Why my dual-core S4 is as good as your quad-core

My dual-core S4 is as good as your quad-core.  No really, it is.  Qualcomm recently (OK, maybe not that recently) announced the S4 Snapdragon with Krait CPU.  More recently Samsung announced the Exynos 4 Quad (confirmed to power the "next Galaxy"), and we've already seen what the Tegra 3 from NVIDIA can do.  Why, then, is the S4 as good as these quad-cores?  Put simply, you get all the performance of the quad-core (and then some), plus amazing battery life.  We've seen video proof of the performance.  With the S4 Qualcomm has introduced a new architecture, and it's cutting edge.  It's based on the same instruction set as the new ARM A15 processors, which gives it a significant advantage over it's competitors. It will do tasks faster, and more efficiently than the rest of the current generation hardware.

Based on a 28nm (nanometer -- a unit of measurement) production process, the Krait CPU is powerful, and power efficient.  The "pipe" (the electronic path that data flows through) has been widened and lengthened, which allows it to chew through more instructions at any given time.  How many more?  Up to 50% more than the old Scorpion cores we find in phones like the HTC EVO 3D and others from last year. Qualcomm claims up to a 30% improvement on the A9 based core used in the current generation Exynos, OMAPs, and Tegras of the world.  Keep in mind that these are per core numbers, which is why a dual-core can keep up with a quad-core.  When each core can perform 30 to 50 percent better, that means you don't need as many to do the same amount of work.

OK, so performance is awesome, but that's not all. Battery life is also substantially improved. All the power-saving improvements you hear about new quad-core processors are there, and more because of the smaller production die, and you're also running two cores instead of four. I'll leave it to Phil's AT&T One X review to show you just how much improvement there is, but it should be substantial.  And this is with LTE, which is built-in to the S4, giving us very tangible benefits to battery life over every previous LTE enabled phone we've seen.

So performance is just as good overall and battery life should be better.  The moral of the story?  The number of cores isn't the whole story.  How the device performs in your hand is. It's a topic we've been discussing at length in the Android hardware forums, and if you're interested in some serious tech-talk (or just want to learn what all those letters and numbers mean) you really should dive in and join us.

Qualcomm S4 Krait hardware breakdown | Read the AT&T HTC One X review

Kevin OQuinn
  • There's no apostrophe in ""OMAPs" nor "Tegras."
  • So your saying "there's no replacement for displacement"doesnt apply?
  • It's "you're", not "your".
  • @jeffrok ... relax, I'm sure he/she already knows the difference between your and you're and was just not paying attention or typing fast on his/her phone and predictive text put in your instead of you're. How about you stay on topic with the article and knock off the annoying grammar nazi BS ... thanks, you perfect human being you
  • But the design looks ugly n old, yuck
  • Show me your idea of a good looking phone.
  • Looks sleek to me.
  • Lol. Hes being sarcastic. There was an article where dude kept saying it.
  • That's correct. And proper punctuation says there shouldn't be. Thanks for trying to sound smart, now go back to finding your meaningful purpose in life.
  • I'm sold, S4 ftw
  • Im never getting another htc product after.dealing with the bug filled htc evo.3d
  • No offense but that's a dumb reason since the Evo 3d was more of a test product for 3D. That's like saying I'll never buy a Samsung because I had the Sidekick 4G. Considering this doesn't have as many bugs, it's safe to say your ok.
  • I get you.kind of lame how i had to dish out so much money for a product that i thought was top of the line though.I think ill try my luck with samsung next time if they use more quality materials instead of plastic
  • Samsung is kind of known for using shoddy materials - and lots of plastic. If hardware quality is your thing try Motorola. The software will suck, but they make great hardware.
  • Ummm, no. If I'm shelling out a couple of bills for a phone, it damn well better not be a test product. If you like getting screwed with bloatware, crap battery life and everything else has to offer go ahead. Those of us with a modicum of intelligence will go elsewhere.
