There has been a sudden rush towards having additional cores in smartphone processors. Till early last year, we were content with a 1GHZ processor present in almost every high-end phone. But CES 2011 saw phones with dual-core processors and at that time itself the chip makers shared their vision of bringing in quad-core processors soon.
Ever since, things have been happening so fast that everyone is bound to be confused. So, let’s start with first understanding what these cores are all about.
Says Dr Sandeep Sibal, Country Manager and VicePresident, business development, Qualcomm India and South Asia: “When we talk about cores we need to clarify what we are discussing. In most cases, when people talk about a quad-core processor, they are referring to the number of CPUS in the processor. But on a pure CPU level, clearly, with more CPU cores comes increased mobile processing performance. This additional CPU performance coupled with other system components such as the GPU, video and audio components means you’ll see improvements such as crisper graphics, more vivid mobile gaming, faster Web browsing and overall multitasking.”
Adds Vishal Dhupar, Managing Director-south Asia, NVIDIA: “Designing processors for mobile devices requires much more than simply replicating computer processor architecture and fitting it into a smaller form factor. The resulting processor might physically fit into a mobile device but its power consumption would result in a device with a battery life of minutes.”
As a result, both chip makers have introduced chips with quad-cores that are being used by all big brands. The Tegra 3 from NVIDIA is used in most of the top-end smartphones announced so far. As a multi-core CPU is able to allocate workload across its cores, each processor core runs at a lower frequency and voltage. This means, each core consumes significantly lower power and offers much higher performance per watt compared to a single-core processor.
The NVIDIA Tegra 3 comes with a fifth core in a quadcore architecture to handle less intensive tasks like updating Twitter and Facebook, accessing emails, making calls, sending text messages and more. These activities
do not require significant CPU processing power.
When more demanding chores are carried out, such as streaming videos, playing Hd-quality games or audio playback, the other four cores are automatically called upon to make their capabilities show.
On the other hand, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon APQ8064 is a system on chip that includes four Krait CPUS in addition to a GPU, video and audio hardware and host of other advanced technology components. The company has integrated all the advanced technology components into one fully integrated system on chip that results in better overall performance at lower power.
However, at the moment, we don’t have any smartphone on Snapdragon’s quad-core chipset.
While the increasing number of cores in the processors will enhance the overall performance of the device, there aren’t many apps around that can fully utilise the horsepower provided by these.
To somewhat remedy the situation, NVIDIA has developed a Tegra Zone, exclusive for Tegra devices, with optimised apps and games.