Editorial: Why A Snapdragon S4 Galaxy S III Is Awesome

Yesterday, we found out the full specifications of the Galaxy S III for AT&T and T-Mobile USA. And many of you were disappointed that T-Mobile’s version will have the dual-core Snapdragon S4 instead of the quad-core Exynos 4 SoC (system on a chip), even though the T-Mobile version will have 2GB of RAM instead of the 1GB amount in the international model. However, I see it as a good thing for us.

Obviously, having 2GB of RAM instead of 1GB of RAM means that Android can manage more in memory at once more quickly. What isn’t often mentioned is that this benefit offers a performance increase that is greater than having more CPU cores, since the Dalvik VM can aggressively manage memory better than it can handle threading and delegating threads to multiple CPU cores. Plus, more CPU cores takes more power, which eats away at battery quite a bit. More RAM with a dual-core processor instead of less RAM and a quad-core processor will offer far greater benefits on a smartphone. As for the CPU type, let me explain why I am of the opinion that the Snapdragon S4 is better than the Exynos 4.

As many know, there are many different ARM chips used by device makers. Texas Instruments makes the OMAP series, Samsung makes the Exynos series, Qualcomm makes the Snapdragon series, ST-Ericsson makes the Nova and NovaThor series, and Apple makes the A series.

By and large, most of the CPU component of these chips are the same, with the exception of Qualcomm. OMAP 4, Exynos 4, Nova/NovaThor, and the A5/A5x are all ARM Cortex-A9 CPUs. That means that they are all virtually identical in performance. At one level or another, most people generally recognize this, which is why we focus so much on the GPU rather than the CPU in an SoC.

Let’s focus purely on the CPU for the moment. Most ARM chipmakers have to use designs provided by ARM for the CPU cores. What the chipmakers get to decide is how the system chip is actually laid out and what interactions to optimize (I/O, caching, etc.). This means that there isn’t a lot for most chipmakers to optimize beyond the interactions with the CPU and external components. NVIDIA takes this to the extreme with the Tegra architecture by making interactions between the CPU and the GPU extremely efficient for gaming.

Qualcomm is special because it has a license from ARM to develop its own CPU core technology based on ARM designs and instruction sets. Basically, it can cherry-pick the best features and optimize at every level. The result is that the Qualcomm Snapdragon of a particular generation will crush all competitors of that generation.

Snapdragon S2 and S3 use the Scorpion core, which takes some of the best features of both Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 ARM core designs and brings them into a single ARM core. That’s why the Scorpion core is very competitive to Exynos 3 (aka Hummingbird), OMAP 3, and other Cortex-A8 based SoCs. It also fared surprisingly well against many dual-core Cortex-A9 based SoCs like the Exynos 4 and the OMAP 4.

Snapdragon S4 uses the Krait core, which takes the best features of the Cortex-A9 and the Cortex-A15 ARM core designs with a much better manufacturing process to produce smaller chips that are far more power efficient and deliver amazing amounts of performance compared to its competitors (which are Cortex-A9 based). This is why dual-core Snapdragon S4 devices can go toe to toe with the quad-core Tegra 3 and Exynos 4 on the CPU front. At the same time, because of the massively improved power efficiency, CPUs using Krait cores will consume so much less power than Cortex-A9 CPUs that the amount of battery life improvement can be measured in several hours for active use and days for standby usage.

On the GPU side, the performance gap is a lot closer. The Adreno 225 is essentially the same GPU that was included in the Snapdragon S3 except with a few spec bumps and a doubling of the clock speed for the GPU cores. Though, a lot of bottlenecks were also eliminated in the new SoC arrangement in the Snapdragon S4. The result of this is that the performance of the Adreno 225 on a screen of 1024×600 resolution beats out all competitors except for the iPhone 4S performance wise (all competitors measured are pushing at lower resolutions, meaning the GPUs would perform much worse against the Adreno at the same resolution the Adreno is benched at). And even then, adjusting the Adreno 225 to push out at the same resolution as the iPhone 4S would make it surpass the GPU used in the iPhone 4S (the PowerVR SGX543MP2). With that in mind, I believe that the Adreno 225 is more than satisfactory for the Galaxy S III. Would I like a more powerful GPU? You bet. The Adreno 320 coming this fall to Snapdragon S4 is a total redesign for Adreno and is considerably more powerful, but I think nearly everyone will be fine with the performance the Galaxy S III will have with the Adreno 225.

If you don’t believe me, you can check out the benchmarks yourself.

Of course, the Snapdragon S4 also includes an integrated modem onto the chip, which means that Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM radio, 2G GSM, HSPA+, and LTE are all controlled by a single chip. Having two chips as opposed to five or six chips (as required for several other solutions) means that even less power is required to actually use all these radios. Given how power-hungry radios can get, any form of reduction in power usage will be great. As of right now, only Qualcomm’s modem is certified for DC-HSPA (HSPA+42) on the T-Mobile network. Perhaps next year, ST-Ericsson’s Thor M7300 and M7400 modems will be validated for use on T-Mobile’s HSPA+42 and upcoming LTE networks. When that happens, we’ll see more diversity for SoCs on high end devices.

But if you are thinking that other carriers will get SoCs other than Qualcomm’s in the future, you’d probably be wrong. Most LTE modems do not support U.S. Digital Dividend frequencies, which means the LTE networks of AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and most regional carriers will be stuck with Qualcomm’s modems. T-Mobile can use non-Qualcomm LTE modems because the AWS band T-Mobile is using is a standardized band that is well-supported. Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and most regional carriers operate CDMA2000 networks, which means they have no choice but to use Qualcomm’s modems, since no one else makes CDMA2000 modems because Qualcomm owns all the IP rights to the cdmaOne/CDMA2000 technologies. Maybe once CDMA2000/LTE carriers start offering devices that don’t support CDMA2000, then we’ll see non-Qualcomm Snapdragon LTE devices on those networks, provided that U.S. Digital Dividend, ESMR+Cellular 850, and Extended U.S. PCS bands are all supported by non-Qualcomm modems by then.

While it is technically possible to implement a multi-chip solution separating the system chip from the modem chip, it usually isn’t worth it unless you have a specialized platform (or it is a tablet and you have the space to spare). Apple and Motorola take this route, but the cost is heavy. They lose quite a bit of internal space to having more chips to represent the SoC. It also worsens battery life as more chips must be powered by the battery. They only do it because of CDMA2000 support. Motorola does it with OMAP4, a 3G Qualcomm modem, and an in-house LTE radio chip. Apple does it with its in-house A-series chip and a Qualcomm modem.

For the foreseeable future, I think Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoCs will dominate the non-Apple LTE device ecosystem. It will change over time as legacy technologies are phased out (in particular, CDMA2000) so that other modem chip makers can have their modems on the network, but for now, we’re going to have to deal with it. At least it is quite the enjoyable ride!

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  • Krunkjuiceboss

    Mod Edit: I, David, replaced this comment because the person commented without reading. A crime punishable by tarring and feathering.

    • Then you don’t get a comment :-)

      • Krunkjuiceboss

        Just read, lol.

