Does Mobile Computing Face Same Processor Limit As Laptops and Desktops?

May 6, 2013

Multicore Processors  In Mobile Devices Facing A Wall

The past two years created a golden age for mobile devices. With the advent multi-core processors, tablets and smart phones have computing power on par with that of computers just five years ago. This major revolution allowed for increased functionality and ever more capable apps. However, multi-cores may be reaching their physical limit. With this looming manifestation of Moore’s law, chip makers and mobile device manufacturers have to ask the tough questions about their upcoming product lines. How can you market a phone or tablet when you can’t make it any faster and powerful?  The ability to answer this question or even find solutions to the wall now faced with multi-core processors will decide who wins the next phase of the smartphone and tablet wars. 

 

 

Why There’s A Wall For Mobile Processors.

 

The proverbial wall that industry experts talk about is not a monolithic concept like the sound barrier or the speed of light.  it is a series of practical limitations that make a multi core processor an unreliable investment. First, there is the public demand for thin mobile devices. Slim and elegant devices are top sellers. Even laptops took on this trend with ultra books, super notebooks with slim profiles and hard drives.  The price for slim devices is overheating. Without the space for cooling fans these products can overheat easily. This leads to the next problem which is clocking speed. Along with the demand for thinner devices is the demand for faster ones. Computer manufacturers face the same problems. After a point, speed has diminishing returns due to cost of overheating and the drain on power. For mobile devices, this is a death sentence. They need to avoid overheating and the serious drain on power to justify their cost and profit margin.  For mobile devices a single processor can’t go far beyond 1 GHZ before it overheats. Even with multi-core processors this rule stays solid. Last but not least, multicore processors can only now use at most three processors at a given time. The others either drain power and waste processing cycles when employed.  Until the speed and power drain problem gets solved  there is no point in adding more cores to a chip set.

 

 

Products Not Keeping Up With The Technology

 

The last big obstacle is the programs run on these chips.  Writing code for dual core or higher processors is a complex business. It creates greater chances for mistakes that can make the effort worthless.  An app developer without the proper understanding of multi-thread encoding would fail at the task of taking full advantage of the processing power of  a multi-core chip. The result is a program that drains power and wastes processing power. This happens every time another core gets added.  Developers end up having more processing power than they need and they waste it.   Combined with other problems making chips with more than 4 cores doesn’t make sense financially or technically.  A bright spot in this problem is that it will force major manufacturers to begin the next set of innovations to make their mobile devices more profitable. It may mean enhancing a different feature or finding work-around solutions to the current problems.

 

 

Sources:

 

http://www.androidauthority.com/octo-core-where-will-it-end-153910/

http://www.engadget.com/2011/07/29/engadget-primed-are-multi-core-chips-worth-the-investment/

http://www.pcworld.com/article/257307/dual_core_processors_wasted_on_android_intel_claims.html

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