back to article Qualcomm exec on eight-core mobile chips: They're 'dumb'

If you have been wondering when the chip designers at Qualcomm were going to come up with an eight-core processor, as have competitors Samsung and MediaTek, you can stop wondering. They're not. Why? Because octo-core chips are "dumb." "We don't do dumb things," Qualcomm SVP and marketing headman Anand Chandrasekher said in …

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Silver badge

I suppose it depends what the 8 cores are. If they are Asymmetrical then sure, 2 gpu, 2 low power and a quad full bore then they can be powered up or down as you like. But outside of benchmarks do domestic os or apps use so much parallel threading?

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Anonymous Coward

They're talking about 8 CPU cores, the GPU is separate. Either 8 full cores, or 4 full power and 4 low power (4 full cores I understand, but when would you need a quad core CPU for low power tasks?)

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Silver badge

According to the video on their site they are 8 equal cores and they have the ability to switch on or off as many as needed for the task at hand. That would give them 8 levels of granularity in the CPU core count plus any clock adjustments. I assume all the cores run on the same clock but I could see them clocking 2 banks of 4 cores differently to increase the potential power tweaking but 8 clocks seems a bit extreme.

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According to the video on their site they are 8 equal cores and they have the ability to switch on or off as many as needed for the task at hand.

Assuming you are talking about the MediaTek True Octa-Core, the video, nor any of the documentation, fails to make it clear if it's using equal cores or not - MediaTek don't even mention the architecture (Cortex-A7, A12, A15 etc.) of the ARM cores in any of their documentation.

However the "Optimized ARM big.LITTLE" tab at the top of the MediaTek True Octa-Core page gives the game away - the MediaTek True Octa-Core is using big.LITTLE MP, which would only be the case if all 8 cores were NOT equal. Most likely there are 4xA7 and 4xA15 cores, but with big.LITTLE MP all of the 8 cores can be in use at any one time.

It's also funny how they absolutely cane their competitor (Samsung) by pointing out their ability to support only Cluster Migration and not CPU Migration (as we now know, thanks to the broken CCI -400 in the Exynos 5410). Perhaps MediaTek will need to revise their marketing material once the 5420 comes to market, assuming the CCI-400 is fixed of course...

And with a fully functional CCI-400, the Exynos 5420 should also be able to support big.LITTLE MP, just like the MediaTek True Octa-Core, as this is mostly a kernel/driver software thing with Linux support arriving only in the last few months. No doubt Android will gain big.LITTLE MP support in due course, although it's not going to be of much use to those poor international Galaxy S4/Exynos 5410 users.

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Anonymous Coward

8 CPU core mobiles might be 'dumb', but as long as the leading mobile OS is a bloated mess based on an emulated Java runtime requiring constant background garbage collection, and a bloated and legacy monolithic kernel based underlying OS then powerful hardware is going to be a requirement....

Google are taking the old Microsoft approach - build it to be as inefficient and clunky as possible to help sell new and faster hardware. Microsoft have now left that model in the past, but Google it seems have adopted it with some enthusiasm...

Just compare a cheap Windows Phone with a 'landfill' Android - they might have similar specs, but performance is like night and day. Window Phone currently leaves Android in the dust for performance and efficiency...

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Anonymous Coward

Qualcomm has a long history of doing stupid things. Qualcomm thought their 3G was better but was beat by UMTS/HSDPA. They put a lot behind their 4G spec, it went nowhere. How about FloTV, how did that work for them? They have also been fined $8.5 for their discovery violations.

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Silver badge

> They have also been fined $8.5 for their discovery violations.

>> They have also been fined $8.5 for their discovery violations.

Blimey, that's nearly nine bucks!

;)

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Anonymous Coward

I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

And I say that as a mobile app developer, working at the sharp end with heavy realtime graphics.

Put more CPU cores on the chip, and yes, they'll get used.. up to a point. The OS will use a 2nd core effectively. 4 cores, and you're seeing diminishing returns from the OS side. A mobile OS is designed for low power, meaning it does as little as possible. It might check email while you're browsing the web. It doesn't need 8 cores for that.

