I had written a couple of very popular articles on performance comparison between quad core mobile chips that included both the Rockchip RK3188 and the Allwinner A31. However, I found out that many readers were more interested at a Rockchip RK3188 vs Allwinner A31 article. These two chips are currently the newest and are the flagship product of Rockchip and Allwinner respectively.
Both chips are follow ups to very popular predecessors. The predecessor to the RK3188, the RK3066, is one of the most popular dual core ARM Cortex-A9 CPUs and is widely used in Android tablets, mini PC and set top boxes. The A31 did not have a dual core predecessor but the single core A10 was a very cost effective ARM Cortex-A8 chip that was used in many Android devices including the best selling MK802 Android mini PC.
(Update 11/6/13) It has been highlighted to me that Allwinner does have dual-core chipsets, the A20 (and later the A23). However, the A20 chipset was announced at the same time as the A31 in Dec 2012 while the RK3066 was launched back in April 2012. By the time the Allwinner dual-core chipset was made available, most manufacturers have already moved on to the quad-core chipsets and therefore most just skipped the A20. So while Allwinner does have dual-core chipsets, they arrived a little too late and they were not predecessors to the A31 in the true sense as they arrived at around the same time.
A true apple-to-apple comparison is often not easy and that was proven true in my earlier articles. Differences in both hardware and software introduces many factors that make benchmarking difficult. Therefore, we need to accept the results with a pinch of salt and regard them as a reference rather than true real world performance.
For this article, I have taken a second look at the results from my earlier articles. While the RK3188 and the A31 were not compared head-to-head in a single article, devices representing both these chips were subjected to similar tests in both articles. So we can use the results from both articles and make an indirect comparison between the two.
Before we go into the benchmarks, let’s make a comparison from a hardware point of view. The RK3188 has a couple of advantages over the A31. The RK3188 has a quad core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU compared to the quad core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU in the A31. The ARM Cortex-A7 is actually newer technology but it is primarily designed to be smaller, cheaper and more power efficient while still being fully compatible with the new high end Cortex-A15 CPU.
So, in other words, the Cortex-A7 is designed to be a cheaper and more energy efficient version of the next generation Cortex-A15 and targeted at low end Android smartphones and tablet.
The Cortex-A9 on the other hand is designed to be a high performance chip although it will eventually be replaced by the Cortex-A15. Although it is based on older technology, the Cortex-A9 is a better performer compared to the Cortex-A7.
The second advantage that the RK3188 has is that the chip is produced based on a 28nm process while the A31 uses 40nm process. This gives the RK3188 better performance, lower power consumption and runs cooler. However, it is not known if the A31’s Cortex-A7 architecture gives it a bigger advantage over the RK3188 in power efficiency and heat generation.
Comparing the GPUs however, the RK3188 has a quad core ARM Mali-400 MP4 GPU while the A31 has a PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU. There is a benchmark posted on cnx-software.com that tries to compare the Mali-400 MP4 with the PowerVR SGX544MP2 as well as the GC2000 and the Tegra3 GPUs. The results show that the PowerVR SGX544MP2 has superior core processing and 3D performance compared to the Mali-400 MP4.
Now lets look at the Rockchip RK3188 vs Allwinner A31 comparison based on the benchmark results from the earlier articles. The RK3188 scores better than the A31 in the Nbench and NemaMark benchmarks. However the A31 seems to perform better on the file loading and app installation tests although the time differences are not huge. The biggest difference was for installing a 308MB file where it took the RK3188 167 secs compared to 130 secs on the A31. It is interesting to note however that when compared to the Tegra3 and Exynos 4412, the RK3188 didn’t perform well as well.
(Update 4/20/13) I have found a YouTube video online that shows two similar tablets, the one on the left is powered by the A31 while the on on the right is powered by the RK3188. Both tablets were benchmarked together using the Epic Citadel Demo. The A31 tablet was shown to consistently have higher frame rate than the RK3188. The final benchmark results shows that the A31 had an average frame rate of 43.2 while the RK3188 had an average of 24.9. This video reinforces the results obtained from padhz.com. The A31 is superior to the RK3188 for 3D graphics. YouTube video is embedded below.
For the battery tests, the A31 performed very well for low power consumption in stand by mode, dropping only 4% of battery power over a period of 16 hours while the RK3188 dropped 11%. However the battery test are not accurate comparisons as the devices have different screen and battery sizes.
In the tests, the RK3188 was represented by a Cube U30GT2 Quad Core Android Tablet which has a full HD (1920 x 1200) display, 2GB RAM and Android 4.1.1. The A31 was represented by a Teclast A11 10.1″ Quad Core Tablet PC with 1280 x 800 display, 2GB RAM and Android 4.1.1.
The RK3188 performed better on some of the bench marks and tests while the A31 bests the RK3188 on the remainder of the tests. The A31 is also very strong in 3D graphics but overall, the RK3188 seems to be the better performer and thus the winner of this quad core battle of Rockchip RK3188 vs Allwinner A31.