Editorial

Why Windows Phone doesn't need dual-core processors

I’m a great believer in moving technology forward when it is really needed, be it in UI, memory, processors, screens and even more so with new ideas. What I don’t believe in is trying to push technology when it isn’t needed by the majority or when it will make little or no difference other than added cost or be a feature that doesn’t get full use for a couple of years.

Some people have said that dual-core processors in mobile phones are a must have right now; I don’t feel this is true for the most part. Yes some Android devices have had dual-core processors for sometime, but there are a number of excellent phones such as the Xperia Arc and the new Arc S that don’t and they do just as good a job as any dual-core device out there right now. It seems to me that dual-core is just good for the marketing side at the moment.

Recent Windows Phone devices such as the Nokia 800 and the HTC Titan have come under fire from some sides for not having the latest cutting edge hardware such as dual-cores and higher end memory, but anyone who has made use of a Windows Phone knows that at the moment there have been no apps or games that have shown any sign of slow down or performance issues despite this.

If you have used a Windows Phone you’ll know that it isn’t designed in the same way that Android has been or iOS for that matter. Microsoft has managed to design the OS to be very fast and efficient on single-core processors allowing the UI to be fast and smooth while assisting the GPU with games, graphics and some great multimedia work.

Adding a dual-core processor into the mix isn't always a great option for those who want decent battery life, there has been numerous reports of lesser battery life on a host of Android devices which made use of these chips earlier in the year, though reports stated that this was a software issue, it has taken a long time to resolve and still plagues early adopters. Many users also complain that Android OS just wasn't optimised enough for dual-core anyway and it'll still take some time before it is, maybe Microsoft are making sure when they choose to go with the newer CPU's, they'll do it the right way.

Many people claim that dual-core processors will improve the gaming side of things in mobile devices; I’d disagree as most mobile gaming isn’t using up too much CPU time, it is nearly always the GPU and the Adreno 205 GPU’s have certainly done a decent job so far, though it is a side I would like to see upgraded soon. This is even more of the case on the side of Windows Phone 7 devices, which have all had to ship with a GPU since launch, though recent game releases such as Kinectimals on the OS have show a far smoother framerate on newer phones which make use of the Adreno 205 GPU rather than the original 200 model.

An excellent example of the difference a GPU can make not just in games, but with the smoothness of a higher resolution GUI on both Android and Windows Phone devices has been shown in benchmarks on the MobileTechWorld site. The benchmark shows just how much improvement there is with the latest Adreno 220 GPU running on the Android powered HTC Sensation. 

Users can also be blinded by the “bigger is better” aspect of advertising, forgetting that applications have to recognise the additional processor to make use of it, something that hasn’t been happening too fast on both iOS or on the Android operating system. There has been no sign of any processing issues on Windows Phone applications so far; they have all been doing an excellent job on some very fast single core processing.

I have yet to see an Android application that has run better than a Windows Phone counterpart in both speed and performance (games aside) and I’d much rather have a stable platform over all devices than the fragmentation that has happened with Android hardware and software anytime. Heck some applications such as Spotify not only run better on Windows Phone, they look better too.

Some argue that if Microsoft doesn’t have dual-core processors in their phones soon then consumers will be left behind in the next couple of years. The Lumia 800 can be used as an example as it high speed single core device. My view here is that in two years time most devices available at the moment will out of date as technology moves forward, but the Lumia will still run most applications perfectly well and there will be far more dual-core software out by that time. Infinity Blade and Real Racing 2 are both iOS games that have had dual-core enhancements released for them while still looking fantastic on single-core iPhones.

The best example I can find is how long it has taken Android applications to start making decent use of dual-core processors, they have been around a year and yet they are still not widespread or as stable as they should be. I’m on a single core Android phone and I’m still not left behind with applications designed 2 years down the line and neither will current Windows Phone users.

I'm certainly not against a move to new chips, while Microsoft has never said that they are completely against using dual-core processors either, especially as multi-core support will be coming with upcoming Apollo Windows Phone update. After all, what is the point of over-sized screens and multiple processor cores when consumers can’t make any use of them, as there are not any applications that make use of those cores effectively and current applications run perfectly well and will in the future?

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