Apps: well, some games might use more cores. Not many. Not much else would use it. The few that might probably won't, because most phones still have 1 or 2 cores, and the devs want a big market. What else? Video encoding? No, there's a hardware encoder on the chip. 3D rendering? On a phone? No. There's a GPU for regular 3D.

So what are the 8 cores for? That one time when you want to revisit the 90s and draw a mandelbrot?

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Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

So what are the 8 cores for? That one time when you want to revisit the 90s and draw a mandelbrot?

No, it's for when I drop my Smartphone into a mains powered dock and start running a full desktop OS. With all 8 cores going gangbusters on whatever tasks I'm performing on my full desktop OS.

Try not to think about the limited smartphones of today, which are running operating systems that massively lag the prodigious hardware they have available to them.

Some firms (eg. Ubuntu) have embraced the "hybrid" approach and it's quite compelling, while potentially disruptive for an already ailing PC hardware industry. It remains to be seen if the other mobile OS vendors with fingers in the PC/desktop OS pie, ie. Apple and Microsoft, will ever follow the lead of Ubuntu - due to conflicts of interest I find that incredibly unlikely, so it's just as well I have no interest in what they do.

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Black Helicopters

Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

You will need all 8 cores to handle all the data that your phone needs to send to the NSA/GCHQ/FSB etc.

With all this trcking and snooping that is either going on now or will happen very soon, keeping my desktop and phone as far apart (comms wise) as possible makes perfect sense to me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

"No, it's for when I drop my Smartphone into a mains powered dock and start running a full desktop OS. With all 8 cores going gangbusters on whatever tasks I'm performing on my full desktop OS."

To an extent. I fully agree that a dockable/docked smartphone running a desktop-capable OS is A Good Thing (for everyone except MS and Intel,obviously). But...

How many people actually make much use of multicore capability in today's desktop workloads? How much will that change in a dockable smartphone?

I'd guess it's a near-negligible proportion, and is likely to mostly stay that way.

For most purposes (exceptions apply) it's better to have a smaller number of faster cores than a larger number of slower cores. But the clock speed limits have been hit in semiconductor manufacturing a while ago, be it x86 or ARM or whatever. So for benchmarketing and "who's shiniest" purposes we've all been told that more cores are what the world needs. And, for a tiny number of workloads, they are.

Sensible number of cores, at a lower price point, might be an interesting concept. For customers or brave manufacturers anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

How separate are comms from phone and from desktop?

"keeping my desktop and phone as far apart (comms wise) as possible makes perfect sense to me."

You may have posted this before the latest revelations that the UK backbone international carriers are providing GCHQ (and thus GCHQ's paymasters in the USA) free unrestricted unsupervised access to their core networks.

It'll make little difference in that context whether your desktop and phone are separate or not.

"BT, Vodafone Cable, and the American firm Verizon Business – together with four other smaller providers – have given GCHQ secret unlimited access to their network of undersea cables. The cables carry much of the world's phone calls and internet traffic."

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/aug/02/telecoms-bt-vodafone-cables-gchq

The article also names Global Crossing and Level 3, amongst others who are co-operating with the program - names which won't be well known to typical Grauniad readers but might be better known among some of El Reg's audience.

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Bronze badge

Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

"No, it's for when I drop my Smartphone into a mains powered dock and start running a full desktop OS."

Ok, so you already have a keyboard at your power dock, or are you really going to use 2 fingers to run a desktop? What about the monitor, are you going to rock out a 4 to 10 inch one for a desktop, with your fingers obstructing half of it? What if you took a smartphone and removed the monitor and touch capabilities, then you could pack a whole lot more cpu punch into the same size. Well, those are called thin clients, or even Raspberry Pi's...

I agree with the sentiment of using a mobile for all computing needs for normal people, but there is just so much tech. missing to make that a reality anytime soon. For example, holographic keyboards based on iR tech or whatever. Holographic displays that shoot up just like in, if not exactly like in, R2D2 from Star Wars. So 8 core CPU for mobile, sounds great for the year 2050 (or realistically given companies current R&D, year 4125).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

"I agree with the sentiment of using a mobile for all computing needs for normal people, but there is just so much tech. missing to make that a reality anytime soon"

Does not compute.

