By Joe Levi | May 31, 2012 9:40 PM
At first we thought the Japanese were just lucky to be getting a 2GB version of the Samsung’s Galaxy S III. Then we found out that the Canadians were getting one and we had to scratch our heads.
Sure, there’s a trade-off. For the extra RAM it looks as if you’ll have to drop from a quad-core Exynos chip to a dual-core Snapdragon S4. This raises a few questions…
Do we need 2GB RAM on our smartphones?
There’s a fine line between “want” and “need”. We covered that in a previous article, so we won’t go into it here. What’s worth noting, however, is that LG is already stepping things up to 2GB, so it’s really only a matter of time. Samsung is taking a step in the right direction by offering a version of their next flagship phone with 2G RAM.
Do quad-core devices perform better?
In a word: yes. Quad-core devices generally perform better than phones and tablets outfitted with dual-core CPUs — but not by very much. Devices so equipped perform notably better in benchmarks, but in real-world use, the differences are much more subtle. So subtle in fact that most of the time you won’t be able to tell the difference between the two. Which leads us to the next question…
Does doubling the RAM help?
Again: yes. Think back to devices that only have 512MB RAM in them. Now compare them to today’s 1GB phones and tables. That extra RAM helped — a lot! Okay sure, the processor speeds evolved a lot during that time, as well as some maturation of the operating system, and more reliance on the GPU to help process and render graphics. Nonetheless, that extra bit of RAM still helped.
If we look back to desktop computers as a reference point, adding RAM helps so much that various levels of disk-based caching were developed to help simulate having more RAM. Heck, Microsoft even went as far as letting you set up “ReadyBoost” on a USB stick to help cache on faster memory chips than writing the cache to the hard disk first. SSDs came along and negated the need for all that, and we’ve essentially got SSDs running inside our phones and tablets, but I digress.
To sum up: yes, adding more RAM helps increase performance.
Is there another reason for the different chip?
Although we’ve kept the discussion to just processor cores and RAM amounts, there’s another question that we may want to ask: why is Samsung releasing the “same phone” with different CPUs?
My wife and I both own the GSM version of the Galaxy Nexus. It’s an awesome phone, and it’s “pentaband”, meaning it works great on AT&T’s as well as T-Mobile’s voice and HSPA+ data networks. Will the SGS3 also be pentaband? Apparently it will be lacking the 1700Mhz bank, if that’s the case it won’t be a good contender for use in the States on the T-Mobile network.
Does something about bands and 4G variations have something to do with the chip selection? Aha! I think we’ve hit on something here!
It looks like the quad-core Exynos chip doesn’t have built-in LTE, whereas the dual-core Snapdragon does! To “make up” for the “missing” two cores, Samsung likely opted to double the RAM to “even out” the performance.
The answer to the question likely boils down to whether or not you want LTE or HSPA+. Alas, AT&T has both whereas T-Mobile only has the latter, and it uses a band that the “unlocked” SGS3 likely won’t have.
Let’s assume none of the bands matter, nor does the presence or absence of LTE, which would I prefer: quad-core with 1GB RAM or dual-core with 2GB RAM?
It will be great to see how the two devices compare and what kind of performance difference an extra gigabyte of RAM really offers. As for me, I’ll go with 2GB RAM. What about you?