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Qualcomm says 95 percent of users don't need quad-core processors

Real gains to be seen in a few years
Thu Sep 20 2012, 14:19
Qualcomm Snapdragon tablet screen

CHIP DESIGNER Qualcomm said most users don't need quad-core processors now and cited business decisions as the reason it took so long to release its quad-core Snapdragon S4.

Qualcomm, which has been late joining the quad-core SoC party as rivals Nvidia and Samsung scored some big design wins with devices such as Google's Nexus 7 and Microsoft's Surface tablet, said the vast majority of people do not need more than two cores. The firm, which recently saw its quad-core Snapdragon S4 8064 chip tip up in LG's Optimus G, told The INQUIRER that users will not see a perceptible performance boost going from dual-core to quad-core processors at this time.

Sy Choudhury, director of product management at Qualcomm told us, "The reality is if we profile most folks use-cases today on smartphones or even a tablet, most of the time unless you are a power user you are utilising up to two cores. I think you have seen there is a boost - an end user perceptible difference - most of the time going from single core processor to dual-core."

However Choudhury said the same perceptible difference isn't there for users going from dual-core to quad-core today, though there will be a time when users will start to notice it. "For the pro-sumers that [time] will come over the next few years, today that's not really the case for a large portion of users, but never bet against the ingenuity of app developers to do cool new things."

Qualcomm's decision to wait so long to launch a quad-core chip compared its immediate rivals has surprised some, especially since Nvidia, a relative newcomer to the mobile chip market, has managed to score a number of high-profile design wins. Choudhury said of the timing, "Qualcomm could have launched a quad-core version of the Snapdragon S4 before the dual-core version, clearly we made a business decision to launch the dual-core version (MSM8960) before the quad-core version of the Snapdragon S4. That's really based on the workloads of 95 percent of users, even a lot of the power users, the dual-core is good enough, not even good enough but more than good enough."

Choudhury's comments are seemingly backed up by recent benchmarks of Apple's dual-core Iphone 5 against Samsung's quad-core Galaxy S3. It is interesting to know that Samsung decided to put a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 in the US variant of its Galaxy S3.

Choudhury's underlying point is that at present core count doesn't matter, and ultimately developers need to make greater use of multi-threading in their code, something that desktop and laptop application developers have been told to do for many years. Given that CPU vendors were unable to get those developers to move off single-threaded code for a number of years, it is perhaps not surprising that Choudhury predicts it will be a few years before having quad-core processors in mobile devices will pay dividends. µ

 

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