  • I totally agree companies have to deliver bug free phones if they expect you to continue buying there products. If its on the market it should be fully tested.Not making the consumer "test"it for them
  • But that's Android right now, buggy bloated software on rushed thru development to production hardware because the software was half baked to. I buy my phones minimum 3 months old, preferably 6, so that there's time to find out how they perform for people and to give the developer community time to fix the software, and I'm a happier user for it. Don't buy the latest and greatest and expect it to be bug free, the manufacturers and carriers are pushing them out to fast.
  • Hopefully android will get a better rep with all these new ics devices coming out
  • I have been using an HTC Evo 3d for almost a year. I have encountered almost no bugs at all. So you will have to explain: 1) Exactly what bugs you think it has
    2) Why you would think all HTC phones are identical
  • Touch screen not being responsive until you put the phone to sleep.the screen response and lag seems to be main problems for me
  • Sounds like a defective unit, never had any of those problems on mine, bought about a month after release. Only remotely similar situation I've encountered is the screen being unresponsive on the lock screen for like half a second when I've left the phone on the charger a long time... It's never happened off charger and doesn't happen if I unplug first, and it rarely happens either way.
  • I might just root my phone to see if a custom rom will fix the problem..i havent caused it seems complicated compared to my old galaxy s
  • Also had the 3D from the day it came out and not a single issue (except after the 25th drop, the screen shattered, but they replaced it for me). I love my 3d and will actually miss the 3d feature when I move to the new evo this month, or next, whenever it's out.
  • You guys need to understand one thing, nVidia's only way to sell their chip is through marketing. They are new to this ARM stuff, compared to other companies, thus nVidia chooses to market more cores instead of performance per core or IPC(Instructions per Cycle). Thus we had 1st dual cores from nvidia and now 1st quads from nvidia. Their strategy is 1st to market, doesn't matter if their 1st to market chips are worse than later to market properly done competitor chips. All people will see on the sticker is quad core/dual core. nVidia is known for their marketing tricks and dirty tactics in Desktop PC market, and they are using their marketing skills where their engineers lack. this is why I refuse to buy nvidia powered smarty. I don't want 1st to market underpowered or hot chips, I want long battery life of all things, I want to be able to charge my phone once a week, instead of once every 12 hours.
  • Exactly. NVidia could put 12 cores on the chip and it still won't make a damn bit of difference in real-world performance on a phone. It is just an easy thing for them to do that doesn't require as much research and design. All excessive numbers of cores does is: 1) Raise the cost
    2) Raise the complexity
    3) Possibly drain more power
    4) Give clueless people meaningless bragging rights There might be a few, isolated cases where it could be useful to have so many cores (perhaps some games) on a PHONE where there is a single user, typically interacting with a single application that doesn't really even thread, and with few (if any) intense background processes. For 99% of people, the 3rd/4th/etc cores are going to sit idle 99.9% of the time and that isn't likely to change for years. It is far better to have cores that are faster and more efficient. One could make a better argument for a tablet, but even that is mostly a waste. You just don't do video transcoding, multi-hour complex data analyses, or act as a server to dozens of people on a tablet, either. Generally, it doesn't HURT to have more cores, it is just a far, far, far less benefit that marketing materials make it out to be.
  • It has a 12-core GPU.  :P
  • But it doesn't have 12 cores. Its GPU - I assume that's what you are referring to - is one core in the sense that normal people understand the word 'core'. That one core has 12 shader pipelines. The whole 12-core GPU thing is just Tegra marketing. However, those 12 shader pipelines do something - lighting, smoke and water effects far superior to any other mobile GPU, including the one in the A5.
  • i just dont buy that this phone, which is only available for americans, is better than the international. i'm sure the international guys think their phone is best too. silly.
