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Is there any point to the Samsung Galaxy S4's eight-core chip?

Samsung's Galaxy S4 super phone might have an eight-core processor, but it only uses four cores at once.

Samsung has lifted the lid on its new super phone, the Galaxy S4. While its design might not look much different from the older S3, a lot of noise has been made over the eight cores it uses in its processor. Before you get too excited about infinite power from eight whole cores though, there are some things you should know about that chip.

Although there are eight cores on board (see update below), you won't actually be using all of them at once. Instead, it's more of a four-plus-four situation. For normal tasks, including handling background processes, a quad-core Cortex A7 processor clocked at 1.2GHz will be used. When you load up the intense stuff like demanding 3D gaming, it'll switch over to a quad core Cortex A15 chip.

The S4's processor combines "the most energy efficient application processor that ARM has developed, the Cortex-A7, with the highest performance application processor for mobile application, the Cortex-A15," according to Laurence Bryant, director of mobile segment marketing for ARM, the company creates these chips.

Having the phone constantly running on the super-charged side of the chip will of course drain battery life faster than you can say "hand me my plug", so the lower-powered portion should help keep it from being too demanding of the juice.

You might be disappointed not to have the first phone that's making use of eight whole processing cores at once, but the fact remains that that much power in a phone would be pretty pointless. Annihilation of your battery aside, there just isn't anything you can really do with phones that require that kind of processing.

The majority of apps you're likely to use on a day to day basis can still run adequately on dual- and even single-core processors, with only the more demanding 3D games like Riptide GP and Real Racing requiring more juice to play smoothly. We'll see exactly how much this processor has to offer when we give it the full review treatment.

Update: Samsung has confirmed the UK will not receive the eight-core S4. "In the UK," Samsung says, "the Galaxy S4 will be available as a 4G device with a 1.9GHz Quad Core Processor." Read the full story here.

Head over to our preview of the S4 to read a whole lot more about the phone, and make sure to drop your comments below or over on our Facebook page.

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