Samsung says it’s Exynos 5 Octa chips will soon be able to use all 8 processor cores at once. But that doesn’t mean that phones or tablets with the octa-core chip will always be firing on all cylinders.
ARM has released a series of videos showing how it’s big.LITTLE Heterogeneous Multi-Processing technology allows the 4 ARM Cortex-A7 and 4 ARM Cortex-A15 processor cores in a chip like the Exynos 5420 to work together by switching cores on or off as needed.
The ARM Cortex-A7 processor cores use less power and offer less performance than the Cortex-A15 cores. But you don’t actually need the performance boost you get from the more power-hungry components for most activities.
For instance, you can play casual games like Angry Birds at full frame rate using nothing but the Cortex-A7 cores. After all, this is a game that was originally designed to run on devices with even slower chips.
When you are running a more demanding app such as QuickOffice, the ARM Cortex-A15 cores jump into action — but it’s not an all-or-nothing situation. The Exynos 5420 chip is constantly adjusting which processor cores are working in order to offer the best performance at the lowest possible power consumption.
At any given moment your device could have all 4 Cortex-A7 cores running, but only 1 or 2 Cortex-A15 cores. Or all 8 cores could run at once. Or they could all be idle if you’re just looking at a static image.
Theoretically, the end result should be phones and tablets that feel faster, but which offer better battery life than current models that don’t support Heterogeneous Multi-Processing, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 with an Exynos 5410 — although Chinese device maker Meizu suggests that it may be able to bring HMP capabilities to the Exynos 5410 chips in its smartphones through a software update.