Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Cellphones Handhelds Hardware

Quad-Core Mobile Chips Wasted On Mobiles? 336

Posted by Soulskill
from the usefulness-versus-marketing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Dual-core smartphones have only just hit the market, but mobile chipmakers Nvidia and Qualcomm are already turning their attention to quad-core chips. While it looks certain that tablets will be the first quad-core mobile devices in the market, chipmakers reckon they'll land in smartphones too. But do smartphones need quad-core chips? There's surely only so much multitasking a smartphone user can do. I'm interested to hear what smartphone apps/features/functions — if any — Slashdot readers reckon quad-core chips would enable"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Quad-Core Mobile Chips Wasted On Mobiles?

Comments Filter:
  • Now. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob&hotmail,com> on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:53AM (#35757492) Journal

    There's surely only so much multitasking a smartphone user can do.

    Yep true, if everything's locked up.

    But provide that amount of power in an open system and there'll be people who'll find beautiful ways of suing it.

    • Re:Now. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:56AM (#35757544)

      But provide that amount of power in an open system and there'll be people who'll find beautiful ways of suing it.

      Yup. They're called lawyers.

    • i never really thought of court proceedings as beautiful, but whatever suits your fancy
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      There's surely only so much multitasking a smartphone user can do.

      Yep true, if everything's locked up.

      But provide that amount of power in an open system and there'll be people who'll find beautiful ways of suing it.

      Indeed. You could render Toy Story IV on the bus ride.

      • You could render Toy Story IV on the bus ride.

        Bingo. It's for video gaming. Smartphone makers have to find some way to compete with the 3DS and NGP, and multiple computing cores (some CPU-like, some GPU-like) are one way to improve graphics closer to Xbox 360 levels.

    • My dream device would be a mobile with enough power to be a fully functional computer. Wireless Video displays would be cool, but an hdmi port could suffice. Bluetooth keyboards and mice would be awesome. No more syncing. Your phone is your computer, plain and simple. Walk into your office and link up to your peripherals and away you go.

  • by oic0 (1864384)
    Is this so when you have your main task going, there are 3 more cores to eat up battery power in the background?
    • Re:Battery (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Joehonkie (665142) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:01AM (#35757658) Homepage
      No. You have 3 more cores shut down and not doing anything at all, unless your task is nicely multithreaded, in which case they are all working on the task to get it done faster so all the cores can go to sleep and save you battery life.
      • They may go into a "shut down" state, but that doesn't mean they won't be drawing power. In reality a lot of the time all they are is clocked down.
        • Can the cores be clocked down individually?

          • Can on my i3 desktop chip, or the Xeon in my other desktop. I don't see why a smartphone chip wouldn't be able to do so too, as they would be designed for extremally low power.
        • by willy_me (212994)
          Not in any modern design, which I assume applies to these theoretical CPUs that have yet to reach the market.
        • by hazydave (96747)

          When you take the clock away from a static CMOS device, you pretty much remove all significant power consumption. A well designed multi-core CPU for mobile devices will be able to do exactly this. Now, sure, some of the hotrodded Cortex A8 cores (anything Intrinsity got their hands on) may have NMOS or transistors or dynamic latches, but nothing from ARM directly does -- they're all static.

          When I have four cores that only need 500MHz to get the work done, that can be a substantial savings over two going at

        • by PiSkyHi (1049584)
          Do some research on why Arm vs. X86 is an issue as devices draw less power, the Arm can virtually switch off compared to the X86.
        • by demonbug (309515)

          They may go into a "shut down" state, but that doesn't mean they won't be drawing power. In reality a lot of the time all they are is clocked down.

          Actually, the newer processors can shut down unused cores. There is a very small amount of leakage, but nearly insignificant. This [anandtech.com] article provides some information from the Lynnfield release. Obviously in the desktop environment the bonus from shutting down cores is clocking the one that is in use higher; but you can turn it around and just greatly reduce power consumption if you only need one core running. This should work fine with mobile processors, though I confess I don't know if the current dual core

      • by mrops (927562)

        For argument sake, when it comes to battery, a single core may be better, if something is perfectly multi-threaded, there is still overhead of managing the threads, this overhead will translate directly to more power being sucked from the battery. So a single core may take longer, but the overall energy will be lower as there won't be any overhead to manage the threads.

        And like I said, for argument sake.

        • Re:Battery (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday April 08, 2011 @12:21PM (#35759134)

          For argument sake, when it comes to battery, a single core may be better, if something is perfectly multi-threaded, there is still overhead of managing the threads, this overhead will translate directly to more power being sucked from the battery. So a single core may take longer, but the overall energy will be lower as there won't be any overhead to manage the threads.

          For arguments sake, when it comes to battery, quad core is a lot better, because power grows with the square of speed, so quad core can run at a quarter of the speed for a total power reduction of a factor 4. Overhead for managing multiple threads is negligible.

  • I guess... (Score:4, Funny)

    by mdm-adph (1030332) <mdmadph AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:55AM (#35757534) Homepage
    ...anything more than 512KB of RAM is wasted on smartphones, too?
  • by homb (82455)

    Assuming the autonomy is good, having more cores means more multitasking without impacting the phone's snappiness and perceived user performance. As memory increases in phones, more cores will be quite useful for background apps.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      And that is the funny thing, multitasking is more then writing a term paper while watching youtube videos.

      Multiple cores may allow a phone to get things done on a lower clock and drain the battery less, as long as the tasks are ongoing anyways. If there is a definitive end to it then it may be better for the battery to clock to max for the duration, and then power down the core once the task is complete.

      But then this have been done on phones for a while now, at least when it comes to media. That is, if one

  • by ToasterofDOOM (878240) <d.murphy.davis@gmail.com> on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:55AM (#35757540)
    Folding@Phone. What could be more obvious??? It would also offer an incentive to manufacturers to provide longer lasting batteries!
  • Since when have multiple cores been geared purely for Multitasking?

    4-cores, or rather 4 hardware threads, can be utilised by a single app, it just depends on what you're doing. THe real thing to keep in mind is battery life. Having 4 cores going at 100% will drain the battery, sure, but compare that against 4 cores doing a task in 1s that a single core takes 5 or 6 seconds to do. The faster a job gets done, the less juice that's used. There's every reason to look forward to the coming multi-core devices you

    • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:15AM (#35757942)

      why would 4 cores be 6x as fast as a single core?

      Assuming clock speed remains the same, 4 cores isn't even 4x as fast as a single core, even under the best of circumstances, due to overhead and and inefficiency derived by of breaking up one task into multiple threads. That isn't even counting the "turbo" feature that modern cpus have to increase clock speed when only a single core is in use.

      • by afidel (530433)
        Actually it *could* help overall power consumption. On my EVO Shift 75-80% of power draw during a typical day is used by the display with most of the rest being for the cellular radio, only a few percent are used by the CPU. If you could get your task done faster and the screen back to sleep you could significantly increase useful life.
        • Oh I'll give you that, I just thing OP was trying to work magic with electrons.

          Really though, I have a charger at home, a charger in the car, and my phone is constantly charging at work due to being tethered to one of my laptops. Battery life isn't a big deal to me.

        • by willy_me (212994)

          If you could get your task done faster and the screen back to sleep you could significantly increase useful life.

          The only way a faster CPU would help in this regard is if the current user interface was defective. I say defective because any UI that can not respond to the user, regardless of the reason, is defective. So long as the user is not waiting on the UI, adding CPU power will not reduce the amount of time the display is turned on.

    • by alexhs (877055)

      Having 4 cores going at 100% will drain the battery, sure, but compare that against 4 cores doing a task in 1s that a single core takes 5 or 6 seconds to do.

      Please don't expect super linear speedup [wikipedia.org].
      However, for a given generation of hardware, 4 cores at frequency f are using less power than one core at frequency 4f, because increasing the frequency requires to increase the tension, and power=tension^2/resistivity
      (Wikipedia cites P = Cf(V^2) [wikipedia.org] but fails to note that core voltage is increased with frequency [intel.com][PDF warning]).

  • by Shreav (195174) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:59AM (#35757618) Homepage
    Okay, so it doesn't apply to anybody on /., but for plenty of people, the idea of carrying their primary computing platform in their pocket is awesome. All they need is the ability for it to play nicely with a wireless keyboard/mouse and their big-ass TV, and they've suddenly got a home computer, with all their data stored up in the cloud.
    • by hitmark (640295)

      Been done for a while already, except that the big name Phones in USA have had downright shitty bluetooth support.

  • How else are we supposed to play Angry birds while simultaneously listening to music downloading apps and filming in HD ? I can't wait to have to charge my phone every 4 hours !
    • I can't wait to have to charge my phone every 4 hours !

      Neither can I. My Droid 2 us usually toast after about three.

      • As the AC comment noted, different custom ROMs offer astonishing differences in battery life, to the point where it boggles the mind that the ROMs shipped with the phones haven't been tweaked (or even tested) to get at least somewhat better battery life. I mean, it's not like these ROMs offer less functionality - usually it's far more functionality (unless you consider Motoblur and other crap like that essential functionality I guess).

        I have a Nexus One which originally provided about 15 hours of battery li

    • by sartin (238198)

      How else are we supposed to play Angry birds while simultaneously listening to music downloading apps and filming in HD ? I can't wait to have to charge my phone every 4 hours !

      If you can't format a floppy drive while performing other tasks, it's not real multitasking.

      Now, get off of my lawn!

  • by dagamer34 (1012833) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:00AM (#35757646)
    An important thing to realize is that multi-tasking is NOT the same thing as as an app/OS being multi-threaded. While most apps need to be specifically coded to be multi-threaded, operating systems for a long time have had the ability to take advantage of multiple CPUs to complete tasks. Now, while a big jump in a single application may come from taking a huge CPU task and chopping it up into little pieces, there are definitely some tasks that lend themselves very easily to being multi-threaded. For example, probably the most important one is independently-executed Javascript threads. Browser performance can really be improved from multiple CPUs chewing on Javascript threads and then powering down to a low power state. Now, will it really matter when most of the wait for a page loading is downloading images? Probably not, but better performance is still better performance. The key goal with dual/quad core chips is making sure the system itself still feels responsive when doing tasks. A good example of this is if you have an iPhone and you are listening to a video podcast while running Safari, the system will definitely see some slowdown. Or running any app while the OS is installing something from the App Store, uploading a photo to Flickr in the background, or streaming Pandora. As refined as smartphones seem, they are still just pocket computers with limited resources.
  • by spikenerd (642677) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:01AM (#35757660)
    I will use it in ways that even I cannot now foresee. The reason general-purpose computers are so useful is because they can be used in ways that were not foreseen by the manufacturer. Please stop trying to determine how I will use my equipment. Just make it powerful and stop trying to lock me down to a particular usage scenario.
  • Okay, the implementation sucks, but the form-factor makes sense. I'd like to see something like the Atrix, but running an open source software stack. The Atrix itself isn't that impressive - it doesn't know how to take advantage of the larger displays it can connect to and the software stack is not open, but it's a start.

    When I plug something like an Atrix into the laptop adapter, I'd like to have a little processing horsepower to go with my keyboard, mouse and 14" display.

    When I plug something like an

    • by mmell (832646)
      Okay, it's made by Motorola, and I guess the Android 2.2 software stack is still open (but v3.0 is questionable). It's still not quite ready for prime-time.

      But it still could benefit from a quad-core proc, I think.

  • I hope we don't find ourselves in a situation as we do with full-size computers where ads and sales-droids are telling us that SuperMultiCore Machine X is "perfect for email, web browsing and organizing your recipe collection". I don't want to see multicore phones trying to make up for sloppy coding and configuration.

  • With more cores, this will also add a benefit because apps that don't multithread will use one core's CPU time, while other cores are not affected. Say a MP3 player is using one core to play music. The user fires up another task, and instead of taking CPU time away from the MP3 player (possibly causing skipping), it will use another core that is not as utilized.

    So, overall, even if cores are disabled and enabled for power saving reasons, having more of them will provide better overall user responsiveness

    • by willy_me (212994)

      With more cores, this will also add a benefit because apps that don't multithread will use one core's CPU time, while other cores are not affected. Say a MP3 player is using one core to play music. The user fires up another task, and instead of taking CPU time away from the MP3 player (possibly causing skipping), it will use another core that is not as utilized.

      Not really an issue anymore. One just has to adjust the scheduler to ensure your mp3s do not skip, there is no real advantage to having two cores in this respect. And even if skipping were to occur, it would likely be a result of contention for other resources and not the CPU.

      The real advantage of multiple cores is that it allows CPU designers to produce more MIPS while using less power. This is because doubling the clock rate of a CPU more then doubles the power requirements of that same CPU. So CPU

  • When your phone can run LibreOffice, the Gimp, Inkscape, and so on, and also do 1080p output via MiniHDMI, you're going to want a quad-core with a nice GPU. So what if you're not using the power when you're carrying the phone around? Hook it up to your TV at home and bam! You've just saved yourself from buying a whole other device. Likewise in the car, there's your navigation and entertainment. Take it to work and do your personal crap on it so as not to mix it with the work systems. Most people never do a

  • by znigelz (2005916) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:10AM (#35757832)

    Currently, the Nvidia Tegra 2 chip has 8 cores. A high powered dual core A9-cortex ARM chip, a low powered A7 (for idle state and handling other low power interrupts), a core for HD video encode, a core for HD video decode, a core for audio, and a GPU. Though it lacks the Neon instruction set for full performance SIMD.

