ship in Samsung's 4.0.4 build. As Brian put it when he first got time with the device: it's butter.

GPU Performance: Insanely Fast

While we don't know the clocks of the Mali-400/MP4 GPU in the SGS3, it's obviously significantly quicker than its predecessor. Similar to what we saw when the Galaxy S II launched, Samsung once again takes the crown for fastest smartphone GPU in our performance tests. 

The onscreen GLBenchmark Egypt and Pro results are understandably v-sync limited, but if you look at how much headroom is available thanks to the faster GPU it's clear that the Galaxy S III should be able to handle newer, more complex games, better than its predecessor.

What's particularly insane is that Samsung is able to deliver better performance than the iPhone 4S, the previous king-of-the-GPU-hill in these tests.

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Egypt - Offscreen (720p)

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro

GLBenchmark 2.1 - Pro - Offscreen (720p)

The performance advantage isn't anywhere near as staggering if we look as BaseMark ES 2.0, however as we've mentioned before this benchmark is definitely showing its age at this point. Despite the aggressive tuning Qualcomm has done for these benchmarks, Samsung is actually able to remain competitive and even pull out a slight win in the Taiji test. Both benchmarks are v-sync limited on the fastest platforms however.

RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Taiji

RightWare Basemark ES 2.0 V1 - Hoverjet

Final Words

Our first interactions with Samsung's Exynos 4 Quad are promising, but there's still much more to understand. Samsung clearly used 32nm as a means to higher GPU clock speeds, which in turn gives us much better GPU performance. The big unknown, as always, is power consumption. Based on what we've seen thus far from Samsung's 32nm LP process in Apple's iPad 2,4 (review forthcoming), Exynos 4 Quad should be a pretty good step forward in the power department as well.

As soon as we can get our hands on final hardware you can expect a full review of the Galaxy S III, including power and battery life analysis.

Initial reactions to the Galaxy S III announcement seemed almost disappointing, however stay tuned for our hands on impressions of the device as well as even more depth/detail on the hardware platform - you may be surprised. 

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  • snoozemode - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Please write HTC One X (MSM8960) or HTC One X (Tegra 3), after all, this is a hardware site right?
  • Fleeb - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    Wasn't Tegra 3 reviewed already?
  • RussianSensation - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    HTC One X (international) = Tegra 3
    HTC One X (AT&T) = One XL (L for LTE) = Snapdragon S4.
  • jjj - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    CPU perf is not really tested,here even more so than in the full reviews,it's all way too much browser orientated and you get a huge impact from the browswer and momory/storage perf - the results are relevant for each specific device but aren't painting a clear picture of the SoC.
    In the full review i wish you wouldn't ignore storage perf,battery life when gaming and battery life when idle (standby time).
  • remain_insane - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    I think what you are asking for is irrelevant. Those specific test results would be important if you were to buy the soc by itself to use as you saw fit, but that is not how it is. You get this soc with this phone, and that is how it should be tested.
  • sonicmerlin - Friday, May 4, 2012 - link

    Also I have to laugh when the author writes "so and so found the browser to be *buttery smooth*". Oh for gods sake the author and/or his friend are blind if they think any Android browser is smooth. The endless frame skipping that essentially every ICS browser has is maddening. And response lag increases dramatically on heavy websites.

    As if a "quad-core" SoC is going to make a difference.
  • SamsungAppleFan - Friday, May 4, 2012 - link

    I have the new iPad 3. It stutters as well in image heavy sites like Engadget and The Verge. And not only that image heavy pdfs takes about a second for them to clear up with each swipe of the page.

    The iPad 3 needed a quad core processor as well as gpu. All these micro stutters are a little annoying to say the least. I can still live with that because I do a lot of reading and retina density really does help.
  • darkcrayon - Saturday, May 5, 2012 - link

    My iPad 3 does not stutter on Engadget or The Verge. Are you using Safari or a 3rd party browser without the smooth UIWebView scrolling enabled (which unfortunately is most of them since it's a private API call to enable it).

    I can tell you that at least by watching top and Instruments, scrolling quickly in Safari on a page like Engadget does not seem to be CPU bound on either an iPad 2 or iPad 3, so not sure what the issue is you're having on your device.

    PDFs are nowhere near as fast as Safari on web pages, but I haven't manipulated any on a newer Android device for comparison. Does Android have native PDF viewing? (I had to download a reader for my Cyanogenmod 9 TouchPad).
  • yjwong - Saturday, May 5, 2012 - link

    Samsung is known to implement a multitude of optimizations in the browser. The changes made are pretty evident in the Samsung Galaxy S2 (on Gingerbread), where every other Android browser lagged (including the G2x and Nexus S). S2 didn't have any "frame skipping" to talk about, even with 1080p video playing in Flash. I'm pretty sure it will be the same in the S3.
  • Devo2007 - Thursday, May 3, 2012 - link

    I see Samsung still insists on having their Battery is Charged notification. Looks like if I get this phone, I'll be making sure to install a custom rom that disables that, as there's nothing worse than being woken up overnight because my phone wants to tell me it's now charged. (on various Samsung phones, it would even vibrate or alert you even if the volume was muted). At the very least, it would light up the screen.

    Pointless, since a lot of people charge their phones overnight.

    On a side note, anyone know if there's a notification LED?

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