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Quad-core processors coming soon to mobile phones!

|December 2 2010 |Industry News, Break through, Mobile Processors

5 years ago, the PC industry embraced the dual-core processors to address the growing demands of computing and to tackle the power consumption surge on the single core CPUs. Multi-core processors helps to complete a task faster and that too with lower power requirements. To realize how, we need to understand how processors work and how they consumer power.


One of the most basic way of improving the processor performance is the to increase the operating frequency - Think about frequency as the number of instructions that can be executed per second. When you increase the operating frequency, you get more instructions executed in the same timeframe. But there is a basic problem. To increase the frequency, you need to supply more voltage. This increased power consumption has two drastic effects. First, it dissipates more heat. Second, it strains the power budget by consuming more power (in-case of batteries, it drains faster). To dissipate the additional heat generated, you need larger cooling solutions. The whole thing is leading to inefficiency. To tackle this the processor industry came up with the multi-core architecture where you have two or more CPUs working together to perform a task. Basically, the workload is shared and spread among more processors. 
But you may ask, "If there are more than one processor, wouldn't the power consumption be higher than before?". In reality, the dual core processors consumer lower power than the single-core processor.

Let's take an example. If you have a single-core CPU operating at 1GHz and 1.1V and is 100% utilized and lets call the power consumption as P. When you deploy a dual-core processors (each operating at 550 MHz and 0.8V) to complete the same task, you have two cores that are 50% utilized. So, the overall power consumption works out to 0.6P. [Power consumption is proportionate to operating frequency and to the voltage square]. In effect, the dual-core processor completes the task at 40% lower power requirement! The figure below illustrates the concept well.
Mobile phones are following the same trajectory as that of PCs. Users are expecting more from their mobile devices. Mobile devices are used like PCs! These days you can play full-HD video, video and audio streaming (video calls), full-fledged internet browsing with complete support for javascript and flash, 3D Gaming, super-cool interfaces, video editing and multi-tasking..All these are placing a strain on the single-core CPUs and on the battery life of the mobile phones. To tackle this performance and power consumption problem, mobile phone industry NEEDS to go the route of multi-core processors!

We already have answers..NVidia Tegra2 is the world's first dual-core processor for mobile phones.This SoC is based on ARM Cortex A9 MPCore architecture. This multi-core architecture employs symmetric multiprocessing, out of order execution and superior branch prediction to delivery fast performance. All this enables a smooth browsing experience on mobile phone and super-smooth user interaction interfaces.
Tegra2 delivers five major benefits:
  • Faster Web page load times
  • Lower power consumption and higher performance per watt
  • Higher quality game play experience for advanced console
  • Highly responsive and smoother User Interfaces
  • Faster multitasking

NVidia has published a white paper on the benefits of multi-core processors for mobile phones. This is one of the easiest and insightful whitepapers. I would suggest to go through the whitepaper to understand how things work...! Worth your time..

And by the way, NVidia is already working on a quad-core processor for mobile phones :)

To quote Jen-sun Hang, CEO of Nvidia "Dual-core processors will be the standard in 2011, and quad-core is coming in the near future!" Hail Super phones :)

Download whitepaper

Related article: Processor wars - Future of smartphones

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