Study Examines Performance and Power Consumption of 3D Mobile Games

Study Examines Performance and Power Consumption of 3D Mobile Games
Results Inform Design of More Energy-Efficient Games and Hardware

Power Consumption of 3D Mobile GamesOn left, the experimental setup used for recording power consumption of a smartphone. Image on right: Runtime snapshot of the XRace game on a smartphone.Tired of how quickly games consume power on your phone?

Results of a University of Houston study of performance and power consumption of 3D mobile games will help industry design more energy-efficient hardware and 3D games better suited for phones. The findings appear in the April edition of Computer, the flagship publication of the IEEE Computer Society covering all aspects of computer science, computer engineering, computing technology, and applications.

“Games are one of the most popular applications used on smartphones,” said Zhigang Deng, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. “To find areas where energy efficiency of 3D mobile games can be improved, we wanted to identify and quantify bottlenecks in the games’ graphics pipeline.”

Isolating Stages of Graphics Pipeline

While a desktop has easily separated graphics hardware, cell phones have graphics hardware that is tightly integrated into a System on Chip, which is more challenging to analyze.

“On cell phones, everything is in a very tiny integrated circuit; the graphics hardware is part of that,” said Deng, a co-author on the paper. “It is harder to isolate the power consumption of the graphics components.”

To locate the area where the greatest amount of power consumption was occurring, the group isolated the stages of the graphics pipeline, looking at each component individually. They used two popular 3D mobile games in the study – Quake 3, a first-person shooter game, and XRace, a car race game. Each game was tested on three mainstream smartphone models.

“Characterizing these cutting-edge games sheds significant light on how real-world 3D graphics and game applications run on modern mobile platforms,” Deng said.

Deng and UH Ph.D. student Xiaohan Ma devised the method to disable various parts of the graphics pipeline. To make the power measurements, they used a power-measuring technique developed by Rice University’s Lin Zhong, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Rice Ph.D. student Mian Dong.

Of the four segments of the graphics pipeline, the group found that the largest power consumption occurred in the geometry stage where the 3D coordinates of the image are transformed to 2D coordinates for the phone’s screen. Also, the game-specific logic consumes a significant portion of the power.

“Knowing where the power bottleneck occurs will help game designers develop more energy-efficient games,” Deng said.

The work was supported in part by a Texas Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program grant and grants from the National Science Foundation. To obtain a copy of the full article, contact Deng at

- Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics