Smartphone Processors: Why You Need to Choose Wisely
Traditionally, screen size, operating system and, of course, price have been the major features consumers consider when buying a smartphone. But smartphone processors are becoming increasingly important in choosing the right handset. Here's why.
Smartphone processors are advancing by digital leaps and bounds, and choosing just any old phone could put you significantly behind the performance curve.
The biggest, and latest, advance has been the introduction of multicore processors into smartphones. Originally the domain of desktop computers and laptops, multicore processors use "cores," smaller processors working in tandem, to complete more tasks at once, thus speeding up processing time even if the chip's relative speed is slower than other single-core processors.
NVIDIA's Tegra 2 processor has changed the smartphone race completely because it's a dual-core processor running at 1GHz speed. Qualcomm has done the same thing with its dual-core 1GHz Snapdragon processor , which is becoming even more popular in new smartphones than the Tegra 2. The advent of these dual-core processors in smartphones has significantly increased the power of phones.
Here's a bit of perspective: Dual-core processors have been around in desktop computers for years, but it was only a little over a year ago that dual-core processors started showing up consistently in netbooks. By contrast, smartphone processors of the same period were considered fast if they had a 600MHz processor (a little more than half of the Snapdragon's 1GHz, but with a single core).
Now things are really accelerating. Several new phones have been announced in recent months with 1.2GHz and 1.4GHz processors. Even dual-core netbook processors today are only 1.6GHz. Intel recently announced its advance into mobile chips with the Medfield processor line, which is based on the Atom processor found in netbooks but will likely run even faster.
That’s right, smartphone processors should soon surpass those of netbooks.
NVIDIA and Qualcomm aren't standing still, either. Qualcomm recently announced an upcoming dual-core 1.5GHz version of the Snapdragon processor, along with promises of quad-core chips running at 2.5GHz per core in the future. NVIDIA also announced the Tegra 3, which is a quad-core chip five times more powerful than the Tegra 2.
In other words, the coming generation of smartphones is going to be extremely powerful.
So why does this matter?
First of all, power means more functionality. More power makes the smartphone more valuable as our primary computing device. Take the Motorola Atrix 4G , for example, which has a dual-core 1GHz chip. It's powerful enough to dock into a pseudo-laptop and run it full screen as a laptop. There's no processing in the laptop dock, the smartphone is doing all the heavy processing alone. Such a feat would have been unthinkable a year ago, and it's only going to get better.
Furthermore, these powerful new chips will offer increasing graphics performance. Chip manufacturers are including graphics processors built into the mobile chip that makes them capable of playing 3D games and HD video. The Tegra 3, for example, will have a 12-core graphics processor built-in that makes it capable of running 1440p ultra-high-def video … on a phone.
Qualcomm recently promised that future versions of its Snapdragon processor will make Android phones capable of streaming Netflix (many of the phones have an HDMI port that can pipe the video straight to a TV).
Even something as simple as battery life hinges on the performance of these new processors. Many are designed to get more power out of less charge, extending the battery life. Different chips will have better battery performance.
A consumer's media options will be regulated by the power of their smartphone processor, as will the features of future operating systems that are optimized for multi-core chips. It's time to start looking into what kind of processor smartphones have before buying. The same holds true for tablets, many of which run on the same processors as phones.
The amount of performance you can get out of your phone, and consequently the level of functionality, will be based directly on the processor. And if you're going to sign a data contract with a network, you better have a phone or tablet that can put it to good use.
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This story was provided by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site of TechNewsDaily.