The Asus ZenFone 6 has been in our offices for a few days now, and I finally managed to get some quality time with the device. The main point of curiosity was around gaming, and the chance to see how well Intel Atom processors would deal with some demanding titles including Dead On Arrival 2, Dead Trigger 2, Asphalt 8, GTA San Andreas, Anomaly 2 and NBA 2K 2013.
Intel’s strength traditionally speaking has been in the development of CPUs, the main brain of a computer or device, but modern mobile platforms require more complicated processors that combine several CPU cores with other important components including memory controllers, networking, media codecs, modems and of course graphics processors. The Intel Z2580 that powers the Asus ZenFone 6 belongs to the Clovertrail family of processors from Intel and includes a 533MHz PowerVR SGX graphics processor licensed from Imagination Technologies in the UK.
Achieving really good gaming performance requires a perfect storm several different things; you need a solid GPU, one with many dedicated cores that can render the games graphics pixel by pixel in real time, you need a good CPU to essentially organize the GPU cores and you an efficient well written graphics driver which is essentially a small software layer that communicates between the hardware and app. Drivers need to be updated from time to time as new games come to market, often resolving poor performance, crashing and other problems.
Game developers work closely with graphics companies like Imagination, Nvidia and AMD to ensure that their games run smoothly on whatever technology platform the end user has in their hands. In several cases this year we have seen a Snapdragon 800 series SoC with an Adreno GPU tackle some demanding mobile games with aplomb, but even with Qualcomm’s high-end offering we have seen some artifacting and rendering issues – notably when running NBA 2K 2013.
The Intel Atom Z2580 actully performed better than the Qualcomm 801 when running NBA 2K 2013, the player models where rendered without issue and looked great, with smooth gameplay throughout. But the whole experience was far from problem-free. We noticed some slight lagginess during the Frontline Commando 2, specifically in a scene where we encountered an explosion – typically a very demanding segment of any game – you can find the scene at 2:24 in the video below.
The most disappointing of all however was when we tried to GTA San Andreas. despite having all the settings on low and ensuring ample system memory and storage, the game outright refused to run, crashing every time the game engine attempted to run. Seems to me like Intel, Imagination and Rockstar Games need to call a meeting…