    OpenCL is currently on its way into the mobile world. Soon the mobile world will also make the transition into streaming multiprocessors. The thought of holding back these innovations is just ludicrous dribble. MIMD is soon going to replace rasterization with backwards rendering, which will require a high amount of complexity, which a quad core would be more ideal. Especially, if you want to exploit the heterogeneity of OpenCL with both the on board GPU and CPU. Maybe cloud rendering will eventually replace this, though I have my doubts. I want to be able to render my screen locally without connecting to the internets.

    I hope to one day be able to run test simulations on my tablet while I am waiting in line for lunch, see the results, and then execute heavier distributed processes.

    • by dch24 (904899)
      Please mod parent up. Although I haven't tried the Motorola Atrix 4G (which seems to have a Tegra 2 in it), this is where multi-core smartphones are right now.

      Sure, in the not too distant future the wheel of reincarnation will make all those specialized cores transform into identical general-purpose cores. That's inevitable. But this chip helps improve battery life AND speed, right now.
  • You actually can write a multi-threaded application for a phone. You can take advantage of a quad-core processor on a system only running one application.

    • Considering a typical usage scenario of a phone app: downloading information from a remote source, loading cached data, UI animations, all happening simultaneously... yeah I could easily use 4 cores.
  • by Issarlk (1429361) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:11AM (#35757848)
    One core running governmnent spyware. One core running phone maker's bloatware One core running MAFIAA trusted computing DRM/spyware One core running the user's apps.
    • by powerlord (28156)

      One core running governmnent spyware. One core running phone maker's bloatware One core running MAFIAA trusted computing DRM/spyware One core running the user's apps.

      You forgot "One core running distributed Zombie client". I guess we'll have to ditch the "User Apps", its not like they'll be missed.

      Also forgot the "Extended Life Battery" kit it will need (100" extension cord in an easy to manage case). ... do not use in inclement weather.

  • Who cares what kind of real world use it has? Give someone the choice between a phone with 5MP camera and a 6MP camera and more is always better, regardless of actual picture quality. Same with cores. The only thing more effective from a marketing standpoint is giving a fancy new name to existing technology. Your typical consumer is an easily-gamed moron.
    • by alen (225700)

      yep, the tech heads salivate over this stuff and pay a lot of money

      in the 1990's it was the fastest PC with the voodoo2. today it's the newest phone or tablet. my home internet at 15mbps is fast enough for netflix on my 40" TV yet the tech heads are salivating at paying crazy money for LTE to be used on a device 1/10 the size of most TV's. MP3's and AAC was playable on devices almost 15 years ago yet you go to anandtech and people will try to prove to you that you need dual or quad core to listen to music a

  • I would do battery compression.

    Imagine: One core for the phone and three cores transparently decompressing the battery in the background. You'd get three times the battery life !

    Finally a smartphone with a battery lasting a full week !

  • Haven't we been reading the articles about how malware has been ramping up on mobiles [slashdot.org]? Isn't it obvious that one of the quickest and easiest ways to limit a program's access is to jail it or otherwise virtualize it? And just because *your* smartphone won't let you multitask doesn't mean that mine won't. Having multiple cores (that can be turned off to save power when not needed) would be very handy, thank you very much.

  • by mevets (322601) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:18AM (#35758014)

    You need one core for each finger, so if you want four-finger gesturing you need four cores. If you only have one core, you get the finger.

    That is why my 8-core imac is soo cool, I have two magic mice - one per hand, and a magic trackpad for each foot; I can type with my nose, and still have 3 cores to spare in case one breaks down.

    somebody slap the OP.

  • I think it would more beneficial to ramp up GHz first rather than having more cores. Which would you rather have? A 4GHz mobile CPU or 4 1GHz CPUs? The answer is easily 4GHz since every single interaction, graphics update, processing of user input is going to be 4X more responsive, and you will easily notice the difference, with multiple cores you also have the overhead and hassle of synchronizing threads and the mind numbing task of updating mobile apps to take advantage of them. The ONLY reason we hav

    • by bk2204 (310841)

      The problem is that increasing clock speed also increases power usage, usually superlinearly. For a device that will spend most of its useful life on battery, that's not good. As others have suggested, it may actually be advantageous to split threads among multiple cores because it means that those individual processors can run at a lower clock speed.
      Also, if we have a problem with heat dissipation for desktops, which have large dedicated fans and huge amounts of space that can be pressed into service for

