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Intel: multi-core CPU’s on Android still not optimized

updated 07:55 am EDT, Mon June 11, 2012

Intel's Mike Bell critical of ARM-based Android CPUs

Intel's Mike Bell has leveled criticism at Android SoC vendors for not doing enough to optimize their multi-core ARM-based processors for Android devices, reports The Inquirer. According to Bell, Android's thread scheduler is not yet capable of taking maximum advantage of the multicore processors on the market. Intel's internal benchmarking of ARM-based SoCs shows that single-core processors can run the Android much more effectively, whereas having additional cores can actually be detrimental to performance.

'If you are in a non-power constrained case, I think multiple cores make a lot of sense because you can run the cores full out, you can actually heavily load them and/or if the operating system has a good thread scheduler,' argues Bell. 'A lot of stuff we are dealing with, thread scheduling and thread affinity, isn't there yet and on top of that, largely when the operating system goes to do a single task, a lot of other stuff stops,' he explained.

Bell goes on to explain that because Android devices are battery powered and the chips embedded in handsets are thermally constrained, there is not much advantage, if any, in running multiple cores. In fact, it can negatively affect performance - particularly in the way that they have been implemented.

'If you take a look a lot of handsets on the market, when you turn on the second core or having the second core there [on die], the [current] leakage is high enough and their power threshold is low enough because of the size of the case that it isn't entirely clear you get much of a benefit to turning the second core on,' he explained. 'We ran our own numbers and [in] some of the use cases we've seen, having a second core is actually a detriment, because of the way some of the people have not implemented their thread scheduling,' he revealed.

Bell, of course, has a vested interest in his remarks. After failing to have an Atom chip that was capable of challenging ARM-based devices following the rise of the iPhone in 2007, Intel only recently unveiled the first x86 Android smartphone running its latest, single-core, 'Medfield' mobile processor. However, it is well known that despite the marketing of Android vendors, particularly Samsung, it was only with the arrival of Android 2.3.4 that Android on ARM started making some use of a second core in devices that had them. There also very few apps on the market that currently utilize the second core of an Android device, let alone four.

Despite the current multi-core architectural shortcomings of Android, Bell also blamed SoC designers for not optimizing their chips to better support Android on multi-core processors - they simply 'have not bothered to do it.' For Android users, this means not getting the maximum benefit 'for the size and cost of the part.' [via WM Poweruser]

by MacNN Staff



  1. Eldernorm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    But, But, But

    But, I have 2 cpus. Its better cause I have 2...... Specs mean everything...... Please say its so.


  1. Mr. Strat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It depends on the version of Android you're running. Ice Cream Sandwich has support for multi-core processors and Froyo does not.

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Check out the reviews on the Note

    winth ICS vs Gingerbread.

    Android 4 makes it smoking hot!

  1. eclux

    Joined: Dec 1969


    poetic typo?

    Don't know if this is a common phrase or a fortunate typo, but I love the term "the Android" as in "...can run the Android much more effectively..."

  1. BigMac2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not so simple

    Since Android runtime depends on a JavaVM, Multithreading and parallels processing is not natural on this platform, ICS VM is still not fully SMP aware and until ICS all graphics rendering was running on the main thread nullifying every multicore avantages for UI interaction. Still even with a fully optimize OS for multicore processing, developper need to put extra work to make it work efficiently with their apps so it won't do any goods for already existing Android apps. Issue iOS and OSX take care of with C ^blocks and grand central dispatch, Android still have no equivalent on the radar

  1. UmarOMC

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Android runtime?

    BigMac2, what are you talking about? You're implying the OS relies on the JavaVM to run, even my wonderful OS X's GUI wasn't running smoothly until Quartz and the offset of GUI rendering to OpenGL, not multi-core CPU rendering.

    Android 4.x/ICS supports offsetting to GUI rendering to OpenGL as well and akin to most games for awhile after multi-core CPUs were introduced to the desktop they're simply not optimized for multi-core CPUs.

    I actually use Android, I don't think you do. Its on the radar and in use, its in the Settings under Develop option in stock ICS on our HTC Sensations.

  1. BigMac2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Android runtime environnement

    You may use Android, but you don't seem to have any programmer skill. While Android is based on Linux, the Linux runtime environment is locked down and only Java apps can be distribute and install by common users on Android.

    Beside, MacOS X display engine have always use OpenGL for 2D and 3D, the big speedup with 10.3 and Quark Extreme was the use the GPU for Postscript rendering engine and compositing instead of using the CPU to render object and the GPU for compositing only . The issue with Android is the use of the main thread for rendering in a virtual machine, so every wait in the code will block graphics refresh.

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