      • Y314K

         David:  Any chance TMobile releases the White version at the same time as the Blue ???  Before June 27th…

  • Y314K

    So will the TMobile version work perfectly in Europe on trips ???

    • Yes it will or get the at&t lte version which will probably be exactly the same and have the frequencies for europe. More than likely samsung will keep most of the lte versions the same and wont remove frequencies from the t-mobile version.

      • Y314K

        Really hope it does come with LTE dormant on the TMobile version…  After an update next year it should be usable…

        Didn’t they find some LTE radio/parts on the TMobile SG II last year…

        • The only thing to be safe I would say is get the at&t lte version. Samsung switch out the lte modem from t-mobile galaxy s2. This is why the at&t skyrocket has hspa+ and lte modem. Problem is though we have no idea what frequency t-mobile lte will run on things could change in the future.

        • T-Mobile LTE: AWS-1 (LTE band class 4)
          AT&T LTE: Lower 700 B+C block (LTE band class 17), AWS-1 (LTE band class 4)

          T-Mobile HSPA+: PCS (UMTS band II), AWS-1 (UMTS band IV)
          AT&T HSPA: Cellular 850 (UMTS band V), PCS (UMTS band II)

        • Y314K

          Humn…..  So on at least one band on LTE & HSPA they will be identical….  What is the top HSPA speed ATT has stop at ???  21Mbs ???

          I have a family member that has a upgrade available on TMobile going to Europe by the end of June & I am keeping an eye out at the TMobile version of the SGIII to see if it gets release by the end of June & if it will work fine on both sides of the pond…  Voice & Data by just having Sim cards changed….

          What bands should I be on the look out for to make sure it will fully work in Europe too???

        • All T-Mobile US phones are designed to work internationally, as Deutsche Telekom is a German company.
          AT&T’s network often tops out at 7.2Mbps or 14.4Mbps, but some pockets can top out at 21Mbps.
          Europe pretty much only uses UMTS band I for HSPA networks. Some use UMTS band VIII, but that is a secondary overlay and it really isn’t used that much either.

        • The modem supported it, but the requisite antenna structure was not present, making LTE totally dead on the Galaxy S II. Perhaps the Galaxy S III will have the proper antenna structure to support it. We’ll have to wait and see.

        • Y314K

          Will it be something easy to check…  Ala dissembling of a TMobile SGIII…  or will it be a lot more complicated & will have to wait till next year…

          I really think this will be best phone TMobile will have for post-paid customers for most of this year…  Eventually they will have the One X & Galaxy Note… But not till Nov. or Dec. will they have anything close to the SG III…  Unless Google surprises us in their Play Store…

        • A teardown of the device should be enough to identify the components and see if it is possible.

        • ChickenDroid

          Conan, you have just written the best read yet this year! It is so refreshing to read someone who really knows what’s going on. I just looked for you on G+, but I see you only have a place card there so far. Thank you VERY much for writing this. It has been shared widely. 

  • Thank you someone understands that more cores doesn’t mean more performance.

  • Spoken Word™

    The Exynos 4 SoC is still better!

    • Obviously you didn’t read. The gpu is only better which makes no difference as nothing on android needs that much gpu power. 

    • mikron24

      The Exynos 4 SoC is still better!” 

      i totally agree  the world is moving in a certain direction and why is the usa always get the dumb down options   

      • Why is it still better? Why is the Snapdragon S4 “dumb down”?

        • randomnerd_number38

           Because “Exynos” sounds more edgy and omg it has 4 cores :/

        • mikron24

          greeting Conan Kundo  and you asked me mikron24 about dumb down and the usa 

          well i myself am on t mobile gsii and the metaphor here is the usa is not what Europe an china etc are , the progression from gsii to gsiii is a marketing scheme ,Samsung tried to be number own but but but they backed down here in usa 

          no one takes the gsii serious at all on t mobile usa

          i myself will not buy the gsiii   because i dont want all the changes etc ….

          but it will never happen in usa

          so my next cell will be tegra 3 

          when ever those phones come out on t mobile 

  • Atrain2046

    Nicely done Conan.

  • Chase

    Well spoken. Damn I cant wait for the S3!@$^^!. Thanks! 

  • Roswell_V

    The result is that the Qualcomm Snapdragon of a particular generation will crush all competitors of that generation.”

    Samsung’s Exynos Dual murdered the S3 processors in performance at lower clock speeds..

    • This is not s3 it is s4 krait which is an hybrid a15/a9 . A15 arm cortex have more than 40 % per core a9.

      • Yes the article is about the S4 but Roswell was pointing out that the dual core exynos  outperformed the S3 at a lower clock speed even though the snapdragon is supposedly better than any processor of the same generation.  The problem with the S3 lied more in the GPU than the CPU in my opinion though.

        • I agree. the CPU itself was very good, but the GPU (and arrangements for interactions) had bad performance. Bottlenecks and weak clock and low optimization meant that the Adreno 205-220 didn’t get the love it needed to shine. Notable exception is the Samsung Galaxy S II for T-Mobile, which got a custom SoC arrangement with the APQ and the MDM.

    • Clock speeds are unusual. Depending on how the SoC is architected, data processing may have bottlenecks at certain clock speeds, causing performance issues.

  • pinto

    Wait, did I read that right? 2GB ram!!?!?!?!?? If that’s the case hello phone launch!

  • 2gigs ram> quad core a9. The ram will be put to use in android more than any app accept games. There is no reason to make a simple app run all 4 processors at once. You will only waste battery life.

  • Very informative and nice read.  My question is though(excluding the Snapdragon S4 which is basically a hybrid) why does the exynos(dual or quad) seem to create so much more of a fluid user experience vs the others that are cortex A9 based?  Is it because samsung knows how to optimize the software with the hardware better than other OEMs?  Or it the GPU playing a role here? 

    • Samsung is heavily optimizing the software side for Exynos, which means when it is just transplanted into a device with Snapdragon, it gets sort of choppy. If it is re-optimized for Snapdragon, then it will be just as fluid.

      • Y314K

        Guess David or some of the other sites need to asks Samsung if they will be bringing the same optimizing to the NA version of their devices…  Or if Samsung is just throwing 2GB of Ram at it & walking away…

        • Brendanbrad720

          That’s my only concern. To be honest if it’s not as smooth as the quad. I’ll buy the international one. I know the s4 is a great processor but if it’s not optimized for this phone then I don’t want it!

        • J-Hop2o6

          I’m worried about that also. But I have a feeling it’ll be heavily optimized like their Exynos version since the S4 version is selling in their Homeland (S.Korea), so it wouldn’t make since not to optimizing it. Maybe not AS optimized as their own SoC, but shouldn’t be as bad as the S3 version of the SGS2, which was choppy.

        • MarcusDW

          lol I like the end there.

          I’m inclined to believe that the NA phone will be appropriately optimized since it seems like all of North America is getting the device with the same processor.

      • J-Hop2o6

        Exactly. I noticed the Tmo version of the SGS2 was choppy when it first came out, but I knew it was mainly because Samsung didn’t heavily optimize the drivers for Snapdragon S3. Hopefully Samsung heavily optimizes the S4 version of the SGS3 since it’s selling in their homeland (S.Korea).

