Intel Disses Android's Dual-core Support

Intel is relatively new to the smartphone game, with just a couple of Medfield devices available today. However, the company is making waves this week thanks to comments made by its General Manager of Mobile and Communications. According to Mike Bell, Android and multiple cores just don't mix. At least not at the moment.

The Inquirer cites Bell as saying Intel's own testing shows that multi-core implementations can actually run slower than single core solutions. What's more, it's not really clear how much of a benefit there is in turning the second core on because of the way 'the people' have not implemented their thread scheduling.

"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," Bell explained to the Inquirer.

"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. So as we move to multiple cores, we're actually putting a lot of investment into software to fix the scheduler and fix the threading so if we do multi-core products it actually takes advantage of it."

Intel's Medfield chip is a single core mobile platform launching at a time when solutions like the quad-core Tegra 3 is well established in the market, not to mention dual-core solutions from the likes of Qualcomm, so Intel would have had plenty of multi-core options to test against Medfield. Unfortunately Bell didn't mention which multi-core chips tested poorly when compared to Intel's single core.

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  • eddieroolz
    While I'm sure there's some self-promotion interests involved, Intel is probably right on this one. Dual-core/Quad-core is great for benchmarks and bragging rights, but what can dual-core devices do that single-core can't? So far, I haven't received a good answer from any Android users I know.
  • saturnus
    So what Intel is basically saying is that multi-core ARM chips should beat Medfield down even more than they already do but are let down by Androids scheduler.
  • outlw6669
    I can see the logic behind their argument.
    Even if the scheduler was optimized in Android, how many high priority threads are you realistically going to be throwing around?

    With a limited power budget, I would much rather have a much more powerful single core.
    If anything, I could see a low power 'Companion Core' being integrated into the package to handle background tasks and operations while sleeping.

    Wasting the power/thermal budget in mobile devices on more, lower performing, cores has never made sense to me :/
  • acerace
    How about a much polished OS for low end devices? Take Windows Phone for example.
  • I'd expect that a dual-core processor would allow for better UI performance with separate UI and main threads (which is required by Android, IIRC) although that is becoming less of a problem as hardware acceleration replaces most, if not all, of the work in the UI thread. I believe iOS approaches this differently by suspending all other threads while the UI thread is busy (realtime UI) which results in even smoother graphics than a comparable dual-core android at the expense of throughput.

    I suspect Intel knows what they're talking about here. Anything more than dual-core is wasted on a smartphone and even dual-core's usefulness is debatable with the current state of schedulers (however I'm led to believe AOSP ROMs have better performance on multicore devices)
  • Vorador2
    Well, Intel just outed a single core mobile chipset, so these comments surely aren't biased in any way......also he's not providing any hard data to prove his point, "just saying"

    Nvidia did a whitepaper to prove that multicore chipsets make sense on mobile devices.

    The real problem is that Android still isn't capable of optimizing the use of several cores, but that is very different from flatly saying the single core solutions are faster.
  • killabanks
    now they say this but wait till they release their own multi core then it will be " increased performance thanks to quad core"
  • husker
    Here is how to parse these kinds of articles and find the real truth. The article states:

    The Inquirer cites Bell as saying Intel's own testing shows that multi-core implementations can actually run slower than single core solutions.
    Notice that it states it "can" run slower. Not will run slower, or usually runs slower. This is not a strong statement, and can be taken with a grain of salt. For example I can confidently state that laptops "can" spontaneously explode, and Intel chips "can" arrive brand new and fail after 1 day.

    I also don't think they are talking about actually running separate tasks, but single multi-threaded tasks, so you are still getting the benefits of multi-core when doing more than one thing at a time, such as listening to streaming media while surfing the web.
  • theres a truth in what he said, i personally own an SGS2 and lumia 710, and guess what? the 710 performance is felt more snappier and intuitive and more ipad-like fluidity, despite the latter being single core and low-end device. some apps and games does runs faster with sgs2 though.
  • I think Intel is just saying that Android needs better thread management. Intel is planning on putting out a dual core phone product in late 2012/early 2013. They are likely testing it and finding out that thread scheduling sucks. This is likely why their single core product is beating most multicore ARM products in benchmarks. I believe they are saying they are going to have to fix the scheduler before they put out their own multicore products. It isn't as sinister as some have made it sound. Sure they are single core so they have a vested interest, but they have already stated they are soon releasing a dual core product. Maybe Tizen does it better???