Buyer’s Guide. Which processor to choose a smartphone or tablet?

Buyer's Guide. Which processor to choose a smartphone or tablet?

The debate about which processor is better, AMD or Intel, some time ago, almost gone, looked like a sluggish couples, have been married for decades. All the arguments of each side are known, though all its own, and to prove the superiority of their choice is almost not possible. In mobile devices, we are seeing more competition and variety of processor / chipset that is exactly the same battles as the theme of Intel vs AMD in the past decade. But the quality of these discussions are rarely capable of interest, since it reduces to a trivial and very emotional evaluations: your processor X – sucks, but my very good. Subconsciously waiting for that someone to break into the conversation uncomplicated and adds “it is better because …”. But this does not happen again, but instead only emotions and information noise, which provides virtual parrots from AnTuTu, which, according to the disputants are able to prove someone’s superiority.

Subject processors in mobile devices difficult to discuss the effect is not the technical details, but rather marketing that is often planted a misperception of what is good and what is bad. Few people buying the device, based only on what processor it is installed – agree that it would be foolish. It’s like buying a car, shutting our eyes to what his design, body color, interior, and focusing solely on the power of the engine type and gluttony. Together, let us try to sort through all that we know about the processors, their performance and the basic parameters that may affect your choice. I hope that after this “Guide buyer” you will have arguments in a dispute as to which processor should choose, why, and what features are important and which are secondary.

Processor, chipset, SoC – are investigated in terms of

Often the word “processor” is considered as a synonym of the chipset used in the device. This is not entirely true, since most of today’s processors are part of the SoC (System on Chip), then there is an integrated solution, in which, in addition to the CPU, there are various radios, additional DSP, responsible for processing sound, images, orientation in space, and so hereinafter. The creation of such an integrated solution was the need to reduce energy consumption, ease of development of devices, their universality. In the past, the need to collect from the individual blocks-chip device led to its high power consumption, as well as components can often conflict that required a lot of time for completion by the manufacturer of the device. Integrated solutions can avoid these problems, the cost of development rests on the shoulders of the processor vendor and device manufacturers get ready and flexible solution.

Buyer's Guide. Which processor to choose a smartphone or tablet?

Externally chipset looks like the processor from the past that many forms and the notion that everything is arranged in exactly the same way. Look at the usual square of chipsets.

Nothing remarkable to see from the outside can not be, since all the interesting hidden inside. Let’s take a look at the block diagram of the old processor Tegra 2, to understand basic design of such decisions.

It is easy to calculate that within the Tegra 2 is set as 8 independent processors – one for video encoding, one for video decoding, audio processor, graphics co-processor, the processor is responsible for the processing of images (usually works with the camera, but not only), ARM7 processor for routine maintenance operations in the apparatus, the two ARM9 processor. When we discuss the number of cores in the processor of our mobile devices, we tend to talk about basic computing processors, in my example it ARM9-processors, each of which has 2 cores. To demonstrate how to construct modern chipsets, I specifically took the “old” Tegra 2 chipset, as it perfectly describes the internal structure of SoC.

When you select a device, there are several technical details that might affect the operating parameters of the chipset and its features. For example, for a long time only had a built-in processor Qualcomm LTE-modem, other companies put LTE-module separately. As a result, an integrated solution when working in LTE wins on energy consumption, and Qualcomm clearly in the lead in this aspect. Today, other manufacturers offer LTE-integrated modems that make them similar in terms of energy with the same patterns from Qualcomm.

Another point – a process by which the processor is configured. Currently, most of the solutions produced at a rate of 32 nm, there are the first devices to processors based on the rate of 20 nm. The lower the value, the better. Here technological norm describes the thickness of the conductive paths (if very rude and clearly describe that moment), the thinner, the better the signal passes, less power consumption, as well as less resistance, and as a result, at the same frequencies allocated less energy. Technological race we saw on processors for desktops, see here its continuation.

But to choose the processor only by the fact, for what it is made of technological norms, obviously silly. This is one of a plurality of indicators, which take into account the cost, but not the only one. Unfortunately, there is no single indicator that could be said about a particular processor / chipset that it is good or bad, it is always a set of indicators and their combination. But if so, then what you should pay attention to pay attention today that ordinary buyers, sellers tell that? Let’s look at the most typical example of which you can see in the stores selling phones worldwide.