        But other than that, great post Conan. Ppl (mainly the Tmo crybabies) really needed this read so they’ll know the reasons. But thank god S4 is very improved from S3 which gained ALOT of hate in 2011.

    • Most people don’t know this but samsung optimized the hell out of exynos and its software. The samsung galaxy s2 when officially came out had countless builds from 2.3.1 gingerbread all the way to ics. Samsung didn’t do this with the Qualcomm processor. most of got one build a few updates and that was it. Samsung had more time to work with the exynos (1 year)then qualcomm processor. Snapdragon works fine S3 when optimized the gpu was alot on the weaker side though.. All benchmarks are synthetic on android anyway. When ics came out it messed up a lot of samsung gingerbread optimization. They had to remove most of their changes.  I can confirm that ics unofficial runs just as good as any other phone with ics. As long as your phone as a proper linux 3.0 kernel

      • That knocks out NVIDIA Tegra 2 and Tegra 3, then. Most Tegra devices use Linux 2.6.x kernels because NVIDIA is too lazy to offer up updated kernel modules to make it work. This even includes ICS Tegra devices.

        • They say the tegra processors lack behind this is most likely the problem. Then again NVIDIA has been doing everything wrong in the phone market. So its not even surprising.

  • You just convinced me not to be upset about this. Well done.

    The 2GBs of RAM is what does it for me. Does any other phone even have more than 1GB? 

    • Only LG’s new Optimus LTE II and the other Galaxy S III variants for North America.

      • hot_spare

        And in Japan SGS3 :)

  • Get_at_Me

    i feel enlightened….thanks for posting conan and david!!!

  • Lowkey123

    I have a headache…but thank you

  • AndroidKura

    My eyes hurts for reading all this. But thank for finding the time and patiently to right all this I feel better now that u explain details to details

  • Jake

    Your article suggests more cores = more battery drain.  My understanding is that, in theory, the opposite is true.  Multiple cores allow simple processes to occur on a single core while the other cores turn off.  Fewer cores means fewer opportunities to fraction out processing and a greater likelihood of more processing energy being drained than necessary. 

    I guess the real question is if software is designed with the ability to utilize fewer cores than available.  With well optimized software, more cores generally means more battery life.

    • This is not the pc market though its arm. Tegra 3 ,Exynos run all or nothing. Tegra 3 idea is that they want you to think that the low power core is running for battery life. This is not true Tegra3 quad core run all on nothing this is wonderful for desktops but bad for mobile computing where battery life is limited. It really makes no sense that all four processors run for a simple single app which most likely won’t even need all that power. If that is the case amd has bulldozer which is 8 core cpu and still does worst than a quad core i7. 

      • now_onTMO

        On a single app, the cpu euns at low frequency, like on demand, so it shouldn’t hurt battery life so bad.. The gs3 has really good battery life, that’s a quad core.. Most apps only need one core to run, even facebook or twitter.. Only high end games can take advantage of multiple cores and powerful gpu… With that being said, the multiple cores and powerful gpu also play a big part in the overall function/user experience of the phone..

        Yeah s4 is good, it’s really highly modified that it needs a lot of ram memory for the gpu.. It’s still a9 with a15 features…

        Im no expert just making an opinion..

  • now_onTMO

    exynos 5 will be LTE compatible, so i kinda don’t agree when you said that qualcomm will keep dominating the lte phone ecosystem… im sure when the next generation of galaxy s would be lte enabled with samsung’s own exynos chip.. in other words, sammy wouldn’t rely on qualcomm anymore for lte compatibility..

    s4 seems promising.. can we get a feedback from those who have the one s and share their experience about the phone ? 

    also the s4 krait is using the old gpu (adreno 225) and with ICS being gpu accelerated, the fluidity of the UI relies on the power of gpu, i think it should run fine though..

    nice info btw..

    • We don’t know for certain about Exynos 5 and LTE compatibility. At the very least, most U.S. carriers won’t be able to use non-Qualcomm modems anyway, because of weird bands. T-Mobile is just luckily outside of that sphere of insanity. And don’t forget that CDMA/LTE is only possible with Qualcomm modems.

      • now_onTMO

        We’ll see with the new iphone.. Just read some minutes ago thats the new iphone may be using samsung’s processor again.. And lte?

    • mreveryphone

      One S owner here, I can say that the One S is the fastest and smoothest phone I’ve owned and I’ve had just about every android phone thats come out for tmo. The new s4 is very powerful and now it has 2gb of ram to play with?? Wow this thing will fly can’t wait for the benchmarks on this beast!!

      • now_onTMO

        Ok thanks.. Can’t wait..

  • is there really any processor that would make any Android phone lag free?  just curious because as many know the Snapdragon is freakin’ awesome .. powerful etc .. however it doesn’t or rather hasn’t prevented the Android phones that use it from lagging and suspect performance here and there.

    • Windows phone 7 lags. They hide the loading when entering apps. Its very well done. Ios puts gui over everything. So if your loading a web page out your finger on it the page will stop loading. Android is closer to a pc meaning it will continue do the process and others in the background. Even pcs and macs lag with ridiculously high specs. Android is the closest operating system to a desktop experience for now.

      • Philosoraptor

        I don’t think app load times is what people mean when they say lag.

        By lag they mean that after opening a few apps, the entire phone starts to slow down. Animations are slower and the phone is less responsive. Then you have to start killing apps. That is lag.

        I feel like android isn’t fixing that lag problem, they are just throwing more resources (ie specs) to cover it up. It eventually creeps back in when you open app after app after app.

        • Matlock

          You would start closing down programs on your computer once it starts to lag, wouldnt you? its the same thing! Ive every single Mobile OS lag, at some point or another during use; everything from Android, to IOS, to Win Phone, to Blackberry, and even WebOS lags at some point. Like @twitter-78700522:disqus mentioned, Android is closer to a PC in its operation, so that is why you see and feel the lag, a bit more than on the others. 

          If you keep on opening apps, of course the phone will slow down, and that is why you have to close them. Also, most people never turn their phones off, and dont realize that a quick power cycle can help with slow downs, and a lot of other issues in between.

        • Deaconclgi

          If I opened too many applications on my PC that caused out to lag, then it is all my fault.

          Thing is, with Android, applications open all by themselves, taking up ram and CPU cycles and slowing the entire system down.

          You can kill all applications with a task killer and hit refresh and 5 more applications that you have never used opened themselves.

          No matter how many CPU cores, GBs of Ram and GPU power this resource sapping app management well continue to cause lag on android devices.

          Obviously Google is aware of this and since it has not been addressed from 1.0-4.0, it must be part of the core android design.

          I use all OSes and android has the worst memory management with the most visible negative effects.

          There isn’t any reason that a Dual Core, 1GB of Ram PHONE should lag in regular use unless there is some unaddressed programming issues.

          My One S lags, GSII lags and my other android devices lag.

          I am all for better specifications but when will someone address the elephant in the room instead of just distracting us from the elephant with a nicer room?

