Intel: Android just isn't ready for multi-core processors

By Lee Kaelin on June 11, 2012, 10:01 AM

Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop recently claimed that dual- and quad-core chips used in modern smartphones were a waste of battery and weren't necessary for performance. Now Intel has waded into the debate, saying that support for dual-core chips on Android is so bad it's actually a detriment.

According to the Inquirer, Mike Bell, the chipmaker's general manager of the Mobile and Communications Group explained that data collected during internal testing suggest Android's thread scheduling just isn't ready to handle multi-core processors. He stated the results showed that even Google's latest Android 4.0 release (Ice Cream Sandwich) on devices with multiple cores offered little benefit and at times was even detrimental to overall performance.

"I've taken a look at the multiple core implementations in the market, and frankly, in a thermal and/or power constrained environment – what has been implemented – it isn't obvious to me you really get the advantage for the size and the cost of what's going into that part," said Bell. "The way it's implemented right now, Android does not make as effective use of multiple cores as it could, and I think – frankly – some of this work could be done by the vendors who create the SoCs, but they just haven’t bothered to do it."

Bell believes chipmakers haven't done enough to optimize Android for dual- and quad-core phones. This despite advertising campaigns promoting such devices as considerably more powerful, in what has almost become a competition to offer the highest number of processing cores for eager consumers.

While Bell didn't point the finger at any particular chip, he did point out that internal testing of Android handsets had shown that chips with multiple cores at times ran slower than single-core implementations.

"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. 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," Bell further commented.

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