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iPhone 3GS blows away iPhone 3G in 3D

by John Casasanta
June 22, 20099 comments

raw speed

I just got my new iPhone 3GS the other day. I have an iPod touch and always noticed how much zippier it is over the iPhone. With the newest generation of iPhone, I was expecting Apple to boost the speed to be around iPod touch levels. But after a couple of days of tinkering with it, I have to say that I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how much faster it is over the 3G!

Yesterday, Daniel Pasco, who’s working with us to deliver our upcoming app, plasma, had posted some OpenGL ES speed test results for plasma, both on a new iPhone 3GS and an iPod touch. So I figured I’d take to opportunity now to post a few more concrete details, including a back-to-back video of plasma running on my somewhat obsolete 3G and my shiny, new 3GS (yeah, I got the white one this time, of course).

no service
iPhone - phone service = expensive iPod touch + camera

So Daniel slapped on a big, honkin’ frame rate indicator and I dragged out the video cam…

download full-size

As the video shows, in our OpenGL ES testing, the 3GS is generally close to four times faster than the 3G. Results will vary depending on the application but this is remarkable to say the least.

plasma’s pretty heavy on particle animation and fairly CPU intensive. The current build only uses features of OpenGL ES 1.1 and we’re considering taking advantage of some OpenGL ES 2.0 features for a richer experience on the iPhone 3GS.

As Daniel noted in his article, the graphics processing unit (GPU) in the 3GS is a PowerVR SGX, which seems to offer a very significant advantage over the PowerVR MBX Lite found in previous iPhone/iPod touch hardware. The GPU is likely where we’re gaining much of the improved performance in plasma. Increased RAM and cache sizes are also likely accounting for some of the better performance.

I mentioned this in the video, but it’s worth reiterating here… plasma’s currently unoptimized and the final frame rates on all devices should be significantly higher than what you’re seeing here. The app configuration we setup for the video is pretty rigorous and we wanted to see how the new phone would fare in a situation where we knew the older devices would choke. But when all is said and done and we release the optimized plasma into the wild, it should run very well on all devices.

So if our tests are any indication of what the 3GS is capable of, I’m sure that there’ll soon be some killer 3D apps coming out that’ll be taking advantage of the raw speed and new 3D features of the new iPhone 3GS. I can hardly wait.

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Who linked to this


  1. Vincent
    11:27pm, June 22, 2009

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  2. Kiran
    11:47pm, June 22, 2009

    Wow! That is one other reason to upgrade, only if ATT lets every 3G user upgrade without BS!

    I am sure you guys will optimize it for both versions of the hardware! Millions of devices with older hardware may push brakes on apps geared for 3G S! In any case, developer decides!

    Kudos guys!

  3. tommy
    4:38am, June 23, 2009


    can I assume, that both run the same App wich is implemented with OpenGL 1.1 and in fact of that it could run much faster than it allready is, if you had implement it in Open GL ES 2.0 on the 3GS?



  4. schenkus
    9:03am, June 23, 2009

    How does the battery life on the 3gs compare to the 3g while running this kind of graphics intensive code at full speed ?

    Is it about the same or does the 3gs “pay” for the performance by running down the battery faster ?

  5. ANthony
    9:52pm, June 23, 2009

    Now if Apple works with app developers to integrate a two tier based system for game settings (3G and 3G2) then we’ll be seeing compatibility across the iPhone/touch board and an enhanced gameplay experience for those with the newest phones.

  6. Carlos Saldanas
    1:28pm, June 24, 2009

    the bluetooth is on the 3G, would that make it any slower?

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