Even when doing no drawing at all, it seems impossible to maintain a 60Hz update rate on an OpenGL ES rendering thread on an Android device. Mysterious spikes frequently crop up (demonstrated in the code at the bottom of this post), and every effort that I've made to figure out why or how has lead to a dead end. Timing in more complicated examples with a custom rendering thread has consistently shown eglSwapBuffers() to be the culprit, frequently coming in over 17ms-32ms. Help?
This does happen in more than just our PowerVR devices (the Samsung Galaxy S and Nexus S), so it's entirely possible that it's an understanding issue on our
part. Still, I'm not seeing what else we could be doing.
This is particularly damning because the rendering requirements for our project is screen-aligned elements smoothly scrolling horizontally at a fixed, high rate of speed from one side of the screen to the other. In other words, a platforming game. The frequent drops from
60Hz result in noticeable popping and lurching, both with and without time-based movement. Rendering at 30Hz isn't an option because of the high rate of scrolling speed, which is a non-negotiable part of the design.
Our project is Java-based to maximize compatibility and uses OpenGL ES 2.0. We only dip down into the NDK for OpenGL ES 2.0 rendering on API 7-8 devices and ETC1 support on API 7 devices. In both it and the test code given below, I have verified no allocations/GC events except for the log print and automatic threads beyond my control.
I've recreated the problem in a single file that uses stock Android classes and no NDK. The code below can be pasted into a new Android project created in Eclipse and should pretty much work out-of-the-box so long as you choose API level 8 or above.
The test has been reproduced on a variety of devices with a range of GPUs and OS versions:
* Galaxy Tab 10.1 running Android 3.1
* Nexus S running Android 2.3.4
* Galaxy S II running Android 2.3.3
* XPERIA Play running Android 2.3.2
* Droid Incredible running Android 2.2
* Galaxy S running Android 2.1-update1 (when dropping API requirements down to level 7)
Sample output (gathered from under 1 second of run time):
I've been chasing this one for a while and have about hit a brick wall. If a fix isn't available, then at least an explanation about why this happens and advice on how this has been overcome in projects with similar requirements would be greatly appreciated.
Edit: Fixed formatting, added note about devices, moved code into code-formatted block.
* A simple Activity that demonstrates frequent frame rate dips from 60Hz,
* even when doing no rendering at all.
* This class targets API level 8 and is meant to be drop-in compatible with a
* fresh auto-generated Android project in Eclipse.
* This example uses stock Android classes whenever possible.
* @author Bill Roeske
public class SpikeActivity extends Activity
public void onCreate( Bundle savedInstanceState )
super.onCreate( savedInstanceState );
// Make the activity fill the screen.
requestWindowFeature( Window.FEATURE_NO_TITLE );
// Get a reference to the default layout.
final LayoutInflater factory = getLayoutInflater();
final LinearLayout layout = (LinearLayout)factory.inflate( R.layout.main, null );
// Clear the layout to remove the default "Hello World" TextView.
// Create a GLSurfaceView and add it to the layout.
GLSurfaceView glView = new GLSurfaceView( getApplicationContext() );
layout.addView( glView );
// Configure the GLSurfaceView for OpenGL ES 2.0 rendering with the test renderer.
glView.setEGLContextClientVersion( 2 );
glView.setRenderer( new SpikeRenderer() );
// Apply the modified layout to this activity's UI.
setContentView( layout );
class SpikeRenderer implements GLSurfaceView.Renderer
public void onDrawFrame( GL10 gl )
// Update base time values.
final long timeCurrentNS = System.nanoTime();
final long timeDeltaNS = timeCurrentNS - timePreviousNS;
timePreviousNS = timeCurrentNS;
// Determine time since last frame in seconds.
final float timeDeltaS = timeDeltaNS * 1.0e-9f;
// Print a notice if rendering falls behind 60Hz.
if( timeDeltaS > (1.0f / 60.0f) )
Log.d( "SpikeTest", "Spike: " + timeDeltaS );
/*// Clear the screen.
gl.glClear( GLES20.GL_COLOR_BUFFER_BIT );*/
public void onSurfaceChanged( GL10 gl, int width, int height )
public void onSurfaceCreated( GL10 gl, EGLConfig config )
// Set clear color to purple.
gl.glClearColor( 0.5f, 0.0f, 0.5f, 1.0f );
private long timePreviousNS = System.nanoTime();