My smartphone (or tablet or whatever) will already talk HDMI, as will any decent DVI-capable monitor (or, if at home, TV).

My smartphone (or tablet or whatever) will already talk Bluetooth for the real keyboard/mouse (or maybe USB instead).

My smartphone (or tablet or whatever) will already take power from USB.

The docking station could well be a convenience rather than an essential. The office desk (and/or the home) has the required facilities, and where the required facilities aren't available, improvisation (or the phone/tablet alone) will do.

"if you took a smartphone and removed the monitor and touch capabilities, then you could pack a whole lot more cpu punch into the same size. Well, those are called thin clients"

Surely a thin client is a display, a keyboard/mouse, and a LAN connection, with minimal local storage and minimal local compute power? Something elsewhere (something currently fashionably called VDI, apparently) does the storage and serious computing, in the server room rather than on the desktop.

"or even Raspberry Pi's."

A Raspberry Pi is a learning tool (amongst other things), it is surely not a road warrior's machine. It's not really even a convenient thin client. It's cheap and interesting though, which is usually a plus. But probably not here.

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Boffin

@Zola

"No, it's for when I drop my Smartphone into a mains powered dock and start running a full desktop OS. With all 8 cores going gangbusters on whatever tasks I'm performing on my full desktop OS"

Well, sure. This does seem to be the way things are headed and all. But one thing to consider here is heat. The more cores you have burning power, the hotter things will get. The phone/tablet casing can only sink away so much before things start to get out of tolerance, so the device itself will never quite reach proper desktop levels of grunt. Not unless you're happy to have a phone/tablet with a mounting point for a large external heat sink, which would require thermal paste and a large smooth surface to conduct the heat through.

I'd say we're due for a halfway house scenario, myself. Your device has your apps and files on it, and the base station has all the extra grunt required to go the full desktop monty, as well as all the peripherals and the like. To which end, we'll still need desktops of a sort, but at least you can hot-desk easily.

I'm looking forward to all the reports of trouser-fires from a full blown 8-core unit forced into 100% CPU utilisation via a nice piece of rogue software... hehehe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Zola

"[thermals] never quite reach proper desktop levels of grunt. "

True, but the most demanding thing done on a great many desktops and laptops is run the antivirus, or maybe decode a video. Video decode on phone/tablet will be done in GPU. Printing can be interesting if done locally rather than on a printserver, but local printing sounds unlikely in a corporate/"hotdesking" environment. Interactive stuff (email, most web, etc) will still be spending most of the time idle.

"reports of trouser-fires from a full blown 8-core unit forced into 100% CPU utilisation via a nice piece of rogue software."

Don't modern x86 laptops come close to that already when working hard, rogue or otherwise? Software control of fan speed, now that *would* be fun.

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FAIL

Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

Hey you get off of my cloud

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Silver badge

Question? How separate are comms from phone and from desktop? ..... Answer*

* In Palace Barracks, Hollywood-type Charades on Parade, do they meld together for the command and control of power and minds for master key manipulation of primitive native codes, which be the smarter virtual drivers for all dumb ignorant animals and arrogant beings?! ........ or they could and should, if not already doing so stealthily for those who server intelligence selflessly for outrageous reward.

You may have posted this before the latest revelations that the UK backbone international carriers are providing GCHQ (and thus GCHQ's paymasters in the USA) free unrestricted unsupervised access to their core networks. …. AC Posted Saturday 3rd August 2013 12:55 GMT

A possible commonly held misperception/misconception, and therefore most probably thought quite real enough in the field to be believed as true, AC, but/and it is not inconvenient for GCHQ, and therefore would they have no need to tout a correction, to have its customer clients/intelligence deficient base market thought to be paymaster rather than starving wretch in dire straits need of fulfilling main course meal. It is a major mistake which disadvantages one considerably, and even catastrophically, to forget and not remember or not simply realise …. Nothing is ever as it seems in markets and special applications [in] programs which deal intelligence product in the Great Game Genre