        • The problem what your saying is that windows and osx will lag without opening anything even with the highest specs. Also memory management is controlled a linux kernel level. Most of the manufactures do not use the latest linux kernel patches and do not update. To get casual performance. Obviously the reason your lagging is your fault your running an task killer on top of an os that has a built in task killer. Custom kernel fix this usually if you choose to go that way. Android needs those processes the task killer is killing off. So it will reload which takes time. Causing what you see as lag. Another reason for lag is you have an app is running wild taking up all the memory for your other apps causing lag. A badly coded software will also cause it lag. I personally use custom software majority of the time it is better than any stock software that even comes with the device.

          I seen windows, Linux(varies) , OSX lag sometimes just opening a program your asking a lot from an os that is faster than other mobile oses.

        • Mitchel Errol Suarez

          Actually, i owned SGS III and is the smoothest android you will ever experience, it is as smooth as iPhone 4s considering that Android is more memory hag than iOS because of apps (multitasking) running on background which is the downside of Android OS.. My iPhone 4s doesn’t have true multitasking capabilities like Android but it rarely lags (it just lags when i’m browsing and zooming high quality images)..  

        • exactly that Philosoraptor


      I think the additional 1G of ram will help with LAG.

      • MarcusDW

        The extra RAM won’t eliminate the lag because I can clear everything running on my phone, have 250/784MB of RAM used and still studder while scrolling.

    • MarcusDW

      I don’t think that even the next generation Exynos quad will stop Android from studdering while scrolling because of the way Android is built.  I personally don’t think my GS2 is laggy but it certainly isn’t as smooth as an i or Windows Phone while scrolling.

  • priapism

    You apparently missed last weeks announcement that NVIDIA’s Icera 410 Modem Chipset was Validated for use on AT&T’s LTE Network.  

    You are also not correct with regards to Qualcomm modems; specifically like in the iPhone.    Anybody can buy and use Qualcomm MDM9xxx series radios.    And they may stuff it in any phone they want.   This is the way HSPA+21 support was handled on the Tmobile Samsung T989 Galaxy SII.  Rather then use the QSD8260 which didn’t support HSPA+21.    Samsung  chose to use Snapdragon APQ8060 processor (no radio) with a MDM9200 radio providing the HSPA+21 Support.

    As for the Qualcomm radios being the the only certified radios for HSPA-DC for Tmo.    You might want to check into both the Intel XMM 6360 and Renesas MP5232 both were announced at MWC back at the end of February.   The Renesas MP5232 is also Cat4 LTE (150Mbit) in addition to HSPA-DC (42Mbit). 

    The other thing of mention is that Qualcomm Snapdragons do not have built in Wi-Fi, FM, Bluetooth Radios as you implied in the article.  Yes it is controlled by the Snapdragon Proc….but so have all  radios which were installed in phones with Snapdragon Processors.      Qualcomm intends for customers to use the Qualcomm/Atheros WCN 3660 module.     We have already seen it used in the HTC One X.    But the WCN3660 it is not on the same 28nm process as the latest Krait based processors are.

    • Hmm. I did forget that. 

      You are right. I forgot about that too. I’ve adjusted my post to include the rationale for that and the problems with it. Most smartphone makers won’t go that route unless they have to, though. Also, I’m not sure if Exynos permits being connected to Qualcomm modems…

      QSD8260? Do you mean the MSM8260? Because I don’t recall a QSD8260 existing. And Samsung Galaxy S II supports HSPA+42, not HSPA+21. 
      I haven’t heard of T-Mobile validating those two modems on its network. However, the second one may go through validation process next year. The second one is also a full SoC, not just a modem.

      You are right about the Wi-Fi/FM/Bluetooth stuff, though. I’ve corrected it as such.

      • priapism

        Conan, Let me apologize, as I should begin by saying what I should have said in my prior comment before.    Awesome Article!

        I don’t comment very often.   Please consider my comments for something I am apparently as passionate about as you are:   GS3 + S4 = Win.

        I do concur with the S4 being a fantastic choice in the Galaxy SIII.    I’ve been waiting for a removable 2000+ mah battery attached to the S4; and now that it is coming with the GS3, and that is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.

        When you look at the benchmark scores on the announced domestic S4 phones (Evo 4G LTE, One X (AT&T))  they are very competitive with the Quadcore MP9 (Tegra3).   Which is is amazing because they are down 2 whole cores.   

        As for Renesas I was mistaken with the MP5232….I should have said the SP2531 which is in the same press release back from MWC.

        I’m currently Rocking my G2…which is long in the tooth.   I am do for an upgrade and I was really put off by the lack of removable battery and smallish 16 gigs of internal storage on the One  S.    So I’ve been waiting to see what LG and Samsung do.    Reading that the GS3 has the S4 is very compelling….I can’t wait to see what LG and Motorola announce this summer.

        I’m an old timer I remember when the LG eXpo launched as the first domestic Snapdragon phone with a brand new QSD8250.   

        • IR Heckles

          your name refers to an erection lasting more than 4 hours. you may want to call a doctor hehe

  • MarcusDW

    Nice work Kudo. That is all good and everything but the fact that the US GS3 will get slower updates because it’s different is a big disappointment.


      You always seem to find something to complain about. :-)

      • MarcusDW

        I’m sorry Tech, I’m not tryina be pessimistic but there’s always at least one reason to be with this stuff.  And actually wrong in my complaint because the ATT GS2(the 4.3″ model) is basically the same as the I9100 with Exynos and all but it STILL has not been updated.

        I’d like to think that if TMO got the I9300(21Mbps or not) that we would get timely updates but I doubt that would be the case.

    • Get_at_Me

      im with u on this one.  altho my opinion on the s4 has changed based on this article, it would still be nice to have the same device as the rest of the world….it takes forever for carriers to push updates as it is….TMO’s gs2 still doesnt have a ICS update, but the Amaze does.

      • MarcusDW

        You musta posted this at the same time I edited my post lol.  See what I replied to TMOTECH below.

      • superg05

         JUNE 11TH?

  • I think you’ve solved the Case!!!!!!

  • Enlighten me. You say “Maybe once CDMA2000/LTE carriers start offering devices that don’t support CDMA2000, then we’ll see non-Qualcomm Snapdragon LTE devices on those networks” but doesn’t the Verizon galaxy nexus use an omap processor?

    • “While it is technically possible to implement a multi-chip solution separating the system chip from the modem chip, it usually isn’t worth it unless you have a specialized platform (or it is a tablet and you have the space to spare). Apple takes this route, but the cost is heavy. They lose quite a bit of internal space to having more chips to represent the SoC. They only do it for the iPhone because of CDMA2000 support. It also worsens battery life as more chips must be powered by the battery.”

      This was the case for the Galaxy Nexus too. It is the reference platform for Android 4.0, so the SoC had to remain the same.

  • BigMixxx

    this is a good read. explains why companies seems to be aggressivley going after aws spectrum, outside of just wanting to beat the competiton. device makers seem to like qualcomm sokutions here in the united states.

    good read…


      Because Qualcomm invented CDMA. And since UMTS is WCDMA, and LTE is also they hold most of the patents for CDMA technology they are holding all of the cards and they understand CDMA tech more than any other manufacturer. 

