Comparing CPU Power Between Smartphones and Notebooks with SunSpider

ARM based smartphone CPUs are getting more and more powerful but so far I found it difficult to compare their performance to notebooks in a meaningful way. But now I found SunSpider, a benchmark available on pretty much any platform that will help in this quest. In essence, the SunSpider test benchmarks the JavaScript execution speed and can be used for various things, such as for example comparing the JavaScript implementation of different web browsers running on the same machine or to compare different devices running the same web browser.

When comparing smartphones with notebooks both the device and the web browser implementation changes which is not ideal. However, when testing the JavaScript engines of Firefox and Chrome on a PC and Opera Mobile and the native Android browser, their results only differed in the order of 10%. That's an indication that highly optimized JavaScript engines of different browsers do not have a significant impact on the general result when comparing smartphones with PCs this way. The following list shows the result of running SunSpider 0.9.1 on different devices:

  • 175 ms, Notebook, Intel i5-2520M CPU, 2.5 GHz, Firefox 16.0.2, Windows XP, (2012)
  • 266 ms, Notebook, Intel Centrino 2, Firefox 16.0.2, Ubuntu 12.04, (2009)
  • 269 ms, Notebook, Intel Centrino 2, Firefox 16.0.2, Windows Vista (2009)
  • 301 ms, Notebook, Intel Core 2 Duo, Firefox 16.0.2, Windows 7, (2009)
  • 410 ms, Notebook, Intel i3 2367M, 1.4 GHz, Firefox 16.0.2, Ubuntu 12.04, (2012)
  • 690 ms, Netbook, ARM, Exynos 5 Dual 1.7GHz, Chrome OS (result from here), (2012)
  • 1034 ms, Netbook, Intel Atom N570, second generation, 1.66GHz, Chrome OS (result from here), (2011)
  • 1194 ms , Android 4.0 based high end Smartphone, ARM, native browser (2012)
  • 1266 ms, Netbook,  Intel Atom N270 (first generation), 1.6 GHz, Firefox 16.0.2, Ubuntu 12.04, (2009)
  • 1279 ms, Lava X900, Android smartphone, Intel Atom based (result from here), (2012)
  • 1400 ms, Samsung Galaxy S-III International, ARM, native browser (result from here), (2012)
  • 2000 ms, Android 3.0 based tablet, native browser, ARM, (2011)
  • 6100 ms, Legacy Android based high end smartphone, native browser, ARM, (2010)
  • 11062 ms, Nokia N8, Opera Mobile browser, (2010)

(approx. device release date in brackets)

When comparing the results there are a number of interesting conclusions that can be drawn:

First, my current Intel i3 based notebook is significantly faster than the Intel Atom based notebook I used for my daily work while traveling until only recently. No surprise here, one can feel the difference.

Second, the latest iPhone's CPU single core performance is better than that of my 3 year old netbook running the latest Ubuntu and latest Firefox browser. They are still sort of in the same ballpark when it comes to performance and I wouldn't want to exchange my i3 based notebook with my netbook again. However, the point is that the latest smartphone processing power is in the area of first generation Atom based notebooks.

Third, the latest Chrome OS netbook (the XE 303) uses an ARM processor and while the performance is not quite the same as that of my Intel i3 based notebook, it is still twice as fast as my 3 year old Atom based netbook. It comes close enough to my current notebook, however, that I'd really like to try it with an Ubuntu installation once there's an ARM version that supports that device.

Fourth, Heat: Notebooks used to get pretty hot. But even my Intel i3 based notebook remains surprisingly cool (with a fan running).

In summary, the list shows clearly how close ARM processors have come in the SunSpider performance test to Intel based devices and the performance difference between low power desktop devices and smartphones is getting smaller. In another two or three years, perhaps even sooner, slim tablets will have enough processing power and acceptably low heat creation for that amount of procesing power that they are fast enough to become full desktop replacements with operating systems that have desktop like functionality when needed.

3 thoughts on “Comparing CPU Power Between Smartphones and Notebooks with SunSpider”

  1. Thanks for the comparisons Martin; as you say, interesting results. The RIM CEO was also recently talking about ending the need to carry a laptop to/from the office. As you’ve demonstrated, the way smartphone number crunching is heading, this is almost feasible now.

    “Whenever you enter an office, you don’t have your laptop with you, you have your mobile computer power exactly here,” Mr. Heins said, patting a BlackBerry 10 phone sitting in a holster on his hip. “You will not carry a laptop within three to five years.”

  2. Been doing this for ages, welcome to the SunSpider cult!

    If smartphones keep getting two times faster every year, but Intel chips get 10% faster year over year, smartphones will catch up to PCs in just three years.

    Pretty insane.

  3. 162.6ms,Macbook Pro Retina Display, Intel Core i7 CPU, 2,6 GHz, Safari 6.0.2, MacOS 10.8.2 (2012)

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