Intel: Second core detrimental to Android performance

Intel is certainly no stranger to making wild claims for its own products and against the competition.

Mike Bell, general manager of Intel’s mobile communications group, most recently tossed a claim at Google’s Android, which is typically powered by rival RISC-based ARM processors in nearly 99.9% of smartphones and tablets.

According to Bell, Android’s thread scheduler simply isn’t ready for multicore processors. Why, you ask? Well, Bell says the results of internal Intel testing illustrate that a second core is actually a detriment to performance in some cases.

Some Android smartphone makers, says Bell, should have thought about this last year when they launched smartphones with dual core processors – before the Android operating system was actually capable of supporting a second core. Indeed, support for dual core processors didn’t officially surface until Android 2.3.4 launched in April of last year.

“If you are in a non-power constrained case, I think multiple cores make a lot of sense because you can run the cores full out, you can actually heavily load them and/or if the operating system has a good thread scheduler,” Bell opined.

“A lot of stuff we are dealing with, thread scheduling and thread affinity, isn’t there yet and on top of that, largely when the operating system goes to do a single task, a lot of other stuff stops. So as we move to multiple cores, we’re actually putting a lot of investment into software to fix the scheduler and fix the threading so if we do multi-core products it actually takes advantage of it.”

As most claims of performance leveled against competitors go, Intel’s is pretty typical insofar as the chipmaker has offered no details on what device they tested, or how exactly they tested the device to support its claims. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Bell from claiming that Intel’s internal testing showed multi-core implementations run slower than a single core on Android.

“If you take a look a lot of handsets on the market, when you turn on the second core or having the second core there [on die], the [current] leakage is high enough and their power threshold is low enough because of the size of the case that it isn’t entirely clear you get much of a benefit to turning the second core on,” he explained.

“We ran our own numbers and [in] some of the use cases we’ve seen, having a second core is actually a detriment, because of the way some of the people have not implemented their thread scheduling.

As noted above, Bell also pointed an accusing finger at Android device makers, in addition to criticizing Android.

“The way it’s implemented right now, Android does not make as effective use of multiple cores as it could, and I think – frankly – some of this work could be done by the vendors who create the SoCs, but they just haven’t bothered to do it,” he added.