And further to "Deep inside ARM's new Intel killer" … http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/20/details_on_big_little_processing/ …. and the more complex ARM Cortex-A15 MPCore with 15-to-25 stage[d] pipeline …. schematic diagram here, http://regmedia.co.uk/2011/10/20/arm_a15_pipeline_large.jpg ….. and big.LITTLE partnering processor cores for virtualisation of reality which renders to Systems Admin and SMARTR Admin Systems on/in/with AI Loded Silicon, Remote Future Command and Control with Futures and Derivatives Markets Command and Control, please consider and have a wonder on the nature of things if and/or when

Fetch = Phish for Information

Decode = Phorm with Intelligence

Rename = Float to Market

Dispatch = Support in Supply

It may very well be, that then is the product undeniably a firm favourite for strategic, mission critical leaderships with Global Operating Devices, whether in nimble mobile units or gargantuan static installs/applications/operations/huge server farms? ........ for those into Mastery of the Universe and all who fly in her and follow in her wake to the future ....... which you might like to deny and argue is not a return journey for some in the present with no interest in preserving the past which is a dead space place.

And yes, that is an unambiguous direct titanic challenge to 5 in Holywood to actually do something positively engaging and autonomous, and HyperRadioProActive with IT too, rather than just remain terrified and petrified as do all awaiting new orders which will never ever come from old establishment guards in charge of protection and perpetuation of the status quo.

Wake up, smell the coffee. Times have a'changed and new spaces rule all the old places.

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Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

How much RAM is in your smartphone? How much cache do the CPU cores have access to? If you want to rock a desktop OS like gangbusters then lots of RAM and a good helping of cache will really speed things up, and those are noticeably lacking in all the smartphone and most tablet designs I've seen. Lessee, the iPhone 5 has 1GB of RAM, not sure how much CPU cache. Androids like the Galaxy S4 have 2GB RAM so its a bit better but still quite anaemic by modern desktop OS standards. About the only affordable tablet that looks like its ready for real work on a desktop is the MS Surface Pro with an i5 CPU (3MB of cache) and 4GB of RAM, but then again it's not a phone.

Frankly it would be better for you to keep your phone in your pocket and rock a real desktop machine like gangbusters instead. Besides what would you do if you got to the office and found you'd left your phone at home?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

"No, it's for when I drop my Smartphone into a mains powered dock and start running a full desktop OS"

Ubuntu are late to that party - Microsoft already have that capability in Widows Phone 8 / Windows 8 / Windows RT. The exact same kernel underpins all of them....

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Silver badge
Stop

Re: Zola Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

"....No, it's for when I drop my Smartphone into a mains powered dock and start running a full desktop OS....." No you won't. For a start, what are you going to be actually doing that requires even quad ARM cores? Most desktop use today and in the future is well within dual-core capabilities - mainly browsing and a bit of word processing or spreadsheet work, maybe the odd PDF - so much so that I am amazed when people insist to me that they need an octo-core CPU in their current desktops. They do not. If you are doing something really heavy then you will be using a heavyweight desktop, not a smartphone and dock. I am currently running a virtualized environment with four VMs (three servers and a client) quite happily off a dual-core desktop with a four-year old CPU, the biggest constraint being RAM, not the number of CPU cores. I definitely do not want to lug around a smartphone with even that level of capability as I do not need it, it's already there on my desktop (which has a BIG screen and can display lots of information, not a pocket-sized one).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Zola I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

"I definitely do not want to lug around a smartphone with even that level of capability as I do not need it, it's already there on my desktop"

Good for you. You have a properly equipped desktop which your employer is willing to dedicate for your use. Not everyone computes like that. Quite a few wandering souls would benefit greatly from having one client device which, with appropriate support, would do for both on the road and office based use, or even just avoid needing dedicated desks in an office/call centre/etc. That's part of the reason why, for the last decade or three, laptops have had docking stations. The fact that you apparently can't see this doesn't mean the "use case" doesn't exist.

Agreed about dual core being mostly enough for most people though.

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Gold badge

Re: I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

"No, it's for when I drop my Smartphone into a mains powered dock and start running a full desktop OS. With all 8 cores going gangbusters on whatever tasks I'm performing on my full desktop OS."

