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Nvidia to Apple: Benchmarks or It Didn’t Happen

March 8, 2012
Tegra 3 vs AX5

Everyone knows the importance of benchmarks in the high-tech industry. With things like user experience or manufacturing quality, manufacturers, or, better said, marketers, can make unsupported claims, without ever risking to be called out. But in the world of cores and RAM modules, benchmarks are, almost always, the final argument in any dispute. So, when the largest tech company in the world claims that its new device is four times faster than a competing product, it’s only natural to ask for a benchmark.

During yesterday’s iPad press event, Apple’s SVP of Marketing, Phil Schiller made a claim that raised quite a few eyebrows. Schiller told the audience that the iPad’s new dual-core Apple A5X processor is, in terms of graphics performance, four times faster than the Tegra 3. Right on cue, a minimalist graph appeared behind Schiller, showing the A5X column towering over Tegra 3. And that’s it. No benchmarks cited, no fine print, no footnotes.

Now, I like Apple’s marketing tricks as much as the next guy (kidding, I don’t). And I know that Apple’s philosophy is to go beyond specs and focus on the user experience (how much RAM in the iPad 3, anyone?) But when making such strong claims, even if your name is Apple, you should at least be prepared to show some proof, right?

Nvidia: We are Flattered by Apple’s Attention

ZDNet reached out to Nvidia for commentary on Apple’s affirmation, and the Santa Clara-based giant responded by expressing their “gratitude” for being mentioned during Apple’s event. Irony aside, it’s interesting to note that Apple found it necessary to differentiate the new iPad by comparing its A5X processor with the Tegra 3 SoC. It’s another recognition that Nvidia gets for its Tegra 3 4-cores-plus-1 architecture, which it pushed hard over the last months and especially during the recently concluded MWC.

Tegra 3 vs iPad A5X

Nvidia’s representatives refrained from denying or confirming Apple’s claim, which is natural when you consider that Apple carefully avoided revealing the conditions of the tests or the benchmarks that it ran to compare A5X with Tegra 3. Also, Apple seemed to engage in some cherry-picking (apple-picking?), avoiding to mention how its dual-core processor does in terms of performance when compared with Nvidia’s SoC, or even about the amount of RAM in the iPad.

Did Apple make up their statistic about A5X being four times faster than Tegra 3? Probably not. I am sure that there are applications where Apple’s chip is beating Tegra by a long shot. Moreover, we might not ever know what exactly Apple was referring to when they made their claim.

Even if Apple refuses to show how it came up with the claims it flaunted yesterday, real-world benchmarks are just a few days away. Both Nvidia and a number of experts have announced their intention to compare the new iPad with Tegra’s finest, so we are bound to get some hard figures, sooner or later.