Are Smartphone Octa-core Processors Beneficial or Just a Marketing Ploy?

As newer smartphones continue to join their lesser performing counterparts in the market, we are definitely going to see a lot of octa-core processors present in these mobile devices. The most recent one happens to be Samsung’s Exynos 8890, which has four of the company’s own custom processing cores, while the remaining four are Cortex-A53 cores. MediaTek’s Tru Octa-Core is another one. However, the question here is, are octa-core processors present in smartphone actually beneficial, or are they used as a marketing gimmick?

Octa-core Processors Work, But Other Factors Need Consideration

Software and hardware must play along nicely in order to ensure that the smartphone functions smoothly, and is able to provide adequate battery life. The more cores a processor has, the automatic assumption that people have is that it consumes more battery. While this is true to an extent, the architecture and design of the processor also go a long way in delivering a ton of performance and ensuring high battery life. So where exactly does software play a part in this?

For Android smartphone manufacturers, they have this terrible habit of shifting away from a pure Android experience and run extra software on top of it. Their skinned UI has been customized and stuffed with many bloated applications. These apps put undue stress on those processing cores, reducing performance as a result. This is possibly the reason why high-end devices need to have more cores running otherwise the entire operating system will feel extremely sluggish.  Alternatively, they can keep their customizations at a minimum.

Google’s Nexus and Apple iPhones Represent a Pure Experience

Additionally, why do you feel that a Nexus device performs significantly smoother than a current generation smartphone despite not featuring ‘eye protruding’ hardware? It’s because the software has been toned down to such an extent that processing cores are utilized very little (they are only utilized when you actively use the device, which is the complete opposite case for other manufacturers’ phones). This would also explain why Apple has continued to maintain a dual-core processor in its iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

The company knows that it cannot achieve much while being limited to hardware, so it branched out to refining its software, made the customised processors play nicely with that software, and as a result, deliver much better performance. We still do not understand why companies feel the need to put in so many applications when they know that there are much more suitable alternatives available on the Google Play Store. It ultimately ruins the experience for the user.

When Quad-core Processors Work, Why Go for the Octa-core Gimmick?

The answer: While more cores do equal to better performance in some situations, lots of companies have started to use this marketing tactic in an effort to sell more phones. Qualcomm has openly admitted that even though quad-core processors are more than enough to finish the job, the company purposely develops octa-core processors since it knows that consumers will be more attracted at the prospect of seeing more cores in a smartphone.

The company has announced Snapdragon 820, and unlike the overheating Snapdragon 810, the latest chipset runs on four custom developed processing cores. This is also clear proof that you do not always need more cores for a smartphone to run fluidly, and that it is the software that will require the majority of the tweaking. If you do get a chance, try running a Nexus device with a smartphone belonging to another manufacturer, and you will immediately be able to notice the difference.

So what have we learnt at the end of the day? Are octa-core processors used as a marketing stunt? To an extent, they are, but there are several benefits of having more cores running in a smartphone, as long as the right conditions are met. However, keep in mind that Apple has shown that their devices are functioning quite well while running just two cores, so looking at this evidence, we have to say that it is the software that needs quite a wee bit of work too.

  • Not much beneficial. It is only beneficial in terms of power efficiency. You can still get a better performance from a quad core one. If in Pakistan or if it’s a QMobile. Then definitely it is a marketing ploy.

  • I agreed more cores are not beneficial since A9 put cores to shame! but Qualcomm failed to deliver a good octa cores SoC, while others did.

      • 810 is their WORST CPU of the year … boy have the big boys regretted taking that one in …
        just go look at reviews of some top-notch phones (not that they are in substance , due to the heating issues) housing the 810… almost all of them suffer from the same overheating issue.

    • I actually prefer MediaTek since they are cheaper and deliver much better performance compared to Qualcomm chipsets. Qualcomm was also forced to lay off 15 percent of its workforce, which shows how terrible the Company’s progress is with its Snapdragon 810.