Still unnecessary. A while ago, I installed a Linux chroot environment, and ran openoffice and the gimp off a 1.2ghz single core ARM in a Droid 2 Global (using X11 to display the apps remotely -- I was not trying to run them on a 3" or whatever screen.) It took a few seconds for OO to load, but CPU use was near zero, the delay was due to the microSD card. The apps ran downright snappy, and kept CPU use near zero even when I started whipping through some menus and stuff to try to use some CPU time. You're not using WIndows here, you don't need 8 cores for a desktop environment.

Honestly I agree with the Qualcomm guys, an 8-core mobile chip is dumb.

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Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: AC Re: Zola I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

"....You have a properly equipped desktop which your employer is willing to dedicate for your use....." Actually that's my home desktop, nothing to do with my employer. My work "system" is a laptop with a lot less grunt, but it is capable of connecting over VPN to a VDI setup and on to a whole host of servers, so it is already mobile and much more capable than any smartphone is going to be for years, thanks. I have had the ability for over a decade to do documents and work on a Blackberry, but tried not to as it is simply a stupid thing to do on a small screen. Until smartphones can do some form of projected screen to give you the ability to actually read and work on docs they will not replace desktops or laptops or even tablets.

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Silver badge

Re: AC Zola I agree. 8 core phones are pretty dumb.

Why on earth would I want to concentrate all my computing power into something that can be dropped in the toilet?

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Anonymous Coward

Having 4 cores, 4 low power and 4 full power seems daft. Just switch off two of the high power cores and run two of them in the "low power" state?

They have dynamic clock speeds anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

No. A low-performance CPU will use much less power than a high-performance CPU running at a lower clock speed.

The high-performance CPU has a ton of extra logic that simply isn't necessary for low-performance scenarios. Out-of-order everything, instruction scoreboarding, register aliasing, bigger caches, branch predictors, blah blah blah.

The idea for big.little (however it's capitalized) is pretty good.

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Anonymous Coward

"The idea for big.little (however it's capitalized) is pretty good."

It is, but can anyone think of a case where you need quad core little?

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Silver badge

Cortex-A7 is significantly more efficient in terms of both power and silicon than Cortex-A15. Hence "big.LITTLE"; when you don't need the peak performance of the A15 you can drop back to something that uses less electrical power per unit of processing power.

That is, of course, assuming you manage to implement it properly. Samsung had to re-spin the Exynos 5410 as the 5420 due to the cache coherency issue that affects battery life, but not before using the 5410 in the Galaxy S4.

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Anonymous Coward

"It is, but can anyone think of a case where you need quad core little?"

No, not at all. I can only assume that it makes something about the design easier. Maybe when it transitions from one set of cores to the other, it can "divert" the instruction stream on a 1:1 basis in a way that's transparent to the OS...?

I don't know if this is practical but it SEEMS like a better idea to just have one set of asymmetric cores... 2 little cores, 4 big cores, and allow the OS to control which cores are powered up and which cores are running which processes...

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No. A low-performance CPU will use much less power than a high-performance CPU running at a lower clock speed.

And equally, a high-performance core may use less power than a lower performance core, simply because it can complete the task more quickly.

It's the race to idle, the more quickly you can finish a task (and switch off the core) the less power you use overall. So a task that runs for 2 minutes (potentially maxed out) on a low performance core but only 30 seconds on a higher performance core may actually use the same or even less power on that higher performance core.

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Anonymous Coward

"It's the race to idle, the more quickly you can finish a task (and switch off the core) the less power you use overall."

Yes, good point. But a lot of times cell phones are in a state where they only need to wake up a few times per second, do a small amount of calculation, and go back to sleep. That's where a low power core is preferable. It takes much less power to spin one up/down vs. whatever power is needed for the small amount of computation.

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Silver badge

I'm pretty sure race to idle is no race at all

The more power you throw at the problem, in general, the more smoothly you are doing the same task.

Instead of rendering at 30 fps, you may be hitting 60, using a lot more power.

If you're playing a game, or any intensive task, there is never a race to idle. Only constant power usage.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh shift

"The idea for big.little (however it's capitalized) is pretty good."