      • Technically, the honor of inventing the CDMA tech goes to the U.S. military, but Qualcomm did commercialize it and develop a lot of technologies around CDMA, which were patented. However, the core air interface technology was invented by the U.S. military, and is not patented.

  • mreveryphone

    very good read makes sense why tmo chooses the snapdragon over any other chip. can’t wait til that quad core s4 is put to work!

  • Ravi

    For me, the attraction of Tegra 3 was the fifth companion core rather than the four main cores. Has anyone studied how Tegra 3 compares to the Snapdragon S4 in scenarios where the companion core is used (and tried to measure how common those scenarios are in typical usage)?

    • Jaysins

      I don’t have any benchmarks but I do no that my HTC one s has a deep sleep which dramatically underclocks the CPU. I forgot to plug my phone in the other night with 30% battery and awoke around six hours later with 29% and had WiFi on. Pretty incredible performance and I’m really happy with the battery life on this phone except when web browsing with the brightness turned up. That’s more the amoled screens fault though and battery life is still better than my g2x in this scenario as well.

      • superg05

         jacking up the brightness kills any phone

  • badbob001

    I believe T-Mobile US achieves HSPA+42 by using MIMO. DC-HSPA 42 (Dual Carrier) uses a different method and it was recently announced by some UK carriers that they will upgrade their network to support DC-HSPA and the G3 will support this. I think T-Mobile’s had at one time planned to achieve HSPA+84 by combining MIMO and DC.

    • No, they use Dual-Carrier HSPA. MIMO is incredibly difficult to do in handsets, which is why it used Dual-Carrier HSPA. HSPA+84 would have been achieved with four carriers instead of MIMO, though combining MIMO and DC would work too.

      • badbob001

        Then it seems rather silly that Samsung still doesn’t support TMO-US’s DC-HSPA+42 when the G3 supports the DC-HSPA+42 being rolled out in the UK. Is it just due to the frequencies differences? I suspect Samsung will be still having the same issues with the G4 since each carrier in the US uses different frequencies for LTE.

        • MarcusDW

          The GS3 only goes up to 21meg.

        • The international Galaxy S III supports SC-HSPA+ up to 21Mbps. Only T-Mobile USA’s variant supports DC-HSPA+ up to 42Mbps.

  • loueradun

    I feel like I have been saying this forever now… its not all about the cores and MHz/ghz. Glad were on the same page David.

  • deeoh1084

    i just read the whole article b/c i’m a huge fan of exynos processor but i still would like to have exynos processor than Qualcomm’s crapdragon (they are so laggy comparing to exynos processor) even though the Ram was bumped up to 2GB i still would like to have quad core exynos processor well if Sprint or Verizon gets the exynos processor for the GS3 i’m switch over to them instead… damn u t-mobile…

    • the S3 was rushed in the dual core market. S4 krait is just as powerful and more efficient than the exynos quad core. S4 krait is not the same as the previous s3 snapdragon. Software was also optimized around the exynos processor. This time samsung will optimized software for both processors.

    • Jack_A_Lope

      From your comment, you apparently didn’t read the entire article.  

  • Test

    I don mind which color they have or which processor they would use.  The only thing bothers me now is their announcement……. Usually for a phone like this, Samsung will at least run an event prior to the acutal release….. So far there is nothing scheduled for the US yet so I would really surprise if they would lauch without any promotion or notification… Or we might not get the phone by June 20th…..  Any tmo rep here can shed some light???

  • Jerrymoore 808

    Do you know if the unlocked international version would work on the U.S. Tmobile network? Can you get the quad-core version and have it get the same data speeds?

    • fixxmyhead

      yea it will work but u will on get EDGE (2g) speeds. sucks i know i would have gone this route. or u could switch to something like straight talk which uses att network and get faster speeds. if i get it im thinking about doing this cuz u could get 4g hspa since it has att bands

    • It’ll work on the T-Mobile network, but you’ll get EDGE speeds until the refarming hits your area (sometime between now and Q2 2013).

      • superg05

         i hate that they did not use the pentaband chip like in the nexus 2 steps forward 5 steps backwards

    • Wilma Flintstone

      Just wondering, why do you want Quad Core so bad?  Honestly, is it just for bragging rights or do you see an actual use for it?  Not trying to rag on you or anything, I just really would like to know why Quad Core is this important to people.

      • fixxmyhead

        maybe cuz its a proven champ unlike snapdragon chips despite it being an s4 krait . idk some people are still doubtful cuz snappys are known for lag. honestly i really do think the quad exynos is better plus samsung knows how to tweak the crap out of them couple that with software as well and u got a winner. look at the s2 and the amaze same chip yet different results in quadrant ( i know quadrant isnt everything but still theres a difference though maybe its cuz of that heavy ass sense).

        • souggie

          Also take into account that sense is much lighter now in its latest iteration….even in quadrant on my one s, I got a 5344, and I’m averaging spies of about 22.3mbps down on net speeds. the s4 so fast appears to be as advertised , haven’t had lag yet, well except when I ran quadrant for the first time, for like half a second it lagged, but other than that, no lag, live wallpapers are where you really see

        • souggie

          The difference. no lag on live wallpapers whatsoever. overall phone performance has been better and another than expected to me on the one s. I wish I could have both this and the gs3…..

        • souggie

          Smoother not another I meant.

        • souggie

          Speeds not spies

      • The same reason people buy hot rods, sports cars and luxury cars.

        • Heh

          Hahaha you think a Quad Core phone is analagous to a sports or luxury car? LOL What a generation of nerds. :-) Yah, not going to give you any respect from anybody.

        • now_onTMO

          Lol.. Samsung hater much? I sense it..

        • WTF are you talking about? LOL. People spend more money because they can. That’s it.

  • Matt

    no thanks, ill wait for a quad core phone to come out for tmobile. i know this article makes a lot of sense, its just the nerd in me that wants the quad core over a dual core. i guess you could say bragging rights is the reason (although i wont be actually bragging about it), im just the consumer the needs the latest and greatest even if its still in early stages (im sure by july next year, quad core processors will be more advanced)

    • Heh

      Who are you going to “brag to”? You’re dungeons and dragons clan? Heh Yah, everybody has a smartphone now, you bragging about yours is just about impossible. Nobody will be impressed. It’s JUST A PHONE. And there are about a zillion people out there with iPhones who will always believe they are superior to you regardless, whether or not it’s true. Give up your quest for approval from others, you won’t get it with a material object like a phone.

      • Matt

        quote ”
        (although i wont be actually bragging about it)”, please read my whole comment before replying. also im not looking for approval by anybody, re-read my whole comment. i am stating that i just want the state of the art phone and that in time (since i will have a two year contract), a quad core would be capable of more compared to a dual core. if you cant understand what i mean still, then kindly piss off


    No thanks, the only duo core i’ll be using is the Exynos 5. FUCK YOU AMERICA!

    • Heh

      Then you’ll either be going without LTE or HSPA 42 in “AMERICA”. Have fun with that.

