Believe what you see, not what you hear, says Qualcomm

by: Robert TriggsMarch 21, 2013


Which is better a fast dual-core or slow quad-core? I remember this same discussion cropping up with the first quad-core PC processors. Back then the general conclusion was that it depends on how you were using it.

A brute power dual-core approach was great for gaming and situations where you need a high clock speed, where as a slower multi-core was an elegant solution for multi-tasking and greater performance could be achieved when running multi-threaded applications.

I don’t believe that very much has changed when it comes to smartphones and neither does Qualcomm, as it’s keen to prove to us all that it’s not always the number of cores that count, but the quality of those cores as well.

To prove this Qualcomm has come up with four side-by-side videos, showing off the power of the new dual-core Snapdragon 400 chip against an unspecified quad-core competitor.  The Snapdragon 400 is the little brother of Qualcomm’s premier Snapdragon 600 and 800 chips. It’s made up from a dual-core Krait 200 CPU clocked at 1.2Ghz and uses an Adreno 305 GPU. The competitor is totally unknown, other than that it’s a quad-core chip clocked at the same 1.2Ghz, so it should make for an interesting, if not somewhat anonymous showdown.

These video tests challenge the processors at tasks like web surfing, gaming and graphics, navigation and GPS fix, and a Quadrant benchmark.

The Snapdragon 400 beats the unnamed quad-core chip hands down in every test, but I can’t help but feel that the competing chip is deliberately bottle-necked to prove Qualcomm’s point.

There are definitely a few warning signs in some of these results. I found the Quadrant benchmark to be particularly misleading, if you compare the actual CPU scores (blue part of the graph) you’ll find that the dual core Qualcomm chip actually scores lower than the competing quad core.

Most of the Snapdragon chip’s total is significantly improved by memory and I/O read and write scores (red and green), which are affected by other aspects of the phone than just the CPU.

Snapdragon 400 benchmark

Also the gaming comparison is heavily GPU dependent, and since we have no idea which GPU is in the competing chip this could well be another test swung in Qualcomm’s favor due to a bottleneck in the competing chip.

Of course this doesn’t mean that Qualcomm isn’t making a good point. A well put together, balanced dual-core system can beat a poorly produced quad core chip. But don’t be fooled into thinking that Qualcomm’s Krait 200 is faster than a decent quad-core processor in every scenario.

Qualcomm is totally right to make the point that execution orders, pipeline depth, cache sizes, and manufacturing processes can have a big impact on the performance of a processor, and it’s certainly not all about pumping up the number of cores. But is this going to help the average consumer break out from the habit of picking something because it has more cores? Probably not.

So point proven? Well yes, sort of. Qualcomm has confirmed what techies already knew, but the closed conditions of the tests leaves you wondering. How would Qualcomm’s dual-core chip fair against a popular SoC, like the Exynos 4 Quad, if a third party had been running the test? I suppose we’ll find out eventually.

  • MasterMuffin

    Worst mediatek they could find with worst memory cards and GPUs against their 400 with every other part of the phone top tech…

    • Muffinssihei, heitäs mulle vinkki et kandeisko mun hommaa Note 2 vaik jostaiä sil oletuksel et myyn sen vuoden lopussa ja hommaan Nexus 5 tai vastaavaan, vai kandeisko mun vaa oottaa tän lumian kanssa kunnes jotai oikeesti mielenkiintosta ilmestyis..? Haluisin odottaa että jotain Tegra 4:sen tai Qualcommin 800 sirujen kanssa ilmestyvää kunnon rautaa. Niin hankalaa päättää. Mitä puhelimii oot ite käyttäny ? I need some android professional advice :D

      • adi132

        Mee keskutelee äläkä trollaa täällä suomeksi. Here we speak engish.

        • MasterMuffin

          eikö saa kysyy yhtä kysymyst, suomalaiset foorumit on täynnä idioottei ja alkaa ärsyttää ku tietää et ne asuu suomes >.<

          • adi132

            On siellä asiallisempaakin seuraa. Mutta ei siitä sen enempää ;)

          • MasterMuffin

            Good :)

      • MasterMuffin

        Galaxy s kolmosen kaa täs kattelen vaihtoehtoi… Melkein suosittelisin oottaa jotain sulle mielenkiintost pomppaa esiin. Vaikka uus Lumia :D

  • No doubt they are using a Mediatek processor found in cheap quad core phones in india/china etc

    • Muddle

      Which is exactly their target competitor for the 400.
      The 400 is not intended to be a Exynos or Tegra 4 competitor.
      For those, they have the 600 and 800.

      • Okay fair enough, but they know how slow the mediatek is so why not make a less powerful and less battery consuming processor?

  • Harry J

    A biased advertisement, oops “test,” like this is no different than microsofts sorry attempts at making themselves look better then everyone else. In the end, all it shows is that they are willing to deceive rather that prove their “findings.” If they really have something better & nothing to hide, they would show all of the details of both devices running at the moment of testing.

  • Franz Castillo

    Exynos 5 Octa vs Snapdragon 600 in S4?

    • Muddle

      That will be the interesting comparison. Equal against equal.

      • Franz Castillo

        You’re right especially when Qualcomm says this.

  • FrillArtist

    I don’t understand the need for lower-end processors. It seems the objective is the make current high-end processor cheaper and more power efficient until they themselves are the new low-end. Leaving then room for faster processors to cater to the more demanding mobile applications – such as hand writing, voice recognition etc.

  • I’ve consistently seen scores over 3K on a 1GHz Tegra2 device with no overclock. Then again, Quadrant is a joke and has been for a very long time.

  • downeyJR

    snapdragon 400 or Pro?

  • John Koetsier poyo

    marketing talk..
    my sony z death..
    explain it..

  • adi132