I'm waiting for SusE on BiG.LitLE because then no one will have a clue what to capitalise on.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Oh shift

I hereby declare that today, you win the interwebz with that comment. Although I predict the one person that could get the capitalisation correct would be "aManFromMars" in whatever version he is spelling it now...

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, definitely dumb

Why should my phone have twice as many CPU cores as my Core i7 desktop computer... ?

Much more valuable to the consumer would be to focus on increasing per-core performance. According to some benchmarks, current state of the art ARM cores are still only about half as fast as Intel "Core" cores on a per-clock basis. There's a lot of room for improvement.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, definitely dumb

I don't really know why you've been downvoted here. People should look at their task manager from time to time. I'm a pretty heavy PC user, my quad core PC is generally idle for most tasks other than gaming with the occassional spike on a single core.

When given the shocking battery life of modern phones, personally I think phones would be better sticking at 2 -4 cores, 2xlow power, 1 dedicated to the UI, 1 for smooth multi-tasking, i.e. downloads/app installs/email sync so it doesn't affect the UI and the 3rd (and 4th) core being a silly powerful battery sucking monster for gaming and such.

I'm still on the Nexus S, granted I don't game, but the UI does get a bit jittery when downloading/installing apps/send e-mails with attachments. A 2nd core would rectify this, but I definitely don't need 4+.

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Re: Yes, definitely dumb

You seem to have missed a lot of history here. Historically, ARM cores have fewer pieces, parts, and transistors than Intel, and have therefore run slower, but with much less power. ARM isn't about speed - it is about work per watt. Intel comes from a desktop background where it was always about having the faster processor, period.

To address their relatively low power (in both ways) cores, ARM has gone multi-core in a big way. Whereas Intel has gone down the power-saving route in a big way - reducing clock, idling parts of the chip, etc. And they have developed some very cool tech for that.

I personally think that the ARM approach is simpler, and will therefore yield a more cost-efficient solution. For a phone, or tablet even, there are a lot of tasks that are limited by the speed of the communications interface, checking for email in the background, even downloading a web page, etc. That will be slower on mobile than a laptop or desktop for quite some time, even with LTE. ARM's approach is optimised for that kind of slow, steady work.

Improving the per core performance would help on games, etc., but even with power saving, it still isn't as efficient as a slower, but steady engine. Think of driving your car - you CAN take an F1 engine, put it in your car, accelerate madly to 150 mph, and then coast back down to below the speed limit, repeat, repeat, repeat, and get an average speed of 80 mph. Or, you can put your bog standard production-line auto engine, and steadily maintain 80 mph - which do you think is more efficient really?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, definitely dumb

"You seem to have missed a lot of history here. Historically, ARM cores have fewer pieces, parts, and transistors than Intel, and have therefore run slower, but with much less power. ARM isn't about speed - it is about work per watt. ... To address their relatively low power (in both ways) cores, ARM has gone multi-core in a big way."

You seem to have missed a lot of *recent* history on the subject. Everybody is tripping over themselves these days to offer ARM cores with more performance per core, including ARM. Just in the last few years we've gone from pre-Cortex ARM cores to Cortex-A8, A9, and now A15, while in the meantime firms like Qualcomm and Apple are now making their own cores with higher IPC (Krait, A6, etc.).

Which is frankly necessary because many (most?) cell phone tasks are limited by single-core performance. Notice how all the benchmarks to do with rendering web pages and running JavaScript aren't affected one whit by the number of cores the CPU has? That's because it's all single-threaded and you need to make per-core performance faster. Running this software with 348257348905723945 cores will not speed it up at ALL.

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Silver badge

Re: Yes, definitely dumb

Once mufti-processing was introduced to android you have multiple dalvik processes running. With cheap simple cores, its easier to replicate them and spread your apps between cores than to juggle thing around, especially as a process might be maxing out a core. Is your email client busy processing email? No problem if your browser is rendering its current page on a different core, your ebook reader is busy rendering another xml page on a different core and you left a game running too. It is unsurprising that the ex-Intel man is pushing single thread performance. Intel did very well in the desktop market with single-thread performance. However, in that market, the CPU's were overpowered for most business use, with AV creating a very important race-to-idle situation when paired with a high-power CPU. In any case, 4 low-power/4 high power (normal use / high-power usage) is not really octocore.

