Until now, smartphones with quad-core processors used to be just a twinkle in the eye of wistful Android addicts and gadget gurus. Either that or they remained exotic pieces of futuristic hardware reserved for foreigners. Quad-core handsets are now starting to arrive in force. The question is: which device packs the biggest CPU wallop? This chart lays it all out with deeper analysis below.
|Phone||HTC One X+||LG Nexus 4||LG Optimus G||HTC Droid
|Samsung Galaxy Note 2|
|Processor||1.7GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3||1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro||1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro||1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro||1.6GHz quad-core Exynos|
|Linpack (multithread)||168.7 MFLOPs||204.7 MFLOPs||338 MFLOPs||401.6 MFLOPs||200.7 MFLOPs|
|Linpack (single-thread)||57.9 MFLOPs||69.3 MFLOPs||231.6 MFLOPs||221.2 MFLOPs||65.75 MFLOPs|
|Boot time (in seconds)||17.8||23||45||11.2||11.2|
|Camera boot time (in seconds)||0.8||1.82||1.89||0.8||0.8|
Cutting-edge processor battleground
Quad-core processors are the new high-stakes battlefield of the mobile marketplace with at least three major players vying for dominance. The first heavyweight is Nvidia, which has deep roots in the PC graphics space and cut its chops building add-in cards for desktop computers. Now the company wants a slice of the mobile market with its Tegra 3 chips. The HTC One X+ is a big win for the spunky silicon designer, the first smartphone in the U.S. to use its hardware.
Qualcomm is the 800-pound Gorilla in the room. The large company has deep resources and a legendary history in the mobile market, and it shows. Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 processors have been adopted by major makers this year such as Motorola, HTC, and Samsung for use in their current phone lineups for 2012. Speaking of Samsung, while its superpopular Galaxy S III uses CPUs crafted by Qualcomm, in the U.S. that is, the Galaxy Note II runs homegrown quad-core Exynos processors. Who will ultimately prevail? The future is certainly uncertain.
The quad-core conundrum
Currently there are five quad-core Android smartphones being sold by major American wireless carriers. Besides all being gargantuan, they come in distinctive sizes, shapes, and designs. Most interesting, however, is that they use different processors all brandishing the same quad-core catchphrase. But are all quad-core implementations created equal? I decided to try and find out.
I looked at the five quad-core smartphones I could get my hands on: the HTC One X+, LG Nexus 4, LG Optimus G, HTC Droid DNA, and Samsung Galaxy Note 2. As I expected, every device on this formidable list of heavy-hitting handsets is a genuine fire-breather in its own right. Of course, just as in "Highlander," there can be only one -- please forgive me, I just couldn't resist.
How I tested
Let me get this off my chest first. I did not evaluate gaming performance as a discrete part of my testing procedure. Cue the howls of outrage! OK, I know many will object to this tactic, especially perhaps Nvidia, but one of the benchmark apps I selected, Quadrant Standard, has a robust graphics portion rolled into it.
I also subjected my crop of elite mobile devices to both the single-thread and multithread tests using the Linpack CPU benchmark app. It's a software title I use regularly on all my Android test devices and tends to back up my anecdotal experience with review units and their specific hardware allotment.
The cold, hard results
You might expect that with its long-awaited Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, the HTC One X+ would pummel all comers in terms of CPU performance. Not so, for although the phone turned in a high Linpack score (multithread) of 168.7 MFLOPs, it was the lowest in my mini roundup. The One X+'s Quadrant score of 7,355 put it in the middle of the pack, however. It scored higher than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (6,098) and LG Nexus 4 (4,861), but not the LG Optimus G (7,379) or HTC Droid DNA (8,165) on the same test.
In fact, the clear winner of my quad-core battle was the HTC Droid DNA, which, as I stated before, barreled through the Quadrant benchmark, notching an outstanding score of 8,165 -- the highest I've ever recorded. Its Linpack (multithread) score of 401.6 MFLOPs wasn't too shabby, either. Actually it, too, has the highest result I've personally seen from a phone on this test -- twice those of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (200.7 MFLOPs) and the LG Nexus 4 (204.7 MFLOPs).
The LG Optimus G demonstrated its significant performance muscle, too, earning second place overall, though its slow boot time of 45 seconds is inexplicable. Its cousin, the LG Nexus 4, exhibited low performance numbers despite its squeaky-clean, pure Android OS.
Now I know the results I experienced may not paint the whole performance picture. That said, they do echo my broad impression of these devices even though the very synthetic nature of the benchmark tests I used is essentially artificial. I doubt any of these amazingly quick devices, however, will leave you wanting for processing power.