      • HelloAmaze

        The article seemed a bit misleading, as I’ve read different opinions and facts from other websites, however I just want to say that mobile fans can sound so retarded on here, “exynos for life! S3 sucks!” I shake my head at all you fat low life’s, if your phone had a d**k get your mouth off of it and think bitc***

    • JBLmobileG1

      You must live outside the US and are just jealous because the US version might actually be better than the international version with the extra gb of ram. I don’t really see what America has to do with a phone made by Koreans and released by a German owned company anyways.

  • WOW, never seen a SO BIAS article. I am beginning to think Tmonews is getting pay by Tmobile. My last time on this site, and S4 will never beat Exynos 4212

    • You call it bias, we call it an editorial. E-D-I-T-O-R-I-A-L. Which means the opinion of the author and not the site, also I don’t accept cash from anyone. Only Starbuck’s gift cards.

      • Bleacherbums1

        Ha ha

      • bullshit

        OK kiddo! Like anyone believes that.

    • deibed

      bias articles you’ll find at BGR, this is an editorial, and since you brought up the exynos is better than the s4 please explain in more than one sentence cus dave here just made his argument clear in about 13 paragraphs

    • Heh

      Ok, so the article went point by point to the efficiencies and abilities of the S4, you provide a one line response with no facts or even any ideas to support your point. Now I don’t know what they’re talking your fat slob generation about being “accepted and loved” regardless of what you are, but it don’t work for me. I think you’re a moron who has no points to bring to the table whatsoever. You just “feel” that the article is biased. We’re all supposed to give a sh*t what eddie FEELS without any supported facts right? LOL

    • James

      Dude  you are so i thing right

  • Gilgehmesh

    Adreno 225 is not superior to Mali 400 in Exynos 4412.  Not even close.  The Mali 400 in Exynos 4412 is even superior to iPhone 4S’s PowerVR SGX543MP2.  See the article in Anandtech that details the performance of Exynos 4412.

  • ghulamsameer

    Plus with that 2100 mAh battery, I can see the GSIII being a very efficient, yet powerful device.

  • Miladkhahil

    Very powerful post you got here …. Very interested …. Thank you for the Infos…very helpful… :-)

  • bakedapplepie

    Great read. Answered many questions I had.

  • James

    Trust you me if they don’t keep the Qua core it won be the same

  • James

    T mo shoud be a shame for  postitng  something like that

  • chris125

    Good write up, but sadly people will still complain because they feel they need more of everything even if in every day use they would not be able to tell the difference

  • Bryck

    Hey Guy’s I want to install a custom Gingerbread ROM on my Galaxy SI can any of you refer me to a good site. I know there’s XDA and a few more  any more suggestions though?? Thanks in Advanced

    • Get_at_Me

      XDA no doubt….theres an xda android app i use.  I download roms directly from the forum app

      • Bryck


  • Trevor

    Wow, very informative.  Thank you!

  • My 2 cents


    IF you look at the off screen 720p GPU benchmark, which shows the full potential of the GPU. The Exynos quad kills the S4 in the htc one x. The only time you will need a GPU this powerful is when playing games like nova 3 but when you do need it, the GPU in the Exynos and A5 will hold their own, while the S4 will crash and burn.

    The browser mark score for the Exynos is 160000 while its 110000 for the S4. Like Brian & Anand says, its most likely do to what Samsung has done with the software so we can only hope the Samsung was able to do the same with the S4 Galaxy S3.

    The S4 has the 28nm design while the Exynos has a 32nm so chances are the difference in battery between the two versions will be non-existent. 

    The S4 certainly will have the LTE and ram advantage but I am not sure how much help extra ram will be.

    HTC ONE X Nova 3: I apologize I don’t know if its the tegra or S4 version but the performance should be similar.


    S3 Exynos Nova 3:


    I got a good deal on a galaxy nexus so thats what I have but if I had to chose between the S4 or Exynos quad, I would pick the Exynos quad. Unfortunately here in Canada, the S4 variant of the new Samsung flagship phone will be released. What sucks even more is that the contracts here are 3 years long.

    IMO, the article was very bias.

  • Guest

    Of course T-Mobile wouldn’t give it’s customers a choice in the matter. It’s Vanilla flavored subsidized phone, and all you folks are gobbling it up.

    Good thing I have an Unlocked International Phone.


    Is exactly why I won’t allow myself to be locked into a contract.

    They already made the hardware, all changing it does is slow down updates that we could potentially be getting as customers. 

    • Considering that even South Korea (Samsung’s home market) isn’t getting the Exynos variant, I don’t think that updates will be slowed.

      • Guest

         Last time I checked, Samsung didn’t update the OS, Google does.

        So, Google will release an update. I’ll get it instantly.

        Samsung will tool around to get Touchwiz figured out.

        Then it will go to the different home markets, usually U.S. last.

        After that, the carriers will decide if it’s worth upgrading to or not.

        (Which a new Galaxy phone will be coming out by then, See GS II on T-Mobile)

        Lastly, at LEAST a year after the phone has been released, you might get an update for the GSIII.

        T-Mobile doesn’t want customers paying the bare minimum for service. (Which myself and my wife will continue doing it seems)

        They want insurance sales, customers upgrading their device and locking into another contract, perhaps signing for new services that are being offered. Visual Voice mail, higher data caps, etc…

        You don’t hype a phone to the edge of imagination and back, and then announce that you’re not getting the “badass” version.

        See HTC One S, GS III, and current iPhone commercials, people will pay for carriers that offer what seem to be better devices for a little bit more coin.

        • Actually, the order goes South Korea -> Generic/Europe -> U.S. -> Rest of the world.

          TouchWiz has been getting slimmer as features have become incorporated into AOSP, and you underestimate how hard it is to port forward everything from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich.

          In general, T-Mobile will update devices if the manufacturer is willing to issue updates for it. Other carriers, not so much.

          T-Mobile doesn’t want to pay subsidies at all, it would prefer if customers did the one-and-done Value plan contract offering where the customer takes on the cost of the device in its entirety (either through EIP or lump sum) rather than subsidizing them. You’re not even required to have a smartphone data plan if you purchase the service plan and the device separately, though you really should have a smartphone data plan option.

          Several services like Visual Voicemail, unlimited Wi-Fi Calling, etc are free. The majority of additional features that incur a recurring charge are genuinely useful and fully optional. The higher tiers throttle back, true. However, Premium tier and up include free mobile hotspot as well, so I consider it a value to have.

          As for “badassery,” I have no good comment for that. I’ve already explained the best I can about the Snapdragon S4, but obviously I can’t change your mind.

        • Guest

           You proved what I meant in the first sentence, SK first, Generic/Europe 2nd, U.S. then 3rd world countries…

          TouchWiz sucks end of story, and I don’t have to worry about porting things from GB to ICS, since my G-Nex came with ICS stock.

          I know that T-Mobile will offer to update devices, but as you can see with the GS II, it won’t be much before the launch of the next big phones i.e… the GS III being available soon and the GS II FINALLY getting updates.