    • by Simon80 (874052)
      Don't you think that if those really were the ONLY reasons, then maybe the chip designers would be designing 4GHz chips? Could it be that the hardware designers know something you don't?
  • While I agree that there is only so much you can really do with any level of practicality on a smartphone, the tablet and mid markets would benefit. IMHO the tablet market if taken advantage of could be a renaissance for tech companies. Computer and even console advancement while progressing from a tech standpoint has stagnated a bit on the consumer side, for basic functionality there is little difference to an end user from a 6 year old p4 and a modern quad core as far as the user experience goes mainly

  • I'm going to make it do math... lot's of math. That's right it will get nice and warm and keep my hands from freezing in cold weather. Battery life be damned!
  • 2 cores CPU for basic program use - Example: Pandora and Email checking at the same time

    Another core, cut down on functionality for "phone use". This includes GPS, tower connections, and actual phone use. This is useful for location based apps. This would not normally share with the primary CPU cores, but mixing it into a "multi-core" architecture would free up space in devices for future technologies, faster / better hard drives, longer lasting batteries, or even things like solar power or kinetic power

  • Quad cores could save battery life. The idea is to wake up and sleep cores as they are needed to perform functions. This means that most of the time, 75 percent of the processor could be shut down while idling or just playing music. Then you want to run an app, you wake up as many cores as are needed for the task. The more cores you have, the more you can fit the battery drain to the tasks the phone is being asked to perform.

    Furthermore, these phones will increasingly be used as computers. All you need

  • It would enable the carriers to charge people for a not needed upgrade.
  • need.

    Quote me on that.

    They also will only need 2GB RAM, 32GB storage, and maybe an 8-threaded Nvidia GPU.

    And maybe Flash. Some day.

    Turns our 640k of RAM wasn't enough after all, but those people were just stupid.

  • It turns out you can save a lot of energy by having modern multi-core processors handle the same work-load as a single core because they can clock down and use lower voltages. Two cores running at 550MHz each use 40% less energy than one core running at 1GHz. [bit-tech.net] Similar power savings can be made with 4 cores running at lower speeds and lower voltages on multithreaded workloads.
  • 1 core can be running my browser or other interactive program another core can be used by a music player while the third manages the phone itself, the connection to the cell tower, etc...

    Of course 1 core can do all that at once buy maybe 3 will do it snappier?

    Unless of course it is an Apple phone. Then you don't get to do all that at once...
  • The major problem still out there is Programmers need to write their applications to support SMP.(Symmetric multiprocessing) [wikipedia.org]

    Sure I loved my Dual Pentium 2 and 3 boards back in the day. You would always see one CPU idle Unless you were running multiple Applications.(multiple tasks at once)

    But, if you want to get the most performance with one program it needs to be programmed the correctly to use all these core efficiently. Like the way you use the MPI and MPI v2 Libraries for Clusters. (Message Passing Int [wikipedia.org]

  • At any given minute of the day, your smartphone is

    - Synching email from the cloud
    - Pushing up your last Evernote from 5 minutes ago into the cloud
    - Checking for new picassa photos
    - Updating your GPS nav app's position
    - Updating all your home-screen widgets, of which there might be as many as 12 or 15
    - Streaming background music
    - Checking for application updates .... etc etc.

    And this is not even anything involving user-interaction yet. Now let's swap out the GPS nav app for a 3D high-definition game, which

  • Alas, the last time we talked about this, I don't think there was a Slashdot yet, so I can't link to it so that you can go through all the detailed arguments. But I do remember the outcome.

    Anyway, to sum it up, the consensus seemed to be that the 80386 will be useful on servers, but yes, it would be totally wasted on individual users.

  • Multicore doesn't necessarily mean that you want more speed. A quad core processor may be no faster than a single core processor with the same number of transistors, but you can turn off three of the four cores when you don't need them to save power. Multicore processors are also potentially easier to manufacture because you just manufacture an extra core and then keep the four cores that work best out of the five.

  • Your smartphone is a mobile computer that also makes phone calls. I'm using my Samsung Captivate (with CyanogenMod thank you very much) more and more for things I used to depend on my home PC for.

    While I think the Motorola Atrix is a bit of an overpriced dud, I think that this type of device is the future. 'Phones' are more and more going to be people's primary computing devices. I say bring on all the cores and memory they can handle. We'll make use of them when we dock the 'phone' at work or home to wri

  • > But do smartphones need quad-core chips? There's surely only so much multitasking a smartphone user can do.

    Even if you're running a single application, that application can benefit greatly from operating system processes running concurrently.

  • It's a matter of load balancing. My DroidX currently shows 23 background processes on one core. Two cores would be better. Four cores (assuming reasonable power management) would be even better. Multiple cores don't necessarily make individual tasks go faster; they provide more consistent response. Even non-techies will appreciate that, even if they don't quite understand why it's happening.

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

Working...