  • Not sure why you're trying to make a cultural thing out of it, the One XL is available in other regions with S4, and there will be more phones using S4 this year. Here's the facts: 1) The US is the biggest LTE market right now. 2) S4 is the first SoC to integrate LTE radios which makes it more efficient than other designs which require an additional chip. 3) Qualcomm licenses ARM's designs AND the instruction set, this year they got a jump on everyone else in bringing the next generation ARM15 based parts to market. All other manufacturers only license the design so they can't modify it. For now they've resorted to simply raising the core count on A9 parts until they got their own A15 variant ready. 3) S4 supply is pretty limited right now since they're building it on TMSC's new 28nm process, which means they get less usable chips than NV gets while using TSMC's older 40nm process. It makes plenty of sense for HTC to source two different SoCs if they can pull it off (and clearly they have), it makes even more sense when you take all the other factors into account like LTE availability etc. Next year everyone will probably be rocking quad core A15s and the whole discussion will be moot, but for now you either go with faster cores or more cores. I don't see why anyone would find it so unbelievable that a dual core part can be as fast as a quad, we see it all the time on desktops when a new generation chip outpaces the last regardless of core count. In this case S4 & Tegra 3 are actually relatively even. Samsung's quad Exynos will probably be on the same boat, Samsung is building it on their own 32nm fabs & process but they've already worked the kinks out of that by building Apple's recent iPad 3 chips on it. It'll probably be slightly more efficient than Tegra 3 by virtue of how it's built and may very well have the fastest GPU (which is separate from the SoC cores), tho the value of that is limited outside of games.
  • One other reason you forgot to mention when you were explaining how Krait is so much faster than older CPU's is the fact that it is the first ARM based architecture for use in smart phones that has out of order execution. That enhancement alone provides a huge performance increase because the CPU isn't wasting as many clock cycles to perform calculations.
  • +1 Quality, not quantity.
  • Haven't you heard bigger is always better. Just ask your wives
  • Your mom begs to differ
  • "It's based on the same instruction set as the new ARM A15 processors" please be sure to make clear the Qualcomm "Krait" Soc's are NOT full A15 architectures. they are BASED on A9's with heavily modified architectural features from the A15 ARM reference design, but the Krait is NOT a full A15. Qualcomm lengthened Krait's integer pipeline slightly from 10 stages in Scorpion to 11 stages in Krait. ARM's Cortex A15 design by comparison features a 15-stage integer pipeline. The A15's deeper pipeline should give it a clock speed advantage as well. there are many differences between Qualcomm's S4 "Krait" architecture and ARM's A15 design. Just as Qualcomm's "Scorpion" A8-based chips weren't completely A9's either although they were heavily modified to include some A9 features. also, you may want to check this line in your article "Keep in mind that these are per core numbers, which is why a quad-core can keep up with a dual-core" <-- you probably meant to say that the other way around.
  • Did you just quote the article from Anandtech word for word and not give proper credit?  Let me finish the quote (not word for word) qualcomm has made other changes that could potentially mitigate the performance increase of the longer pipe in the A15.  Pretty sure they said it should be a close race. What you also failed to mention (but is definitely mentioned in the forums) is that the pipe is also wider than Scorpion.  By 50%.  Which is a huge increase. Never did I say that Krait was exactly like A15.  One of the reasons it's so awesome is because it's NOT A15.  No ARM reference design is solely intended for use in phones or tablets.  They are reference designs for general tasks.  What qualcomm does is take the instruction set and tailor make the hardware for the task at hand. We'll never get the complete breakdown of the architecture because Qualcomm keeps it close to the chest (they are proprietary designs) but whatever they did worked.  MAYBE the Exynos will outperform it, but that's only because they threw more cores at the problem.
  • Also, that line was written the way it was on purpose.  The dual-core S4 outperforms the quad-core parts on a per-core basis.  The ONLY reason quad-core can keep up is because they tacked on more cores. People seem to be missing the point.  Right now nothing can touch the S4 performance wise.  The numbers are getting skewed, though, because of core count.