Also note that phones are a bit of a test-bed for arm development. Without being able to compete with intel in terms of fabrication and single-thread performance, ARM producers might like to use multi-core (much as AMD does) to provide overall performance. For the vertically integrated corporations, the marginal cost of ARM cores is very low, compared to buying off intel who lose a CPU sale as they add more cores to one package. If ARM producers are heading into the server market, they might look at high-core-counts over single-thread performance, even as Intel does with xeon and i7.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes, definitely dumb

"your browser is rendering its current page on a different core, your ebook reader is busy rendering another xml page on a different core and you left a game running too."

I presume you're a hardware person? Those applications require something called software too.

To make that multicore setup work well, you need a decent OS with a decent scheduler. And the scheduler has to understand the potentially complex implications of things like process->processor affinity (e.g. because if a process moves from one core to another it may lose some or all of its cache).

Life is easier for the hardware designer and the software designer if there is one processor and multiple processes being scheduled on it. Easier is almost always better.

Obviously this falls down where the sole processor isn't man enough for the workload (or where the scheduler isn't behaving appropriately for the workload/environment combination).

There was a chap called Cutler once. Iirc he had an interesting approach for a scheduler which knew how to keep interactive users happy whilst also allowing compute bound stuff a reasonable crack of the whip. Whatever did happen to him...

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Happy

Al Dente

'that is the equivalent of throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks," he said..

The only way to tell if spaghetti is done is to throw some at the wall. They won't stick until they're al dente. Obviously this man has no knowledge of pasta and should keep his opinions on such matters to himself.

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Paris Hilton

I get where you're coming from, but the only way?

I know there's a fine tradition of chucking spaghetti about the gaff, but I'm a fan of fishing a piece out and eating it myself. Another way is to slice through a strand with your thumbnail and check both the resistance on the way through and the appearance of the core, but that way you don't get to eat it. After all, al dente does mean "to the tooth" rather than "to the thumbnail", or "to the splashback tiling" for that matter. Paris, because she's no stranger to splashbacks.

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FAIL

"Dumb" until Qualcomm are able to produce an 8 core chip

This is a classic case of a company not being in a position to create a particular product, so until they are in such a position one option is to slag off the competition that have already made a similar product.

Nokia did the same when they were stuck with single-core chips, vehemently claiming there was no need for multiple cores. Until, that is, Microsoft got their act together and added support for dual-core chips and since then Nokia have never produced another single-core Smartphoone. See how that worked?

Chandrasekher should be ashamed of himself for using such a low brow argument to justify his own companies inadequacy.

The icon is for Chandrasekher - must try hard when discussing product execution delays.

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Re: "Dumb" until Qualcomm are able to produce an 8 core chip

It isn't rocket surgery to create an 8 core chip. It is literally almost as easy and cut and pasting additional cores to go from dual to quad or quad to oct. 99% of the difficulty was already passed in both the hardware and the software going from single core to dual core.

Quad core CPUs for phones is ridiculous overkill and completely unnecessary. Going to 8 core is ludicrous. Use the extra silicon area where it can make a different, for the GPU.

That GPU upgrade is much more necessary, since saddling phones with the unnecessary upgrade from 720p to 1080p more than doubles the number of pixels they have to push around, so they need more than double the GPU just to maintain performance parity! The way things are going in the insane resolution race, I wonder if we'll see a '4k' phone in a few years...

I guess fools like you who make purchase decisions based on bigger numbers in the specs are why Mediatek is busy making a "true" octo core. I thought it was Apple buyers who were supposed to be the brainless idiots swayed so easily by marketing?

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Re: "Dumb" until Qualcomm are able to produce an 8 core chip

It isn't rocket surgery to create an 8 core chip.

The difficulty Qualcomm likely have is that they are using their own architecture for their multi-core SoCs, and not using standard ARM IP.

So stuff like big.LITTLE has to be re-invented by Qualcomm, stuff like the CCI has to be re-invented and updated to support more and even heterogeneous cores.

