NVIDIA Tegra 3 Makes For Fast Ubuntu On ARM

Written by Michael Larabel in NVIDIA on 17 March 2012 at 04:48 AM EDT. 12 Comments
Here are the first set of Phoronix.com benchmarks of the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3. Needless to say, four Cortex-A9s combined with NVIDIA graphics leads to a fairly fast ARMv7 experience when running Ubuntu Linux.

NVIDIA recently sent over their Tegra 3 "Cardhu" developer tablet to work on the Phoronix Test Suite and some related ARM Linux benchmarks. While I have my hands on the hardware, I've also begun running up some Tegra 3 benchmarks on Phoronix.com, while Cardhu benchmarks have long already been available from other independent users on OpenBenchmarking.org. The results in this article are just the start of my Tegra-3/Cardhu benchmarking. I'll also be working on a Tegra 3 test suite and some other items for the Phoronix Test Suite with the tablet, so stay tuned as the ARM support continues to become more compelling.

NVIDIA's Cardhu developer tablet to show off the Tegra 3 processing power as well as the NVIDIA GeForce graphics. The tablet has 16GB of storage, 1GB of RAM, and a 1366x1536 display. There's also a docking station available, which NVIDIA did send over as well, that offers up two standard USB ports, HDMI output, and a Realtek RTL8168 Gigabit Ethernet port. It's quite nice working with the developer tablet and easier to deal with than say the bare PandaBoard/BeagleBoards. The only complaint about the Cardhu tablet is needing to remove the back cover to access a connector for interfacing with the debug board.

Shipping on the NVIDIA Cardhu tablet by default is Google's Android, but NVIDIA does make Tegra for Linux/Ubuntu available. This is basically a sample file-system of Ubuntu that's currently based upon Ubuntu 11.04 and they separately make available the Tegra 1/2/3 Linux drivers. NVIDIA's documentation goes over the setup process, etc. Ubuntu for Tegra can be setup to an SDHC or USB drive. While NVIDIA's spin is based upon Ubuntu 11.04, its sample file-system uses the newer Linux 3.1 kernel. Linux for Tegra is available from developer.ubuntu.com. Tegra release 15 Alpha was used for this first-round of Phoronix testing.

While no desktop is installed by default with Ubuntu/Linux for Tegra, the ubuntu-desktop packages can be obtained from the package repositories. To get the Phoronix Test Suite running on Tegra for Linux, it was just a matter of running sudo apt-get install php5-cli and then using the latest Phoronix Test Suite. Any recent Phoronix Test Suite 3.x release should run on NVIDIA Tegra 3 hardware, but I recommend using the latest release available -- especially Phoronix Test Suite 3.8-Bygland when its released next week since it has some great features in general that can be utilized on ARM hardware too.

While the NVIDIA Tegra 3 is known to have a fifth "companion core" to accompany the four other ARM Cortex A9 CPUs, this apparently wasn't exposed under Tegra for Linux. Via OpenBenchmarking.org you can view the cpuinfo for the Cardhu tablet, which shows just the four ARMv7 rev9 cores each with 1987 BogoMIPS. There's also lspci information, dmesg, and other system logs for Cardhu that are collected by the Phoronix Test Suite / OpenBenchmarking.org.
NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core ARM
As said already, this is just a quick weekend "first look" at the Linux Tegra 3 performance from the Cardhu tablet. There will be more results going forward on Phoronix.com and other ARM-based advancements to the Phoronix Test Suite software so that any NVIDIA ARM users can benefit. This first testing was when Tegra for Linux was running from a 4GB SDHC card. While the software stack is different, for these first results are some numbers against the PandaBoard ES. The PandaBoard ES is a dual-core Cortex A9 that taps out at 1.2GHz on the Texas Instruments OMAP4460 SoC. It's only with Ubuntu 12.04 where the PandaBoard ES ARM performance is becoming very compelling for this dual-core OMAP4 developer board.
NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core ARM
The first result to look at is Tegra 3 with C-Ray, a multi-threaded ray-tracing test profile that's a favorite test to use at Phoronix.com since it tends to do a very good job at torturing a range of processors. From these results, the NVIDIA Tegra 3 is certainly much faster than the dual-core PandaBoard ES. The Tegra 3 performance though is in line with Linux performance expectations when considering the OMAP4460 is dual-core that clocks up to 1.2GHz and the Tegra 3 is quad-core (or five cores if counting the companion core) and up to 1.4GHz clock speed.
NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core ARM
Smallpt is another testing favorite. The NVIDIA Tegra 3 Cardhu performance was also quite nice considering the hardware.
NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core ARM
NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core ARM
CacheBench was also faster for the NVIDIA Tegra 3 tablet.

These first round of results can be found in this OpenBenchmarking.org result file. If you have a low-end PC or other ARM hardware and wish to see how its performance compares to these NVIDIA Tegra 3 results, it's simply a matter of having the Phoronix Test Suite installed and then run phoronix-test-suite benchmark 1203160-BY-NVTEGRA3785 to facilitate a side-by-side comparison with the test installation, execution, and analysis being done in a fully automated manner.

Additionally, there's also some NVIDIA Tegra 3 on Ubuntu with the Linux 3.1 kernel in another result file for some other test profiles: FFmpeg, x264, LAME MP3 encoding, FLAC audio encoding, Google VP8 libvpx, and OpenSSL. Those results from this Carhu tablet are inside 1203166-BY-NVIDIATEG00. Within 1203170-BY-CARDHU68527 I have also done some scientific tests.

For those interested in more test results until the next set of official results come out, there's other cardhu benchmarks on OpenBenchmarking.org that were contributed by independent parties. You can also see how the numbers compare to other recent Phoronix articles like the Trim-Slice Tegra 2 desktop and other PandaBoard ES benchmarks.

For any individuals or organizations wishing to learn more about the Phoronix Test Suite and OpenBenchmarking.org, or any Phoronix readers wishing to meet-up, from this morning through the middle of next week I will in San Diego, so contact me or find me with Twitter (my followers should not be surprised by Tegra 3 Linux benchmarks coming today). Besides Tegra 3 Linux benchmarks, there will also be a range of other interesting Linux hardware benchmarks coming out soon (the above image teaser).
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About The Author
Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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