Which is better – 2-, 4- or 8-core processor?

The question posed in the title cupola, has no clear answer for those who approach the topic carefully. For most electronics retailers response, in contrast, is obvious, and they are in its mass, and do it all over the world. The higher the number, and the number of cores, the better processor. In their logic 2-core processor is always worse than the 4-core and 8-core is better known and more powerful than the first two. Why do they do it is quite clear, they need to sell gigabytes inches mAh and other quantitative characteristics. The logic of such sales is clear and utterly worn out – the higher the number, the better. By the way, it explains why you’ll never hear from the seller that the processor is not the norm of 32 nm, and 20 nm, and so it is better. The habit of playing figures can not say so, the only exception – is the thickness (as an option, size or weight) of the device.

The first thing to know and memorize – the number of cores and processor speed are not the determining factor in the performance of the device, despite the fact that it sounds like heresy. Here is an example – to create their own versions of Apple architecture ARM, which is dominant in the mobile market. For example, a 64-bit processor Apple A8, which is installed in the iPhone 6, the latest generation of iPad, it has only two cores and the maximum clock frequency of 1.4 GHz. For comparison, we can take some Chinese phone with Qualcomm Snapdragon processor 800, which frequency to 1.7 GHz per core, and all four cores. A direct comparison of the forehead should tell us that the same iPhone 6 must lose the performance of Chinese phones, which on top of everything else, and 2 GB of RAM 1 GB against the iPhone. Winning on paper in all respects.

Buyer's Guide. Which processor to choose a smartphone or tablet?

In reality, the performance of the interface, third-party applications and games on Apple’s platform is much higher. This is easily explained by the fact that the optimization of software for the platform is a fundamentally different level than in the same Android, which disadvantages are offset excess capacity processors.

Here is another example – the performance of devices in browsers. Not the overall performance, and how fast the browser is started on a particular device. You never know which phones are in the lead in this respect. This Blackberry, their built-in browser runs much faster than on other phones (you can read about here).

A performance of the browser on the Blackberry BB10 in html5 best on the market, the results of different platforms can be found here.

And now, drumroll, most Blackberry devices from working on rather old by the standards of the market and the “slow” processors from Qualcomm. This is another explanation of what platform performance directly affects the speed of its work, drawing interface and other settings.

Directly compare the performance of different platforms can only note the time it takes to perform common tasks – such as how long the phone book is loaded with a number of contacts as quickly rendered page in the browser, run the game and so on. But these independent tests on a regular basis does not exist, they rarely carry out those or other issues. Many users are brought to the level of an industry standard test AnTuTu, which is used to evaluate the performance of the devices, and talk about this in detail in the next section. But before that I want to say that to compare the number of cores, their frequency, then, by what process they are made, can and must be within the same platform. For example, if you have an Android device with a 2-core processor, the device with a 4-core processor will provide better performance. But compare Windows Phone, iPhone and Android, and even any other system, it is not necessary, such a comparison is meaningless.

Harm and benefits AnTuTu – folk fun in virtual parrots

People have a psychological trait, they want to know exactly what is gained good device, and for this they need the “objective” assessment. As you know, the figures can not lie – the higher the number, the better. In life there are many similarities, it is difficult to disagree with the fact that the higher the salary, the more different opportunities to spend it. The more cores, the … Wait, but that we have already discussed above. Any analogy suffers one-sided, and the number of virtual parrots in AnTuTu – this is not an indication of actual performance of the system.

Why do I call performance results in AnTuTu or any other program virtual parrots? The answer lies in how to operate modern devices in their architecture. In most performance tests attempt to measure the maximum capabilities of the chipset and processor, respectively. Some parameters are objective (memory write speed, the processor for shortchanging numbers), and some out of touch with reality (3D performance as an example). But the final number that we get includes both those parameters that are real, and those that are relative and can not directly characterize the system. So it turns virtual parrots. This is especially well seen on the flagship of Samsung’s 2012 maximum performance in parrots, but noticeable braking in the shell TouchWiz, if you have a lot of data, for example, in the phone book. On the one hand, the maximum number of the test, on the other – the performance standard UI, which was far from ideal. Many people do not think about it, but at the same time these two phenomena in the real world can not exist. Or the maximum number in the test and trouble-free operation interface or test does not show the real picture.