          I’m a customer and I take on the cost of the device entirely, but I’m not purchasing any of my phones from T-Mobile stores or their websites. This is NOT a good business model no matter how you look at it. T-Mobile is NOT happy with me paying $100 for both my and my wife’s service per month.

          You can explain all you want between the processors. The fact of the matter is that everyone knows the specs of the GS III that was shown off during it’s launch Press Conference and lo and behold. T-Mobile is getting an inferior version of that phone.

          You can make excuses about how X or Y variable makes it “better”, but that’s not what the readers of this website truly want.

          The average consumer doesn’t seek out the information on this website, they go to the store and ask. The tech savvy come here and our expectations weren’t met with the GS II and they’re not being met with the GS III.

  • What’s being referred to in that article is not an event.

  • Enoel69

    At this point i am more inclined to get the GS3 since it will be my only best option for an ICS device on Tmo.  I returned my GNex due to some issue i was having with it and have resorted to using my N1.. so i desperately need an ICS device. I fault my beloved  HTC for making this decision easier by giving Samsung a little edge when it comes to choices of devices on Tmo others. Unless by some miracle we have word or confirmation of the One X or a true variant of the One X which includes a replaceable bigger battery, micro SD card expansion slot coming to Tmo..i see myself buying the GS3 by default cuz i really wanted an HTC One X like device. I my view HTC is shooting themselves in the foot with the omission of these two specs (replaceable battery n micro SD card slot) and this exclusive nonsense. As evident the two major cell companies are moving away from the exclusive model nonsense…hence the explosion in sales by Apple and Samsung. IF u are in the biz of making n selling phones then a top device like the One X shouldn’t be handcuffed with all these barriers. If HTC hope to get back on top they have to avoid some of these things especially  the three…i love HTC but please give us what we want. Hopefully an HTC JB Nexus will incorporate all the goodness of the One X with an SD card slot, bigger replaceable battery, 2GB RAM, ample internal storage, 12+ Mpx rear cam w/ 2+Mpx front, on a form factor abt 130mm tall just like that of the Sensation XL etc etc…….

  • “more CPU cores takes more power”no it doesnt…..sure if your comparing tegra 3 (40nm) to snapdragon s4 (28nm)but when its the same type of CPU more cores can actually equal less power being used

  • The Adreno 225 doesn’t surpass the 4S’, look at the offscreen 720p numbers

  • Chaz531

    Plays nova3 on a Samsung Galaxy S2 with out lag on a custom kernel. No the adreno 225 is fine. Especially if I’m playing with an adreno 220. Without that gpu increase the galaxy s3 wouldn’t be much better than the galaxy s2. It’s about how you optimize the software around the hardware.

  • i want exynos

    Any adreno gpu sucks ass n balls. Qualcomm chip sets in general suck. I hated every phone that had one of their soc’s. Why can’t we ever get a real Samsung device? If the international version worked on tmo I’d get it. The only benefit I see in having the s4 soc is battery efficiency

  • Tyson Heaton

    Great editorial. Thanks!

  • Question

    BTW, please explain to me, why Samsung does not use the S4 in the European version if the performance is as close to the Exynos as you seem to think. I mean, it would be easier to have one model plus the software updates would be faster.

    • The man has a point. Also, look at the benchmarks comparing the SGS3 International vs something like the HTC One X which uses the S4. The SGS3 not only wins but with a fairly good margin.

      • souggie

        Show proof. The benchmarks I’ve seen put the exynos slightly ahead of the s4, not by much at all, and that to me means that the difference is virtually negligible, especially if the s4 has significantly upgraded architecture compared to the exynos quad

      • The reason that Samsung isn’t using Snapdragon S4 world-wide is because there’s a shortage of Snapdragon S4 28nm SoCs. It is incredibly difficult right now for Qualcomm to meet the demand for Snapdragon S4, so device makers have to prioritize. Incidentally, this is why the HTC One X uses Tegra 3, while the HTC One XL (which launched in the U.S. as the One X on AT&T) uses the Snapdragon S4 and is seeing a far more limited launch.

        Additionally, Samsung Semiconductor uses Samsung Mobile products to showcase its product development to other device makers. Many smaller brands in locales such as China and Europe often pick Samsung Exynos for the SoC because of what they see in the Galaxy S phones. Since Samsung Semiconductor can often undercut its competitors on volume pricing (since it does its own designing and fabbing of the SoC), it works out well for both divisions of the Samsung Group.

        But, in all markets where LTE or HSPA+42 is launching, Samsung will produce a Snapdragon S4 variant for that market. Japan, South Korea, and North America are the first areas to get the Snapdragon S4 variant. I imagine that Australia and several European markets are next in line, since HSPA+42 and/or LTE are either launched or launching within the next few months there.

  • souggie

    S4 matches exynos quad in several benchmark tests, you guys make it sound like the exynos is just whipping the sh@t out of the s4, and that isn’t true. The exynos is honestly not THAT much better let’s stop exaggerating for a second, the same sh@t you can do on exynos, you can do just as good with the s4. Well see what exynos quad can really do when the s4 pro quad drops. 4 hybrid A9/A15 cores with Adreno 320 vs 4 A9 cores….I’m going with the s4 dual core and will love it, and the s4 pro when it comes out

  • souggie

    So you’ve hated every HTC phone…..nice

  • WoW

    What you said wasn’t very smart at all. 1080p has 2.25 times for pixels than 720p and you surely don’t need 2.25 times more video cards when going from 720p to 1080p when playing bf3 on same settings. If you have a video card that handles bf3 at 720p and it gets right at 60 fps then when you use it at 1080p you will be getting about 30fps which means a 50% reduction in speed which means 0.5 times slower or one half. You would need a video card that has about 50% more power or has 1/2 more power to play at 1080p and get 60fps. Again your mind is wrong with 2.4 times more powerful gpu. The phone would need to have a gpu roughly 50% faster not 2.4 times faster which would be 240% LOL.

    •  ((2.4-1)/1)*100%=140% increase. I don’t know how pc games are optimized but if you look at the youtube videos of the nova 3 gameplay, the Exynos does much better than the HTC one x. So I would think that the S4 in the galaxy s3 would do no better than the HTC one x.
      Samsung will certainly optimize the software for the North American version of the samsung galaxy s3 but third party games will rely heavily on the hardware. The s4 already is not capable playing new mobile games with high end graphics, atleast not very well.

  • A preview
  • Tiger Wang

    “Plus, more CPU cores takes more power, which eats away at battery quite a bit.” – Each core can be turned ON and OFF based on the demand. If you like, you can disable 3 cores of them so that it saves more power. Choice is a pro, not a con. 

    • JG01

      I’m sure tmobile will do someting to screw it up and drain the battery anyway.

  • JG01

    Changing the processor . has just killed my thoughts of wanting to buy this device( already got the SG2) from TMobile…..why do they have to spoil things….the original is perfection…why? why? why change it? Cheap asses!!

    • Kellic

      did you even bother to read the article?

