Quad Core Rockchip RK3188 vs Allwinner A31I 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.

  • androx

    I can`t find any information about first TV Stick on A31. Maybe MK810 will be first TV Stick on the market… is this true?

    • http://www.androydz.com Roy Yap

      The MK810 and the Kimdecent CS868 are both based on the A31 and both are currently available on AliExpress for quite awhile now.

    • http://twitter.com/BernardoJose1 Bernardo José López

      there is a TV-Stick with A31, Kimdecent CS868

  • malvcr

    What i see is that everything depends on what would you do with your device. For example, I remember my first notebook (Compaq Armada) running with a Pentium at 160MHz, 512MB RAM, 3GB Hard Disk. I used Linux there and I was able to do many complex things with that machine when I was in another country providing maintenance to an OLTP system. Sometimes I see people complaining about these ARM based machines because they like to compare with other chip families, but in perspective they are just amazing power-horses running in so small spaces and using almost no electricity. This is basically a miracle in technology.

    Thanks for this comparison. It is interesting that both chips are good enough for many advanced tasks, and these Chinese chips are so cheap that the are pushing all the mobile revolution further with the ARM designs. I expect to see more great ideas appearing in the horizon, the sticks can’t be the last ones, for me they are just a transition to something really exiting.

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  • Ella Wu

    look at the settings set as high performance vs high quality that is not a far!

    • SquidooRoy

      Yes, it looks like Allwinner cheated a little but from my own experience and what I have seen online, the fps difference between the High Performance and High Quality mode on the same device is very small, around 5 fps usually.

      • Maurizio Mugelli

        the benchmark at cnc-software compares a 533mhz mali 400 vs a 533mhz sgx544mp2, A31 sgx544mp2 its only clocked 350mhz, not 533.
        rk3188 mali 400 is clocked 400mhz with sdk1 firmwares, 533mhz with sdk2 ones.

        a31 gpu should be still faster but by a lot less than in cnc-software benches.

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  • aaa

    Hi, you wrote “The A31 did not have a dual core predecessor but the single core A10″. What about Allwinner A20?

    Overall nice article, Thanks

    The
    A31 did not have a dual core predecessor but the single core A10 – See
    more at:
    http://www.androydz.com/quad-core-rockchip-rk3188-vs-allwinner-a31/#sthash.3WQbPCuU.dpuf

    • SquidooRoy

      You are right. The A20 (and A23) are dual core chipsets. I was writing in the context of popular Android Mini PCs. There are hardly any well known Mini PCs that used an A20 or A23. I have edited the article to clarify this. Thanks for asking.

  • Jo Miller

    What about A31S vs RK3188 ? Which one performs better ? Which one would you recommend for regular use (daily internet browsing, games)?

    • SquidooRoy

      From what I understand, the A31s is just the A31 but with optimization for use in phablets such as support for 3G, LTE, etc. For normal use like you mentioned, there probably isn’t much difference between the A31 and A31s.

  • joy

    The cs918s is out..
    It has a ‘allwinner a31 chip with mali400mp4″
    Now you can comparison the cs918 with cs918s…