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Multicore: Cool or Whack? [Ask the Readers]

One thing our reader yss won’t let me get away with is suggesting that Android phones, in contrast to WP, get the best hardware, most recently attacking me for suggesting these multicore processors which have been popping up left and right are a good thing in general for consumers (and therefore another selling point for the platform) both for performance and for battery optimization in any phone running the 2.6 kernel of Linux (SMP support) whether an individual app was designed to take full advantage of such a trait of a particular CPU or GPU or not. He insists there is no benefit whatsoever, let alone a net benefit, and will cause all sorts of problems and so on and so forth.

My position is that in addition to being more full of shit than I am, I am incidentally correct in my welcoming these better performing and more efficient chips into a collection of devices that include and will always include much better hardware than whatever Microsoft’s thing is on, and furthermore, in the event of new advents in chips that are so awesome that developers have to regroup somehow, they will do it really quickly and consumers will buy the new phones with the new technology. Things improve so fast with anything related to Android that that trait is somehow, very weirdly, used to criticize it. Murani and yss could elaborate further on that I’m sure.

So because I’ve got all this journalistic integrity I searched high and low for anything to corroborate what he’s saying, even things from last year, and found absolutely nothing that lent his side any credence, a side which includes that he welcomes 800MHz processors slated for the next batch of Windows Phones, Nokias. Seriously, I recall him saying that.

On the other hand, most of the places I looked were Android friendly and given that Android has actual competition between its OEMs, whereas with WP it sounds like its OEMs are jumping ship as another takes over with its lower-ended phones, so naturally Android would attract the seemingly best (Samsung GS2) hardware OEMs can race to cook up. I did come across someone who was in my situation, a fight with a gang of yss-types on XDA, but spoke more articulately and with greater confidence and caps-indicated emphasis than I did so let me do a little copypasta here because this sounds pretty solid to me:

Energy consumption is related to CPU TIME.

You take a program that takes 10 minutes of CPU time to execute on a single-core 3GHz processor, split it between TWO otherwise identical cores operating at the SAME FREQUENCY, add in some overhead to split it between two cores, and you have 6 minutes of CPU time on TWO cores, which is 20% *MORE* energy consumed on a dual-core processor.

It is disturbing that there are people out there who can’t understand this VERY BASIC engineering.
Voltage, by itself, has NO MEANING. You are forgetting about CURRENT. POWER = CURRENT x VOLTAGE.

Battery drain is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to POWER. Not voltage. Double the voltage and half the current, power remains the same. Dual core does NOT increase battery life. It increases PERFORMANCE by ***DOUBLING*** the physical processing units. Battery life is increased through MINIATURIZATION and SIMPLIFICATION, which becomes *EXTREMELY* important as you increase the number of physical processing units.

It is the epitome of IGNORANCE to assume that there is some relation when there is not. The use of multiple cores relates to hard physical limitations of the silicon. You can’t run the silicon at 18 GHz! Instead of racing for higher frequencies, the new competition is about how much work you can do with the SAME frequency, and the ***EASIEST*** way to do this is to bolt on more cores!

For arguments sake, take a look at a couple of processors;
Athlon II X2 240e / C3…. 45 watt TDP, 45 nm
Athlon II X4 630 / C3…. 95 watt TDP, 45 nm
Same stepping, same frequency (2.8 GHz), same voltage, same size, and the one with twice the cores eats more than twice the power. Wow, imagine that! The X4 is, of course, FASTER, but not by double.

Now lets look at another pair of processors;
Athlon 64 X2 3800+ / E6…. 89 watt TDP, 90 nm
Athlon II X2 270u / C3…. 25 watt TDP, 45 nm
Different stepping, SAME frequency (2.0 GHz), same number of cores, different voltage, different SIZE, WAY different power consumption. JUST LOOK how much more power the older chip eats!!! 3.56 times as much. Also note that other power management features exist on the C3 that didn’t exist on the E6, so the difference in MINIMUM power consumption is much greater.

Conclusion: There is no correlation between a reduction in power consumption and an increase in the number of PPUs. More PPUs = more performance. Reduction in power consumption is related to size, voltage, and other characteristics.

It’s frustrating not know which angry know-it-all to believe. Check out this honey, she’s frustrated looking, right? If you click her into higher res you’ll almost feel the frustration.


Because I know you all are the least biased and most knowledgeable bunch, would you please settle this argument, whether or not the rapid influx of multicore processing into phones is a good thing, that a multicore phone is a better thing across the board than a single core counterpart? Meaning the phone wouldn’t be better with certain software specifically intended for such hardware and then suffer with software that hadn’t yet been updated?

Tl;dr, does Android’s kickass hardware make it kick WP’s ass even harder, relative to how hard it would otherwise whup dat ass?

Doug Simmons

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