In late October, Google introduced their benchmark phone for the year 2014 – the Nexus 5. When analyzing the technical specifications of the device, many are impressed to see that it has a 2.26 GHz processor, similar in speeds to many mid range laptops. This is impressive, but the issue is whether mobile processors are the same as their desktop/laptop counterparts.
Let’s take a quick comparison between mobile and desktop processors.
How are processors measured?
The processor, or Central Processing Unit (CPU), is the brain of your device. Its job is to carry out instructions that are located in the program, or app. All processors are measured in Hertz (Hz), which is how many operations can be carried out by the processor in one second. Because they have become so fast, almost all processors are measured in GigaHertz (GHz). A phone or computer with a 2.6 GHz processor should be able to complete 2.6 billion operations in one second.
What’s the difference between mobile and desktop processors?
Both computers and smartphones are marketed heavily by their processor, and while the function is the same – both allow the individual devices to work – there are two major differences:
When processors run they generate heat. Lots of heat. Because mobile devices are considerably smaller than computers, the heat generated by a running mobile processor is often amplified and can seriously harm components, or even melt them. Therefore, the developers and designers of the devices limit, or throttle, the speed at which a mobile processor can run. This means that if a processor is getting hot, it will limit its speed, which equates to slower performance.
Because of this throttling, the processor on many phones will actually run slower than the advertised speed. In fact, the advertised speed of mobile processors is normally the maximum. Compare this to most computer processors, where the advertised speed is usually the average running speed, and you begin to see why computers are more powerful.
The second big difference is connected with performance. If you take a computer and compare it to a mobile device with the same speed of processor, the computer will usually be able to do more. This is because the processor is limited in what it can do by the other hardware components, like the RAM, Graphics Processing Unit, etc. Computers have more space, so they can fit more advanced components, and are consequently able to do more.
That being said, processor and other mobile technology is advancing at a blistering pace and it is highly likely that mobile hardware will continue to increase in overall power, and eventually be able to compete more effectively with larger computers.
If you are looking to learn more about the hardware you use on a daily basis, we have the information you need at the ready.