At a London press conference Intel’s VP of Intel Architecture Group, Mike Bell has been talking about multi-core processors in the mobile device market. In some of the tests Intel has been running on Android devices “having a second core is actually a detriment”. So are dual and quad cores merely installed in top of the range devices for their marketing potential?
Multiple cores in Android devices are just eating up your battery for no gain claims Mr Bell. The Intel VP of Intel Architecture Group came to this conclusion after testing the performance of various processors running the Android OS. “A lot of stuff we are dealing with, thread scheduling and thread affinity isn't there yet and on top of that, largely when the operating system goes to do a single task, a lot of other stuff stops. So as we move to multiple cores, we're actually putting a lot of investment into software to fix the scheduler and fix the threading so if we do multi-core products it actually takes advantage of it” he explained. The software hasn’t been optimised yet so extra cores are mostly idle and a waste of energy, not good in a power constrained mobile platform.
The statements are defending Intel’s Medfield Atom processor whose single core looks rather lonely compared to the multi-core ARM CPU efforts coming from NVIDIA, Samsung TI and Qualcomm. Intel does have dual core processors for mobiles in its roadmap but the projected date for their release isn’t known. However when the Intel dual core processors do make it into mobiles Intel will have a software contribution to enable they are fully utilised; “As we move to multiple cores over time, we’re actually putting a lot of investment into the software to fix the scheduler and the threading, so if we do multiple core products it actually takes advantage of it,” said Mr Bell.
Nokia and Microsoft agree with the single core on mobile philosophy as can be seen by the Nokia mobile Windows Phone line-up constructed in line with Windows Phone Mango specifications. Nokia and other Windows Phone vendors have tended to go for fast single core CPUs rather than any dual core variants. Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop made a similar assertion about single vs multiple core processing on smartphones earlier this year. With Windows Apollo phones on the horizon we shall have to see if this is still the case. Incidentally the first wave of Intel Android phones has had generally good reviews, like this review of the £199 Orange San Diego.