Smartphone CPUs put desktops to shame

The latest smartphones sport multi-core processors of dizzying complexity.

Fighting severe size and power constraints, the makers of smartphones have achieved levels of ingenuity not seen on the desktop. This results in mobile devices that not only have multiple cores, but multiple sizes and types of cores.

For instance, phone component maker Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 820 system on a chip (SoC) for mobile devices has two types of central processor, explains Cisco Cheng, Qualcomm's manager of technical marketing. Plus, it has graphics, camera, sensor, location, peripheral, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, signal, wireless modem, and memory processors or controllers, each able to handle its task more efficiently than the CPU could. (In November, Qualcomm announced its successor, the Snapdragon 835, adding high-speed charging to the mix.)

Processor - Pixabay Silberfuchs / Pixabay

The resulting class of increasingly powerful mobile technology will almost certainly start showing up on the desktop -- and perhaps even converge with desktop systems.

"Multi-core smartphones got off to a later start than multi-core desktops but caught up quickly," says Joshua Ho, an editor at the hardware review and analysis site AnandTech. "It took a few years for desktops to move from single-core to dual cores, but on the mobile side it only took six months to a year, starting with the Samsung Galaxy S II in 2011."

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