[Other] [Tech Class] Chapter 2 : All About Processor and Multi Core Processing

2016-08-25 19:53:22
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Greetings everyone!
Mi 5 has a Quad-Core Processor, Redmi Note 3 has a Hexa-Core Processor while Redmi 3S has an Octa-Core one and these 3 devices are currently priced at 23K, 10K and 7K respectively. Shouldn't it be the other way round? Before buying a new device, how do you judge it on the basis of its processor?
If we talk in general, people will look at 2 things i) Number of Cores ii) Processor's clock speed.
If we randomly ask someone about the processor in his/her phone, the most common reply we're going to get is "a Quad core processor" or "an Octa Core processor." Well, that's certainly not the best way to describe a phone's processor. So where to learn more about Processors? Well, here it is. Let's get started!

Welcome to the Chapter 2 of Tech Class!


A processor is that component of a phone which processes instructions required to execute a program. It is the processor from which the power comes from. The processor is responsible for performing basic arithmetic, logical, control and input/output (I/O) operations . Speed and performance of a device mainly depend on its processor. The most popular mobile processors are Qualcomm Snapdragon, Mediatek MTK , and Samsung Exynos.

  System on Chip (SOC)

A system on chip is an integrated circuit that integrates all components of a computer or other electronic system into a single chip. Some of the major components of a SOC are CPU, GPU, Memory, Modem, external interfaces like USB port and a signal processor. Let us take the Snapdragon 650 SOC as an example: It is an integrated circuit which has a 64-bit Hexa-Core CPU, Adreno 510 GPU, Qualcomm X8 LTE Modem, Dual Image Sensor Processor and Quickcharge support. To know more about a particular SOC, you can simply look into its official product page.
Processor Basics
a) Cores
A core is nothing but a central processing unit. It is a physical unit and processors which have more than one cores are called Multi-Core processors. More the number of cores, more the number of tasks can be performed at once and hence the faster is the processor. These days, we mostly find Quad Core and Octa-Core Processors in mobile phones, but not every application can utilize all the cores at the same time. So the number of cores cannot play the biggest role in deciding the performance of a processor, the type of core used matters more. Two Kryo Cores can outperform 4 Cortex-A72 Cores and similarly 2 Cortex-A72 cores can outperform 4 Cortex-A53 Cores.

b) Clock Rate
The clock speed of a CPU is a measure of how many cycles a CPU can perform per second. The clock rate of processors is generally measured in GigaHertz (GHz). Higher the clock rate, the faster will be the processor. But clock rate cannot be the biggest factor in deciding the performance of a CPU, the CPU architecture plays a bigger role. Let us take the example of two Intel Processors for PC, one is a Pentium Dual Core CPU clocked at 2.8 GHz and the other one is a 6th Generation Dual Core i5 Processor clocked at 2.3 GHz. Despite being clocked at a lower frequency, the i5 will totally outperform the Pentium Dual Core one. Hence the type of cores used and the manufacturing process is a better way to compare 2 CPU rather than just the clock speed. Higher clock rate may result in better performance but at the same time it may affect the battery life and the device will heat more. Mobile processors are often underclocked by manufacturers to prevent overheating.

c) Manufacturing process
You might have heard of terms like 14nm, 28nm, etc. But what exactly it is?
14nm, 28nm are the terms used for semiconductor device fabrication. Semiconductor device fabrication is a process to create integrated circuits. Lower the number the better it is. Newer generation processors like Snapdragon 820 are manufactured using 14nm semiconductor fabrication process.

d) Processor Microarchitecture
Microarchitecture is the way a given instruction set architecture is implemented in a particular processor. System On Chip based on the ARM architecture are most widely used in Smartphones. The most popular ARM based  SOCs are Qualcomm Snapdragon, MediaTek MT, Apple Ax series, Samsung Exynos and Nvidia Tegra.

Multi-Core Processing

A multi-core processor has multiple processing units (i.e. cores) that can complete more tasks at once. The concept of multi-core processing is used in parallel computing in which execution of multiple processes is carried out simultaneously. With more the numbers of cores, more the tasks can be completed at once. The simplest way to explain it is this- A single core CPU can complete one task at a time while a dual core CPU can perform 2 tasks at a time. Octa core CPUs are pretty common these days and with MediaTek Helio X20, X25 CPUs architectures, we'll pretty soon see many smartphones running on Deca-Core Processors.

Let us take the example of Snapdragon 650 to understand more on multi-core processing. Snapdragon 650 is a Hexa Core Chipset with 2 High-performance Cortex-A72 Cores and 4 Cortex-A53 Cores for performing the minor tasks. Basic tasks like browsing, instant messaging are performed with the help of 4 Cortex-A53 Cores while Cortex-A72 Cores come into play while performing intensive tasks like gaming. This is the reason why having too many cores doesn't actually affects the battery life much as not all cores get used at once.

