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Tech To Watch 2012: Quad Core Boosts Tablets and Smartphones

Mobile CPUs are leaping into another dimension as quad-core computing power comes to mobile devices. Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chips use a whopping four Cortex A9 cores. Think PC-like performance without compromised battery life. In fact, quad-core chips should be even more battery-efficient than their dual-core predecessors.

Qualcomm is also getting into the game with its quad-core Snapdragon S4 chip, expected to hit tablets during the second half of next year.  

Why It’s Important

Designed to be the brains of bleeding-edge mobile devices, Tegra 3 intelligently divides the computational workload among all four cores. If just one core is needed, then it will run at 1.4 GHz, but when multiple cores are required, all will operate at a slightly slower 1.3 GHz.

According to Nvidia, the division of labor depends on the intensity of the workload and the nature of an application. For example, while you’re playing a graphically challenging game, all four cores will be called into action. More mundane tasks such as checking email or viewing simple web pages may need only one core.

But wait—there’s more. Nvidia says a fifth processor, called the companion core, steps in to take care of the least intensive tasks (such as background app operations). This core ticks away at a much slower 500 MHz to minimize the hit to the battery.

Qualcomm’s S4 chip goes a step further by integrating a 3G/4G modem, allowing for more compact designs and even more power efficiency.

How It Will Change Your Life

Quad-core computing is the closest a mobile handset or tablet has ever come to matching the muscle of a laptop or desktop. With this power you’ll enjoy eye candy mobile users have never seen before, such as lifelike water effects, dynamic lighting, and scary-real physics. Plus, the platform supports 3D graphics and hardware acceleration.

Imagine swiftly stitching shots together into panoramas, splicing video clips, and editing multiple audio tracks using your tablet or smartphone. Soon it will be seamless, while also minimizing the impact on battery life.


The first mobile device to harness the power of quad core is the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet. Quad-core smartphones, such as the HTC Edge, should follow not too long after. Windows 8 tablets with quad-core processors inside, such as Qualcomm’s S4, will likely surface toward the end of the year. Now app developers will need to step up their games to match the high-powered hardware.