      • exactly … they were disastrous this year . only the 808 was a sensible cpu. v.few phones were able to evade the over heating in 615 and the older , 32 bit 801 was preferred by flagships later in the year after they realised 810 was nothing but a really small oven :p

        • Latest phones like Xperia Z5 Premium and Lumia 950 XL have placed heat pipe thermal solutions so that heat generated from the processor can be effectively removed from the smartphone. It was a smart move on their part, but Qualcomm needs to get their stuff together or else Samsung and MediaTek will rule the market. So smartphone manufacturers have also resorted to producing their own chipsets because it is much cheaper to outsource and plays nice with their interface too.

          • hmm … obviously there should be no need for phone OEM to use their own fixes for the cpu , thats the chip maker’s part.
            Samsung’s Exynos range is v.good but its only used in high-end phones and they’re really really costly.
            MTK on the other hand … have got most of the budget and mid-range market in their hand and could have an unassailable hold IF Qualcomm don’t mend their ways… or cpus for that purpose :p

        • I have used 801 in OnePlus & LG G3 both got heating issues, I didn’t think 808 is any better since BB Priv and other recent version also surfur from heating issues.

          What amazing! is that new open source thermal manager from sony working well on my LG G3 but takes hit on performance of CM 12.1.

      • I own 4 mediatek powered phones and I am disappointed because manufacturer don’t releases source code due to mediatek policy. No source code means no custom roms and so software updates, no security patches if you want to apply yourself.

        • You do realize that most companies partner with Qualcomm way before Qualcomm actually released its Snapdragon 810. Most devices had to run the chipset’s processor (the Cortex-A57 cores) at a much lower speed because otherwise those phones would begin overheating. Sony’s Xperia Z3+ and Xperia Z4 were overheating tremendously because of this issue and Sony had to recall back a large number of units because of this.

          • they have also made special type of heat-sink for this soc. But as always those extreme temperatures came from benchmarks not real world usage. Even after news heat issues about sd 810 became common many manufacturers kept on introducing it for their newest devices. Samsung has their own high end soc so they were able to bypass sd 810 ,other unfortunately couldn’t.

            • The heat sink solutions came after companies recognized that there was a overheating problem with the smartphones. While recording 4K videos, Sony Xperia Z3+’s camera app used to crash because of overheating. Several companies have switched to MediaTek because it provides much better alternatives. On a side note, companies should not have to place in heat sinks, it is clearly Qualcomm’s fault for using such a crappy design for its SD 810.

              • if snapdragon could be made on smallest nm size as samsung made their soc for s6 this problem might not have arise.

                • It’s not just smaller manufacturing process because the entire design of SD 810 was completely messed up. Qualcomm did not give enough importance to its design. If Samsung didn’t give enough importance to Exynos 7420 design than that would have overheated the chipset too. MediaTek MT6795 is made on the 28nm and so is Snapdragon 801. They don’t overheat because of how the companies designed them.

                  • sn 810 was based on performing well. you can’t perform well with higher nm made soc due to high power consumption and subsequent heat generation.


                      If you have YouTube working with you then I suggest that you watch this video. Xperia Z3 (running a Snapdragon 801) goes head to head against Xperia Z3+ (Snapdragon 810) and actually beats in a couple of tests. Due to the overheating of Snapdragon 810, the processor throttles, resulting in far less performance. Like I said, it also depends on the design of the chip, which Qualcomm messed up badly in. Just so you know, MT6795 comes very close to the performance of Snapdragon 808, which is made on the 20nm process, while MT6795 is made on the 28nm process. Nanometer does have a lot of benefits, but ultimately, the design is equally imporant.

    • There are 12 core Intel Xeon processors and AMD 8 core processors as well. AMD is also working on a 24 core processor. What are you talking about. Only the mainstream market has released quad-core processors and hexa-core ones because a single machine honestly needs only that much when you’re running Windows and need to play the latest games.

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