Smartphone processor cores: The more the better?

Multiple cores in smartphones need not necessarily mean faster performance. Here are the real life parameters where multiple cores come into action.

Quad-core processors have made their first foray into Android devices. The over-whelming response to the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the HTC One X prove that this leap in technology has been successful to an extent. Multiple cores make an impact on consumers who think this will give their phones better processing power.

Some believe that double the cores means double the performance. That, of course, is not necessarily true; smartphone performance does not depend solely on the number of cores. There are other factors like battery and memory too.

{mosimage}Display: 4.3-inch AMOLED Processor: 1.7GHz S3 dual core RAM: 1GB Internal memory: 16GB Camera: 8MP Android: v4.0/ Ice Cream Sandwich Battery: 1650mAh

Display: 4.7-inch super LCD 2 Processor: 1.5GHz Tegra 3 quad core RAM: 1GB Internal memory: 32GB Camera: 8MP Android: v4.0/ Ice Cream Sandwich Battery: 1800mAh

Display:3.7-inch super LCD 2 Processor: 1GHz single core RAM: 512MB Internal memory: 4GB Camera: 5MP Android: v4.0/ Ice Cream Sandwich Battery: 1500mAh
The single-core processors that our phones have used for long did everything single handedly. But with multi-core processors coming in, the phone's task is divided among multiple cores that do their portion of the job and try to finish the task faster.

All chips being used in smartphones-by smartphones we mean Android, Windows Phone and Apple devices-are designed by ARM. So ARM processors form the basis of every phone. The entire system is placed on a single chip, popularly known as "system on chip" (SoC).

ARM has come out with different designs like the Cortex A5, A7, A8, A9 and A15. Accordig to experts, each chip is better than its predecessor. For instance, the single-core A9 chip will dominate the A8. Chipmakers like Qualcomm and NVIDIA use this and tweak it further before integrating it in their final designs. Further, these chips have to strike a fine balance with the operating system, applications and phone battery for the optimum performance.


Like the dual-core processors introduced last year, smartphones powered by quad-core chips promise to offer faster performance with better battery backup. Technically, on a quadcore-powered Android, the screen resolution should look sharper, streaming HD video should be smoother, loading photos and apps should be faster and heavy graphic multiplayer gaming should be flawless.

According to NVIDIA, "The Android OS supports multi-threading and uses multiple CPU cores to deliver faster responsiveness and higher performance when the user is running multiple programmes at the same time. Multi-core processors also help deliver longer battery life by sharing workloads across multiple CPU cores and running each core at lower voltage and frequency. This results in significant battery life improvements."

Today, we have smartphones with quad-core processors, but do we have the apps that can utilise this technology? Not yet. Most of the apps available today are built for devices that run on single or dual core processors. Therefore they can't leverage the extra processing power of the quad core chips.

With a lot of confusion surrounding the utility of processors, we decided to go ahead with real-life testing of the phones running on single, dual and quad core processors.

For the side-by-side testing, we had to pick the phones with some common parameters.

All phones should run the same version of the operating system and should also have the same user interface. Given these, we picked the HTC One series which has similar basic features. The HTC One V, One S and One X run on single-, dual- and quad-core processors respectively.

Web Browsing, Camera, Power test
Web Browsing, Camera, Power test
The HTC One S with its dual-core processor gave tough competition to the HTC One X and the quad-core processor. In some sections, like browsing and video rendering, the One S performance was better.

Even after the big claims by NVIDIA about the fifth core used in the Tegra 3 for battery management, the results were shocking as the One X battery percentage dropped drastically with usage.

We approached HTC and NVIDIA with our test results, but they have sent us any respondes.

Courtesy: Gadgets and Gizmos