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2D Graphics Performance

We have never tested the speed of 2D graphics and the OS interface just because there was no need for that. Even simple computers based on early Atom CPUs, let alone the Pineview series, could render application windows and even enable the Aero interface in Windows 7. Since we didn’t observe any slowdowns, we thought the integrated graphics core was okay for 2D applications and moved on to more pressing matters.

But the Cedar Trail platform made us break up the traditional order of our testing session. The integrated graphics core of Cedarview CPUs is completely different from all the other graphics solutions from Intel just because it was licensed from Imagination Technologies. And, as it turned out quite unexpectedly, the Atom N2800 and Atom D2500 have certain problems rendering the standard window-based interface. We don’t even mean the Aero interface which isn’t fast by itself. Even if you do something with application windows in Windows 7 with every eye-candy feature turned off, you are reminded of the times of Windows 3.11 when a moving window would leave a trail of frames or just a blank white square. All of these retro-style visual effects can be enjoyed with the GMA 3600 graphics core, also known as PowerVR SGX 545.

So, what’s the problem? Let’s carry out 2D graphics tests using PassMark PerformanceTest 7.0 (Build 1029).

As you can see, the overall 2D graphics performance of the new Atoms is indeed lower compared to their predecessors. Even in the senior Atom model, where the integrated graphics core is clocked at 640 MHz, the result is 19% lower than that of the good old GMA 3150. The Atom D2500 with a graphics core clock rate of 400 MHz is even worse than the Atom D525, by as much as 25%! The leader of this test is, of course, the AMD E-350 with its Radeon HD 6310 graphics core.

The 20% or 25% difference in test results cannot convey the subjective feeling of the utmost sluggishness of the Windows 7 interface on the Cedar Trail platform, though. So, let’s check out the most specific of the 2D graphics tests.

There is no parameter in which the new GMA 3600 is better than the graphics core of the previous-generation Atom. The GMA 3600 core is especially poor when processing filled or transparent primitives, being only half as fast as its predecessor. This must be the reason for the annoyingly slow rendering of application windows when they are opened, moved or closed.

As for the Aero interface, we do not recommend turning it on at all on a Cedar Trail platform. If you do, the window interface gets so slow that the application windows, when moved about, do not even catch up with the mouse pointer. Minimizing and maximizing them is like watching a slideshow. Hardware video playback acceleration doesn’t work with Aero, so we don’t have any of the benefits of the GMA 3600 core.

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