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This is Why the Snapdragon S4 Pro Performs So Well

By Joe Levi October 26, 2012, 7:39 am

Single-core versus dual-core used to be the big debate. As expected, we saw a fairly substantial jump in day-to-day activities when we went from one to two cores. People thought we'd see the same kinds of improvements going from dual-core to quad-core — though we really haven't.

Some have argued that we haven't seen a similar performance bump because Android isn't optimized for quad-core processors. I'm sure there's some truth to that, however, it looks like SoC architecture — rather than the number of cores — is more important to overall performance than just cramming a couple more cores in.


For those of you who've been living under a proverbial rock, the Snapdragon S4 Pro is the latest and greatest SoC to arrive on the mobile scene. Saying that it's performing amazingly well is a grotesque understatement. What's more, the little processor is smashing all the benchmarks and only sipping at the battery juice!

Tell me more about this S4...

Sure, the S4 Pro is amazing, but before we get into the guts of why that's the case, let's clear up some confusion surrounding the S4 family.

The Snapdragon S4 Pro could be considered the "middle" processor in the S4 line-up. That goes against most of what you'll hear everywhere else on the innerwebs. The reason I make that claim is because there are essentially six chips in the S4 family.

  • The S4 Play comes in dual or quad-core configurations up to 1.2 GHz, it's also based on the Cortex-A5 and includes an Adreno 230 GPU.

  • The S4 Plus occupies the third slot with a dual-core configuration up to 1.7 GHz based on the Krait architecture with a GPU up to the Adreno 305.

  • The fourth and fifth slots are where the S4 Pro comes into play. Available in either dual-core or quad-core, also up to 1.7 GHz, and also based on the Krait architecture with an Adreno 320 GPU.

  • The sixth and highest position is held by the S4 Prime: quad-core up to 1.7 GHz, Krait-based, with an Adreno 320 GPU.

To recap, the S4 Pro could be a 1.2 GHz dual-core or a 1.7 GHz quad-core package. You'll have to really watch your specs to determine which you're getting. Then again, unless you're a benchmarks junkie, I don't think you'll care.

The S4 Pro is capable of a powering a camera up to to 20 MP along with a flawless 1080p HD video recorder. Playback via the Adreno 320 GPU also helps the S4 Pro to shine and is said to be capable of playing multiple 1080P video streams at 30 fps without dropping a single frame.


Peter Parker with Uncle Ben
With great power comes great battery requirements… or something like that.

Whenever we talk about extra processing power or graphics resolution we have to flip the coin over and talk about the implications they have on battery life. One would think that, generally speaking, the more powerful the CPU/GPU, the more power it consumes. Too bad you're wrong.

As processor technology advances a few interesting things happen. Circuit paths get smaller so power requirements drop. Less heat is produced so there's less resistance which also contributes to a reduction in power demands.

As graphics processors get better they can take more load off the CPU which can not only make things look a whole lot nicer, it can also help reduce power consumption as well. It sounds crazy, I know.

I don't think we'll see batteries get any smaller (in capacity) any time soon, but looking at how much extra power is harnessed inside the the processors, the battery required to power them is a lot smaller than you might have imagined.

What about Krait!?

Yes, of course it's Krait! But is it Cortex-A15?

That's been a source for confusion for some time now. Qualcomm, like most other chip makers that license the ARM "goodies", doesn't adopt ARM's entire spec verbatim. Instead they adopt — and adapt.

In the chart below you can see where the Scorpion- and Krait-class processors stack up against the ARM Cortex specs. The Krait is considered a "Cortex-A15-class" processor by some, but not by others. Let's just say it's taken a lot of the stuff from the Cortex-A15 and adapted them for it's own awesome purposes. Deal?

krait chart
Hopefully this clears everything up!

We could go into minutiae all day long, suffice it to say that the S4 Pro is a new class of processor situated in the middle to high-end of that group. It's ideally suited for high-end smartphones and potentially even fairly powerful tablets. That's not being fair: an S4 Pro-powered tablet would ROCK! However, an S4 Prime -powered tablet would rock even more.

Move over Tegra, daddy wants a new pair of S4 Pros!

Image Credits: Qualcomm, Sony Pictures' Spiderman, Tom's Hardware


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