There is another important point – the architecture of modern processors does not imply the possibility of working at maximum capacity at all times. Then it would lead to the fact that the smartphone, after a few hours, just to end up working in the absence of energy. Frequency changes in the processors dynamically, depending on the tasks and loads. One of the scandals AnTuTu, occurred in 2013, when they found that smartphones Samsung, in particular, Galaxy S4, «cheat” test. Surprisingly, the story was one of the few opportunities to explain to the public how it works modern devices, instead all rushed to discuss how the company misbehaves.

So, the scandal was due to the fact that in order to get better results, programmers determines what software is running, and then raised the frequency of the graphic coprocessor 480 to 532 MHz. And gets good results. In addition AnTuTu, among applications that use this advantage, were branded browser from Samsung, the application “Camera” and a number of system utilities. For most third-party programs increased frequency of graphic coprocessor was not available. To tell or not? Watching how to judge, because all processors on the market work exactly the same way, no one can guarantee that a particular program, you will get the best performance.

In the market there is no synthetic test, which tried to evaluate the performance of a standard interface for everyday tasks, ie, at low frequencies. The explanation is that this is a very daunting task – each manufacturer chooses the energy-saving profile, read, their frequency and how the chipset works. Therefore, on the same chipset, but with different firmware from different vendors can be obtained very different results. And most importantly, that these results are interesting vanishingly small number of people working in the industry and end-users to quickly get confused them.

Increased frequency of the processor used today in applications such as the browser (the more tabs, the higher frequency and more capacity), three-dimensional games. Almost no CPU power is activated when playing music, and the more standard calls and similar activity. With the same music and videos cope embedded processors, which are responsible for handling the relevant files.

Take into account the results of AnTuTu possible and necessary, despite their artificiality. But they should not be the only yardstick for measuring the performance of the chipset, but they can not play such a role. Starting point that allows us to estimate how much the device performance.

There is another point that confuses many. In 2013 there was a scandal about what AnTuTu optimized for processor Intel Atom, they performed better in tests. This was due to compiler optimizations – in fact, it turned out so that to get a real comparison of the devices was impossible, they were obviously in different conditions. The same can be said about the test AnTuTu on iOS, the results often try to compare with Android. It is impossible, as the final results are not through, averaged across all platforms, they allow you to compare the device only within a single platform.

Some examples of devices in the event AnTuTu

A good example would be some of the results in AnTuTu, so you get a feel for the look of devices with different hardware characteristics. All results are from our reviews, you can find them in the texts and on their ow

And here is how the performance of iPhone 6 Plus to another operating system to other hardware characteristics, but in the same program. Identical? I do not think – something better than one device, something from another.

Let’s look at Meizu MX4, which is one of the favorites in AnTuTtu. It is worth 8-core MediaTek MT6595.

I hope that these examples are sufficient, since the number of reviews we have huge and I could continue the list forever, but in a completely different task – to show that virtual parrots themselves do not play a role, they are only important in relation to the other parameters of the system .

At this point in the Android restriction on the amount of RAM is 3GB, in the future it will be removed, but at the moment it is so, and a larger volume while not particularly needed, no problems, he may need. Memory relatively simple rule: the more of it the better. And if the sellers will convince you of this, you should believe them, they are not wrong.

In fiscal devices on Android RAM may be 256 MB, such devices should not even be considered as an option to buy. Very low cost, very slow. Becomes the bottleneck is memory. With 512 MB of memory is already possible to live, especially on older versions of Android, such as 2.x. But this is not enough 4.2.h version, I would like more. And it directly affects the performance, though not in the interface. At the end of 2014 can be considered a normal amount of RAM for Android 4.2.x – 1 GB 4.4.h – 2 GB. For the most productive solutions is 3 GB, is to focus on the number as a kind of ideal.

I often argue that Apple is so great that he is able to bypass the restrictions of the physical world, and 1 GB of RAM, you can do anything you want – the same game on Android require more.

Buyer’s Guide. Which processor to choose a smartphone or tablet? updated: December 27, 2014 author: John Malkovich