Yes, it's probably (relatively) easy to go from a dual-core to a quad-core and then an octa-core design when all the cores are 100% identical, but in the current 8-core SoCs not all the cores are identical (which would be very bad for power consumption) and it's this point which is most likely making life that bit more challenging for Qualcomm. They'll need to be considering how they solve the power problem as they ramp up the number of cores, and if they decide on using big and LITTLE cores they need to work out how they achieve it - design another new architecture for either the big or LITTLE cores? Not quick and not cheap.

This is all most certainly not rocket science, but because of the route Qualcomm has taken to market - ploughing their own furrow which has served them well up until this point - they now have a lot of work to do to catch up with the likes of Samsung and Media-Tek who are simply using off the shelf designs from ARM.

Quad core CPUs for phones is ridiculous overkill and completely unnecessary. Going to 8 core is ludicrous.

Generally, I'd agree - for todays smartphones.

But these 8-core SoCs aren't only going to be used in smartphones, they'll be absolutely fine in tablets with much bigger batteries, and I want an 8-core SoC in my "hybrid" smartphone of tomorrow which will run a full desktop OS when docked.

The big.LITTLE concept makes a lot of sense when thinking about "hybrid" products that sip small amounts of power while offering moderate processing capabilities when mobile, but are able to provide much more processing capability when docked and on mains power.

Octa-core processors may not be the most sensible option today with relatively dumb smartphone operating systems but in the future, with more capable operating systems and form factors, their benefits should be more obvious.

Qualcomm claiming 8-core SoCs are "dumb" is just deflecting attention away from their current ability to compete.

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Re: "Dumb" until Qualcomm are able to produce an 8 core chip

"I want an 8-core SoC in my "hybrid" smartphone of tomorrow which will run a full desktop OS when docked."

Uh, why?

My Core i7 desktop computer "only" has 4 cores and my laptop "only" has 2 cores, and both work great.

I have no idea why people seem to think more cores = more performance. Of course it does for certain very specific applications like Handbrake or raytracing or compiling huge projects but most software does not benefit from multiple cores at all.

Dual core CPUs are nice because a lot of software CAN max out a single core and then it's nice to have an "extra" core to make e.g. processing user input snappier. Four cores is a case of quickly diminishing returns... for the vast majority of the time, I bet users wouldn't be able to tell if they were using a computer with 2 or 4 cores. 8 cores is just ridiculous unless you're doing some extremely niche stuff and routinely find yourself wishing for more than 4 cores.

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Re: "Dumb" until Qualcomm are able to produce an 8 core chip

"I have no idea why people seem to think more cores = more performance. Of course it does for certain very specific applications like Handbrake or raytracing or compiling huge projects but most software does not benefit from multiple cores at all."

You either have an application that can use lots of cores or, surprisingly, lots of applications that use one (or a couple) of cores.

"I bet users wouldn't be able to tell if they were using a computer with 2 or 4 cores. 8 cores is just ridiculous unless you're doing some extremely niche stuff and routinely find yourself wishing for more than 4 cores."

One of the applications might be a 'kernel', the others can engage in something called 'multi-tasking'. That scenario is not awfully niche. It's somewhat less relevant in the phone, at least for heavy-weight processes, beyond a couple of cores but can still be very useful as far as responsiveness is concerned - especially if you get the match between process requirements and processor capabilities reasonably suited.. hence things like big.LITTLE (although i'm not entirely convinced by 4 x LITTLE either yet)

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Re: "Dumb" until Qualcomm are able to produce an 8 core chip

Your description is accurate for servers, but most desktop applications only need significant CPU when you're interacting with them, and most people can only interact with one at a time. I'd rather have two fast cores than 4 slower ones, thanks.

The problem with a phone is that, if you somehow managed to load up 8 cores simultaneously, you'd just flatten your battery that much sooner. And not many people are (or would ever want to be) running compilers or ray-tracing programs on their phone.

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Re: "Dumb" until Qualcomm are able to produce an 8 core chip

My Samsung S3 has 4 cores. But lags all the time when switching from Firefox to Home screen.

it's either RAM or lack of cpu...

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