  • Phil should do a mister Rogers type video every week where he calmly explains to everyone why their spec obsession isn't logical and how its not based on fact but marketing hype, he'd be wearing a cardigan of course.
  • The thing is that more cores means more simultaneous instructions. That is the whole reason for multi core and hyperthreading. Having more cores will always improve efficiency, even if the 2 cores can process faster.,the quad core doesn't have to. There are also factors of optimization for mutilated core that need to be taken into account. Only recently have video games on PC really started using all that extra power with the mutilated core processors. If the softwaredowsnt know how to properly split commands into 4 or 8 etc, it won't improve on performance. Know what younare talking about before you review it. The only benefit of dual core over quad is battery. As software.improves, quad corewill pull ahead more than it is now.
  • "Having more cores will always improve efficiency, even if the 2 cores can process faster." Not true.  Actually it's the opposite.  If the two cores can process the instructions faster they can get to a low power state faster, which IMPROVES efficiency.  If a chip takes longer to process data it uses more power, not less.  Having 4 less efficient cores processing the same data as a more efficient dual core is a poor use of resources.   "If the software doesn't know how to properly split commands into 4 or 8 etc, it won't improve on performance." Which is why a high performance dual-core is better than a less efficient quad-core.  We're talking about completely different architectures here.  The A9 is less efficient and slower than Krait.  To make it a fair comparison, compare a dual-core Exynos or OMAP 4 to the S4.  That's dual-core versus dual-core.  What is the result?  The S4 absolutely annihilates the other one in every single area of measurable performance.   Nobody said software doesn't matter, because it absolutely does.  And poorly written software will run better on fast hardware.  As for your reference to gaming on a desktop, it's commonly accepted that a dual-core is more than capable.  Quad-core is recommended when you'll be doing heavy multimedia tasks like video encoding/rendering or heavy photoshop use.
  • We really need more analytical posts and articles like these around here, thanks Kevin. At the end of the day, the S4 One X clearly proved to be far more efficient than the Tegra 3 version, just look at Anandtech's battery tests... http://www.anandtech.com/show/5779/htc-one-x-for-att-review/3 You really should convince Phil or whomever to do some kind of repeatable battery test for phone reviews imo, something that makes it easy to compare one phone to the next... Everyone's usage case is relative but that doesn't mean phones can't be compared accurately and empirically. I don't understand why while writing for a tech site anyone would evaluate something as measurable as battery life in such a vague way (and most every site/blog is guilty of it). Enough of this "it lasted most of a day" nonsense, the screenshots Phil's posted recently are a half hearted attempt but they still fail to paint an accurate picture. C'mom, you could be the second/third site out there that actually does any kind of battery life testing worth a damn. :p
  • This has to be the most aggrivatingly stupid article I've ever read. Sparking debate about why your s4 CPU is better than a tegra 3 (which is mainly a tablet CPU) and the exynos quad core (which has not been released) is something that I'd expect to find on Reddit, not here.
  • Considering the Tegra 3 is finding its way into phones I don't see why people are using "it's a tablet SoC" as an excuse for its performance. Pro Tip, an S4 in a tablet will outperform a T3 in a tablet, just like in a phone. Sorry your favorite SoC isn't as godly as you thought, but you shouldn't blame the article for your insecurities. Very good article, objective and fairly complete with evidence to back up your claims. I am finding Tegra fan boys to be some of the most annoying Android fan boys around. Like most fan boys, reality has no bearing on how they view the world, but Tegra fan boys seem to be on a whole different level of delusion.
  • Idiot
  • Why my Note is better than both....
  • Yea, I'm right there with ya. Still desperately trying to tell myself my current (GNex) phone is still good enough.
  • And while i fully agree with your article, and true the number of cores doesn't tell the whole story. But 99% of people buying these phones don't understand that, it would take a very long time to explain it to them. It's easier for them to understand more cores is higher, which is better. Although that is not the case here. In the end, the phone with more cores will sell more, because it's far easier to market.