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First A9home benchmarks surface

Published: 2nd Jul 2006, 01:27:19 | Permalink | Printable

Standard health and safety warnings apply

Firebench in actionThe first set of crude benchmarks of AdvantageSix's A9home are doing the rounds showing how the little blue ARM9 machine fares against the Castle Xscale powered Iyonix. Although the A9home's memory bandwidth - the amount of data it can shunt between the processor, RAM and other components - edges past the Iyonix, it can't quite keep up with its 600Mhz rival and its Nvidia graphics card. The Iyonix's UDMA support overtakes the A9home's PIO mode grade speed for hard disc access, although the A9home appears to give the Iyonix a run for its money in the unaccelerated filesystem accesses. The A9home also comes out tops on rendering 2D shapes with the Draw module.

Richard Spencer's RISCOSmark and Michael Kübel's Firebench programs were used in the tests after Michael, wondering how fast his software ran on the new A9home, encouraged users to post their results. Firebench, pictured above, plots an animated fire-like effect by modifying individual pixels and recording the number of full screen frames plotted per second. The Iyonix is known to suffer in this sort of test because the video RAM is on the far end of the PCI bus on the Nvidia graphics card. An Omega managed to score 440 frames per second in this test, beating the Iyonix.

The other package, RISCOSmark, performs a number of tests on different sub-systems within the computer. It stresses the processor by running a small program in its cache, and measuring how many times this is executed within 100 centiseconds. It also times how fast the processor can read and write information to the system's RAM.

As always, these benchmarks are barely scientific, and are only good at measuring fairly abstract definitions of performance. They give a rough, rule-of-thumb, roundabout feel of the overall standing of the computers, as most users will prefer real benchmarks such as the speed at which images are loaded from disc, how quickly webpages are rendered in dinosaur Oregano 2, and the transfer rates over USB and Ethernet. Nevertheless, below are the figures, but please do take them with a pinch of salt.

BenchmarkIyonixA9homeKinetic RiscPCNotes
600MHz Intel IOP321, RISC OS 5.11, No Geminus400MHz Samsung ARM9, RISC OS 4.42, No Geminus233Mhz Intel StrongARM, RISC OS 4.03, Viewfinder 2

Processor256%174%116%Measures CPU performance, higher the better
Memory185%374%158%Measures memory bandwidth, higher the better
Rectangle copy4433%1405%2251%Measures 2D rectangle acceleration, higher the better
Icon plotting28%76%19%Creating and plotting a simple icon, higher the better
Draw path92%102%46%Plot a 2D line, higher the better
Draw fill64%157%13%Fill in a 2D shape, higher the better
Hard disc read36MB/s9MB/s1.9MB/sRead in a 1MB file in one block, higher the better
Hard disc write14MB/s7MB/s1.7MB/sWrite out a 1MB file in one block, higher the better
File system read1146KB/s616KB/s713KB/sRead in a large file in one byte at a time, higher the better
File system write358KB/s493KB/s506KB/sWrite out a large file in one byte at a time, higher the better
Frames per second409.83355.23259.06 (RPC Turbo 287MHz)Plotting a moving fire visual effect, higher the better

The baseline machine for the above tests, ie: the '100%' machine, is a vanilla 202MHz StrongARM RiscPC running RISC OS 4.02, and all the tests were run in 800x600x256 colours. An A9home review by drobe.co.uk is currently in the works.


Firebench (zip download) RISCOSmark website

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Hopefully the third flash update will arrive soon with DMA enabled so we can get a fuller picture of the performance of the little A9. After all, it was a fair few months following the release of the Iyonix before UDMA was activated.

The fast memory bandwidth is good to see. It looks like the A9 offers a very significant performance increase from classic RPC's and falls in nicely behind the Iyonix in terms of processor performance/frames per second as expected.

 is a RISC OS UserJohnB on 2/7/06 11:18AM
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It is worth pointing out that both of these programs are written in BASIC (runs from CPU cache) and RISCOSmark is designed very much to fit in the CPU cache. As such, you have to be careful when using these benchmarks on different CPU architectures. Translation - programs like this aren't overly representative of real applications, so handle with care.

RISCOSmark scores will vary with screen mode (it runs in desktop screen resolution/colour depth) so one has to be careful comparing (some machines will run faster in higher colour depths, for example - I wonder if the A9 is optimised for 32k or 16m colours, as 800x600x256 isn't exactly "real world"). When I tried them here, I rather liked Firebench although that may be because my RISCube did 1046 fps! On the other hand, the CPU rating in RISCOSmark was chronically low - 130%. Neither really represents the "real use" speed of the machine although it is closer to Firebench than RISCOSmark.

Obviously it is pleasing to see the A9 scoring well, and no doubt they will improve as more acceleration is implemented. Even so, they're already impressive!

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 2/7/06 12:45PM
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I knew it! I knew Andrew couldn't resist mentioning the RISCube. :) Still, it'd be nice to see how far ahead or how far behind native hardware is compared to emulation. -- Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 4/7/06 1:12PM
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What's going on with the icon plotting?

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 4/7/06 1:27PM
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it was benchmarks that made me want an archie :-)

what would be of interest is to see what the impact of germinus would be to the figures...

 is a RISC OS UserROHC on 4/7/06 6:37PM
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I've noticed that you need to be careful running !Firebench since I have managed to get results from 237 fps all the way up to 750 fps on my 233 MHz SA RPC. You know things have gone weird when the program either finishes early, the fire display goes weird with strange pixels all through it or the fire display seems to alternate between two distinct frames.

 is a RISC OS Userterrahawk on 4/7/06 11:18PM
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This all looks like good stuff to me. It certainly puts the A9 in a good position relative to other RISC OS machines. If I were a RiscPC user I think I'd be persuaded that this was beyond a big enough jump to make it worthwhile.

It would be interesting to know the extent to which some of the improvements are due to hardware and which are due to improvements in RISC OS 4 versus 5 (just for the sake of knowing some of the benefits that RO 4 can provide).

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 7/7/06 7:01PM
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FireBench shows 391.38 on the A9home (with the latest beta videodriver)

 is a RISC OS UserEasyKees on 22/7/06 9:29PM
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