Now let us consider a particular app, a game for instance which is running on a phone powered by an octa core CPU. Of course, it won't be able to utilize all the 8 cores at once, that is why a chipset with lesser cores but powerful ones is preferred in place of a chipset having more cores which aren't that powerful. Another important factor to keep in mind is optimization. Apps which are optimized for multi-core processing will perform much better if your device has more cores. This is known as multi-threading.

Using this concept, developers design their apps in such a way that its tasks can be executed in parallel and can run on separate threads. With time, we'll definitely see apps which are better optimized to run on multicore processors.

Things to keep in mind regarding SOC/Processor while purchasing a new device

- A Processor shouldn't be the only deciding factor
Though a better processor will usually result in a better device but this may not always come true. The end user experience matters more. Make sure that you don't compromise on other factors.

- Compare it yourself and decide
It may involve a little googling, watching videos and reading some tech articles, but it will be worth it. Here is a simple example through which you can compare different processors- First of all, gather some data about those Processors, which may include the following: Manufacturing process used, Launch date, Type of Cores used, Number of Cores and Clock rate.

Let us compare Snapdragon 430, Snapdragon 650 and Snapdragon 820, or in other words, we are comparing the processors of Redmi 3s, Redmi Note 3 and Mi5. Snapdragon 430 is an octa-core CPU with 8 ARM Cortex-A53 Cores while Snapdragon 650 is a hexa-core CPU with 2 Cortex-A72 cores and 4 Cortex-A53 Cores. Snapdragon 820 is a Quad Core Processor which has 4x Kryo Cores. A72 cores are new generation cores which are faster and more power efficient and this makes Snapdragon 650 far better than the Snapdragon 430, despite the fact that Snapdragon 430 has more cores. The difference in performance gets clearly reflected both in benchmarks and real life uses. Similarly, the Kryo Cores used in Snapdragon 820 use a much better technology and that includes the 14nm manufacturing process as compared to the 28nm manufacturing process of Snapdragon 650 and 430. Moreover, being a flagship chipset, Snapdragon 820 uses better and newer technology.

- Mediatek or Snapdragon?
This is one of the most asked questions from the users. It actually depends more on the specific chips that we're comparing. MTK is usually preferred in budget orientated devices while you can find Snapdragon processors in phones ranging from as low as Rs. 5K to phones ranging as high as 60K. Many prefer Snapdragon devices as MTK doesn't release the kernel sources of its chipsets. But this doesn't mean that MediaTek devices do not have good development (Custom ROMs and Kernels). The flagship chipsets of Snapdragon are usually better when compared with the MTK flagships. For example, Snapdragon 821 outperforms Mediatek Helio X20/X25. If you're going for a budget device, you should focus more on the number of cores and type of cores used instead of whether it has a Mediatek processor or Snapdragon one.

Here are a few points summarize everything that we learned today:

a) A processor plays the biggest role when we talk about the performance and speed of a device. A better processor means less or no lags.
But processor should not be the sole factor in deciding the overall quality of a device.

b) More the number of cores will not always result in a better processor. Not all apps and games can utilize all the cores at the same time.
The type of core used in a CPU has a greater impact in determining the overall performance. When it comes to cores, go for quality rather than quantity!

c) Benchmark scores give us an idea of the performance of a SOC under a given circumstance but it cannot predict how well the device will perform in the real world. But it is probably the easiest way to determine performance. Amongst the benchmark apps, Antutu Benchmark is the most popular one.

d) If you're finding it too hard to determine which processor is better than first watch reviews of their respective phones, Google out the details of their processors and see which one is using better and newer generation cores and better manufacturing process.

For any queries, feel free to reply below.

Previous Lessons:
Chapter 1 : Introduction to Smartphone Specifications

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2016-08-25 19:53:22
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Another knowledgeable tech class :)
Thanks for sharing !
2016-08-25 22:12:37
thanks for sharing..
2016-08-26 00:45:27
really excellent guide to learn thanks for it
2016-08-26 00:48:01
Good info for non techies like me
2016-08-26 00:55:03
Good things
2016-08-26 00:59:35
Thanks for guide
2016-08-26 01:02:10
Very useful for new comers
2016-08-26 01:05:48
Easy to understand and informative Tutorial! Keep up the good work!
2016-08-26 01:16:25
Amazingly awesome bro ..thanx for this I came to know some new things in this post ....and the banner is very good did u design it
2016-08-26 01:18:49
Thanks for sharing it is very helpful for me purchase new device
2016-08-26 01:19:09
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