  • JG01

    Another thing about the processor. Whoever wrote this article does not understand the reason for having multiple cores. It is to distribute the load. for example, to have dual core means the cores will run at a higher utilization than quad core, plus there is offloading of processes, meaning certain processes can be assigned to run on a specifi core. therefore it is possible that at any one time, only one or two cores are active. With dual cores, the cores will be more active which will consume power. Having said that, there is also the issue of what applications and OS service that are running. If OS and apps are tuned properly, battery life on any device can have a dramatic improvement. This is one reason many people root their device in order to have control of what is running and how it runs. Carriers place a lot of bloatware which consumes power, plus the data google, msn and apple collects of the user’s activities. Look at the tablets that do not have 3G/4G and GSM, their batteries last a very long time. Those radios are always on synching with the towers and others, which is also a constant battery drain.

    A combinations of tuning the OS , apps, radios and distribution of processing  is what is needed to  have optimal battery performance. The problem is , the device manufactures tunes the hardware, google / MS / Apple tune the OS and the carriers then adds their stuff.  Each doing their own things in distributes manor without a collective unity. Thank GOD for xda-developers( and other website like this), they seem to do a better job at tuning things ( the developrs actually share and help each other to get thing working right).

    • I fully understand the purpose of having multiple cores. While in theory that is true (and it is often true in PC-land), the problem in the mobile world is that it is completely false. 

      iOS, for example, barely can handle dual-core operation because CPU 0 always has the GUI thread while CPU 1 actually runs the app binary execution threads. If there are multiple threads on the app, CPU 1 has to switch around to each thread to execute. CPU 0 is dedicated to the GUI thread, while CPU 1 is the mutable core and can swap out threads on the fly. Incidentally, that’s why iOS on the iPhone 4S and dual-core iPads have permanent buttery-smoothness in the GUI.

      In Android, all layers below the Dalvik VM work quite well with multiple cores, as the Linux binary execution environment is highly optimized for both symmetric and asymmetric multiprocessing. However, the Dalvik VM is not so good at this. The Dalvik VM works well with symmetric multiprocessing (for multiple CPUs) just like the Java VM does. However, multi-core operations requires asymmetric multiprocessing. Each thread has to run independently and sync up as needed, rather than remaining constantly in sync. This problem has been worked on somewhat in Gingerbread and ICS, but it isn’t completely solved. Each iteration of the Dalvik VM improves asymmetric performance, but it still isn’t very good. Additionally, most Android apps really only have two threads: a GUI thread and an app execution thread. If there are more threads, then it is up to the Dalvik VM to assign threads to cores and execute them. However, since Dalvik (and most Android app developers) aim to symmetric multiprocessing, the benefit of multi-core operation is pretty much gone. Threads remaining constantly in sync and communicating automatically eliminates the benefits of multi-threaded use, because each thread would block on each other until it receives information in the correct order.

      Part of the issue is that Android app developers are developing their apps with symmetric multiprocessing in mind when creating multi-threaded applications. But the Dalvik VM doesn’t do a great job of assigning threads to logical cores, as it assigns based on physical CPUs first and works from there. This means that CPU 0 or CPU 1 may get flooded with thread execution requests long before CPU 2 and CPU 3 ever get any. Additionally, this causes a lot of leakage and power waste. Intel agrees with me on the thread scheduler[1].

      Ironically, Windows Phone is best set for handling this problem. The .NET Framework has been well optimized for asymmetric and symmetric multiprocessing. If you check out Miguel de Icaza’s blog post about XobotOS (Android ported to Mono), you’ll see benchmarks showing that Android is many times more efficient with the Mono CLR than the Dalvik VM[2]. When Windows Phone 8 comes out on multi-core phones, you’ll see performance that is just as good as XobotOS, if not better because the .NET CLR that powers the Metro environment is highly efficient. Microsoft Research spent over a decade developing the solution before Microsoft commercialized it as the .NET Framework. Really, swapping out Dalvik for Mono would improve performance way more than anything else you do to Android. You don’t even have to go the radical route of changing programming languages like XobotOS did, since Mono can execute Java code in its environment with a little extra work.

      At best, Android’s current execution environment will efficiently work with two cores, while a quad-core chip would have all four cores turned on (Cortex-A9 MPCore and Dalvik stupidity there) but two of those cores would spend most of the time idling, which wastes power. Cortex-A15 introduces standard utilization features that only turn on cores when instructions are sent to them, but this can be overridden by the OS. Cortex-A9 relies entirely on the OS to direct CPU core utilizations.

      [1]: http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2182710/intel-claims-android-ready-multi-core-processors
      [2]: http://blog.xamarin.com/2012/05/01/android-in-c-sharp/

      • Danial Horton

         the Exynos cpu is a superior design, pulling more performance clock for clock, core for core.

        • joeyzadoe

          you sir are completely wrong.

    • God

      I don’t know what Conan is talking about, but I think he knows his sheet better than any poster here for sure.

  • Sunnyybarra

    I was just wanting to know the Nam of the screen saver on phone pictured above. Thank you

    • Sunnyybarra


  • Lazydude

    Its just a damn phone. dual-core / quad-core…who gives a sh*t. Its not like phones are a workstation….

  • dardata

    Great article, great theory and sources, but the astute engineer should know theory doesnt always translate well to practice. Here is a real world example of practice and why I think the S4 and 2 cores are inferior to the quad core exynos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIc7rMDiYNE The galaxy note in this video has dual core 1.5 scorpion cpu with adreno 220 gpu and 1G ram.  Jump to 1:47 in the video to see real world performance between a proper quad core and dual core.  I equate the tmo version of the S3 that is being released to the note and I expect similar performance with the tmo variant of the S3.  The 2G of ram that will come with S3 may balance the performance out but my theory is is will help more when navigating from app to app and not enhance an individual app’s performance.  Notice the super smooth scrolling from the international S3? Is this a result of the superior GPU or extra 2cores?  Also, the S3 camera shutter speed is blazingly fast and again I wonder how much of this relates to a superior gpu and quad core cpu.  As you can see in the video the Note’s shutter speed is relatively slow, so this will be the first test I perform before I purchase the S3 in a tmo store.  I don’t think the difference in specs between these devices should drastically effect performance, but there is a difference and to use theory to justify your argument is not always valid. The sad part is you have followers and comments on every forum that says things like “show me sources…blah, blah” – it means nothing as its just a theory, although often well thought out and documented.  As a consumer I want practice as proof and not theory! Regardless, great editorial as I love the tech details!

  • Stephane L. Guillou

    Great article and well written. I’ve been looking all over the internet for some comparison between the S4 and the Exynos; I was hoping to see the Tegra 3 also in your article, but I’m ok without. My take from this is that phones here in the US will get the S4 so they can run properly on the LTE networks; although, I still feel as if the Exynos would provide a better user experience according to benchmark numbers especially when developers begin creating hungry software.

  • Danial Horton

    :< and yet, the Exynos dominates the snapdragon in everything.

  • mfor33

    yup so this is where i remember reading about the s4….but now that some facts can overtake opinion, the s4 comes in 3rd to the international quad core version of the galaxy, and gets completely blown out by the new iphone 5 processor….2gb ram also seems like overkill and unnecessary. this sucks. out of contract but no phone out there seems tempting enough to sign a new contract for.