Popular devices like iPhone 4 and the HTC Desire HD used 1GHz single core processors. They remain incredibly powerful devices, but dual core phones make them look like slow coaches.
Like a head with two brains that work together, a dual core processor, such as the Snapdragon™ S3, can do more things at the same time, unleashing more power, speeding-up performance and running apps and tasks that were impossible on slower devices. A quad core processor is a head with four brains. They'll be twice as powerful as dual core processors and will lead to apps and features that will reinvent the market.
One of the most obvious advantages of a multi-core phone's power is in gaming. The extra grunt these processors provide means mobile phones can shift more polygons, render more complicated and intricate textures and produce higher frame rates. Advanced graphical techniques like anti-aliasing are also beginning to be utilised, which will smooth-out rough edges in 3D games. We've already started to see games that don't look all that different from today's home consoles, and by autumn, the visuals will be really pushing the boundaries.
It's not just graphics that benefit from the raw power of dual core either - in-game physics and artificial intelligence have been taken to the next level. These game elements put masses of strain on a system's processor, and that has limited how clever mobile games have been up until now.
The result? Cars that handle more realistically, enemies with better brains and objects that move and react to the world uncannily like the real thing. It'll take developers a little while to catch up with the next gen tech in multi-core devices, but once they do the results will be even more mouthwatering.
|1080p Full HD video.
Multi-core processors enable 1080p resolution video, both in terms of movie playback and capture from a phone's built-in camera. The most powerful single core phones on the market so far can only handle 720p video, but multi-core devices are able to pump out video to max-out the resolution of top TVs.
Phone makers are becoming more video-savvy too, introducing features like HDMI outputs and DLNA wireless media streaming as standard, letting you watch video from your handset on your living room TV with ease. Pack your phone full of movies and TV episodes and it'll function as the most versatile and portable home media centre you could ever own. Dual core mobiles with high-end cameras can also shoot 1080p video. Dual core phones like the HTC Sensation XE, which is powered by a dual core Snapdragon™ S3 chip, are already capable of filming in 1080p at a full 30fps – the same as a high-end dedicated digital video camera. You'll soon be able to film your own summer holiday epic at Blu-ray resolution.
The two-brained architecture of a dual core CPU is perfectly suited to multitasking, which is already available in all the top smartphone platforms. With a single core processor, tasks in different applications are processed in single file, but at a speed fast enough to give the impression that they're happening at the same time. With a dual core setup, real multitasking is possible.
In real world terms, this will mean that you'll be able to run more apps at the same time without seeing any performance slowdown – something that was common in Android phones released before the middle of 2011. You'll be able to keep a game running in the background while editing photos on-the-fly and skipping over to a Facebook app to post those photos online, all at top speed.
Once the platform makers like Apple and Google get to grips with multi-core mobile devices, we'll start to see even more dynamic use of these processors too – possibly even with the holy grail of mobile multi-tasking, having multiple separate apps on-screen at the same time.
|Bigger and better apps.
Demanding apps can also be developed to make use of dual core and quad core processors through multi-threading. This is like multitasking, but within a single application – multiple processes occurring simultaneously.
It'll allow high-end apps to utilise every last drop of power out of a dual core chip, and make more impressive power-hungry video and photo editing apps possible. This is all in the hands of the app developers, but with thousands of them out there, having made hundreds of thousands of mobile apps and games in just the last two years, it won't take long until we see a seriously impressive app to edit your 1080p movies with.
|Better battery life.
One of the least exciting-sounding benefits of a multi-core system could prove to be the most useful – battery life. This may sound counterintuitive, but with two cores whirring away at the heart of a mobile phone, when the extra power of the second core isn't needed, it can effectively be put to sleep.
Then, if that extra burst of power is needed, for an intensive app or game, that second core can step into the ring at any time. With two cores to tap into, each core doesn't need to be quite as powerful as its single core counterpart, so more effort can be put into minimising how much power they suck up.
Quad core processors are even more impressive. The processor in the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, the Nvidia Tegra 3, has four high powered cores and a smaller fifth core, known as a 'companion core'. This small, energy efficient companion core handles basic functions, like music playback and email, as well as calls and messages in smartphones, while the main cores remain ideal. When you need more power – when jumping onto YouTube or capturing HD video – the other larger cores jump in. The system always uses the minimum amount of processing power, thereby saving energy.
So there you go. Dual core phones, quad core phones and quad core tablets are the future. They'll let you do loads of exciting things and even give you more battery life. Check out our Coming Soon page to see the latest phones and tablets that'll be coming to stores in 2012.
Words and concept: Alan Thomas