Monday, July 1, 2013

My Next Mobile?

Warning: This was written way back in April. Just didn't have enough time to actually finish it up and post it. 

Now is a terrible time for people who are looking for a a new phone and/or tablet to buy simply because there are so many exciting products announced yet you do not know exactly when they will come out! Even then you would have to play the waiting game for retailers to stock up for us international customers. Fortunately, I am broke right now so I share none of your frustration :).

For this post, I just wanted to share the criteria for my next ideal phone.

1) Full HD Screen
Yes, I know its an overkill. Nobody needs a full HD screen, you can barely see the pixels on the 720p blablabla... but I still want it :) You see, I KNOW that 720p is enough but all the hype about the 1080p mobile phones recently introduced, I can't help but WANT one :) Greed.

This is the reason why I want a full HD screen.. that or maybe I just want the HTC one. 
Pure perfection...

2) 2GB RAM

Again, haters are going to say that 1GB is enough for your phone, why would you want that much RAM on your phone anyway, 2GB will just reduce the battery life and so on. BUT again, you see.. I know that but I still WANT my next phone to have at least 2GB of RAM. Since most phones are equipped with at least 1GB of RAM nowadays, I would say that the extra RAM is more for future proofing than anything else. Of course there are people out there who would benefit from it (i.e. heavy multitasker) but in my opinion, improvements in the flash NAND performance would improve the multitasking experience just as much, if not more. 

3) >2500mAh Battery

Having played around with several phones in the past, I now know that given my usage pattern, I should only consider phones with >2500mAh of battery capacity especially with all those extra pixels to process. There are select few phones with >3000mAh batteries but I don't really think the added premium is worth it. My current phone (Newman N2 with 2500mAh battery) I can usually get about 2 days of day-to-day operation so that is a pretty good deal to me.

4) Quad Core

On this day and age, why would anyone settle for a dual core anymore? Unless you are using the WP8 (in which case you don't really have any choice but use a dual core :D ), you should really only consider buying quad core phones. They barely carry any price premium nowadays so it really doesn't make sense to buy a dual core Android phone anymore (at least not in the Chinese market).

This brings me to the next BIG topic: A15 vs. A9 vs. A7 vs. A8 vs. A5. 

To those who did not know, A15 refers to the currently shipping highest performance ARM core and as you go down to A5, the performance also decrease. Fortunately, with the performance deficit also comes lower power consumption hence heat dissipation (most of the times). 

Most of the currently shipping flagship phones are using the Snapdragon 600 SOC which contains 4 Krait cores. Krait is a custom Qualcomm design but for most parts you can imagine its performance being close to A15 cores although with better power profile. Currently, all the SOC manufacturers/designers seem to be focusing on improving performance at whatever cost. This reminds me of the Pentium 4 era a.k.a. the Gigahertz war. Hopefully the Conroe era will come soon where performance improvements will only be considered worthy if it does not significantly increases the power consumption.

Samsung also uses their own Octa-core Exynos 5 SOC which is a bit deceiving for me as you don't actually get to use all the 8 cores at the same time. Simply put, they basically have four A15 cores and four A7 cores on the same die and will dynamically choose which cluster to use depending on the workload. Think of it like the Tegra 3 four A9 cores and its companion core where in this case instead of just a core, the Exynos 5 have a companion cluster. I personally think its a bit too much. Wouldn't two A7 cores suffice for non-demanding tasks? But then again, what do I know.... One thing for sure, octa-core is far more marketable then a hexa-core but then again Nvidia could've said that the Tegra 3 is a penta-core. Marketings..

Enough rant for now, so for us Chinese phone buyers, what the currently available choices?
Well, basically you have MTK6589,MTK6589,MTK6589,MTK6589, and the APQ8064 :) Basically you have no choice really. The APQ8064 is only used in more expensive options such as the Oppo Find 5 and the Xiaomi Mi2. So I will only talk about the MTK6589. 

In a nutshell, the MTK6589/MT6589 contains four A7 cores. Thats right, we are only getting the companion clusters in the Exynos 5. The clock varies, the vanilla MT6589 version runs at 1.2GHz whereas the newer Turbo version runs at 1.5GHz. The GPU is PowerVR SGX 544MP running at 286MHz whereas the Turbo version runs at 357MHz. This is the same type of GPU found in the Exynos 5 Octa BUT the major difference being this is the single core version whereas the Exynos 5 have the triple core version. 

Just how much performance do we actually lose going from A15 to A7? Well, it is impossible to say just how much the difference is as it depends on the workload. Really, it makes no sense to compare these two as they are in two very different classes. The A15 is designed ground up for maximum performance while the A7 was designed for energy efficiency. It makes more sense to compare the A7 to the currently still-shipping A9 cores such as Tegra 3 and the Exynos 4412 (exactly the one I have in my Newman N2). 

As a wild guestimate, a 1.2GHz A7 would perform close to a 1.0GHz A9 but keep also in-mind that the A9 is an Out-Of-Order micro-architecture wherease the A7 is an In-Order so do not expect the same level of 'snappiness'. Since I currently clock my phone at 1.0GHz, getting a new phone with the stock MTK6589 would not be much of an upgrade could even be considered a downgrade in some aspects. 

However, I believe that the performance decrease should be worth it considering that the new SOC should run cooler and also uses less power hence longer battery life. I have been playing some online games on my phone and it does get rather toasty. The same problem also occurs while playing the same games on Galaxy S3 and the HTC One so I guess the pursuit of extreme performance comes with a clear cost. If the MTK6589 would in any way improve on this, I would gladly switch to it even at the expense of some performance. 

5) Android >4.0 at launch

After being stuck with Android 4.0 on my current phone (Freelander i20 aka Newman N2), I now vow to never purchase an Android phone which launched with the last 2 generation OS. Remember, these Chinese companies rarely provide any after sales support. For example, we were promised a Jelly Bean ROM for the Newman N2 "early April" but still nothing. To be fair, they didn't actually state the year so maybe I was wrong to assume it would be this year..

Hopefully I will find a phone with all these specifications while also being cheap. I guess I can keep on dreaming :)


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