Nokia Nseries and Eseries vs. iPhone: CPU and Battery Life

* Updated 09/09/2009 - Added iPhone 3GS, Nokia E72, N86, Nokia N900. Merged the many tables into one table.

* Updated 10/22/2008, 10/1/2008

After almost a year since the iPhone was announced and more than half a year since it was launched, the iPhone to some other phone comparisons have started to die down. So just to add some wood to the dying fire, I'm here to state:

Current Nokia smartphones can't match the general computing performance of the iPhone

CPU


Nokia N82/N95Texas Instruments OMAP2420 330 MHz ARM1136 + 220 MHz TI TMS320C55xDSP + PowerVR MBX 2D/3D Graphics Accelerator + IVA
Nokia E71, E66, N79, N8532bit Freescale MXC300369 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N9632bit STMicroelectronics Nomadik STn8815A12264 MHz ARM926EJ-S
Apple iPhoneSamsung S5L8900620MHz ARM1176JZF (downclocked to 412MHz)
Apple iPhone 3GSamsung S5L8900835MHz (downclocked to 412MHz)
Nokia N86, N9732bit Freescale MXC300434 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia E7232bit Freescale MXC300600 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N900Texas Instruments OMAP3430600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 + PowerVR SGX graphics core + IVA 2+
Apple iPhone 3GSSamsung S5L8900835MHz (downclocked to 600MHz) ARM1176JZF + 100MHz PowerVR SGX 530 graphics core + VPU

Source: Semiconductor insights, Engadget, PDAdb.net
BoingBoing, iPhone 3G FCC filing

More after the jump.

From the configuration we can see that Nokia has placed a higher importance in call performance (probably from the inclusion of 3G video calling) with the use of a dedicated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) unit, namely the Texas Instruments 220 MHz TMS320C55xDSP).

Does the iPhone lag behind because it lacks a DSP?

No, not really.

In the following chart you will see the ARM1176 perform almost as good as the C55x:


Moreover you can see the ARM1136, found in the Nokia phones, perform almost as good as the ARM1176 with a similar clock speed. Too bad the iPhone packs a ARM1176 with almost double the clock speed.

Two is always better than one right? It could be if you're using both CPUs at the same time. With the flexibility of the Symbian S60 operating system on Nokia phones, you can initiate a video call while editing Microsoft Word/Excel documents in QuickOffice and seamlessly switch between them. The Apple iPhone hides the multitasking from the user and you don't have video calling so you will likely have the iPhone to your ear where you can't really do anything else simultanously. And that's when you realize 1 CPU on the iPhone is good enough if it could handle both DSP operations and general CPU usage as you rarely get to do both at the same time.

So when you're only using the general computing CPU, say for watching a video, the iPhone can process more frames and provide a snappier interface than the Nokia phones.

Battery

So here comes a drawback to the two processor set up on Nokia phones. They're power hungry compared to the iPhone since it has to power two CPUs. Even though each of them uses less power than the high clocked iPhone CPU, putting them together in a package creates a higher power usage situation since one is powering the UI while the other is handling cellular operations.

Now to add the nail to the coffin, Nokia has equipped their phones will less powerful batteries:

N95 - 950mAh
N82 - 1100mAh
N95 8GB - 1200mAh
iPhone/iPhone 3G - 1400mAh

Conclusion

The Nokia phones are equipped with a dedicated DSP CPU and a general ARM CPU while the iPhone makes due with a higher clocked general ARM CPU. The iPhone user interface doesn't emphasize the multitasking capability by hiding it from the user so a single processor design works well enough for it. Nokia equips their phones with two CPUs with one focussed on heavy DSP tasks like 3G calling while the other handles all other CPU tasks. The preferred design is based on how you use your phone. But with a more powerful battery and a single chip design, the iPhone will win in the battery life competition.

Reference:
Use a Microprocessor, a DSP, or Both?, BDti, 2007/04/04
DSP Design Line




Update 10/1/2008
Nokia's latest S60 phones (E-series and N-series) have switched from the Texas Instrument dual core N82/N95 to a Freescale single core in the E66/E71/N79/N85. Oddly enough, a single chip design was used in the N96 like the iPhone. However, the Nokia N96 phone use an older ARMv5 instruction set architecture as opposed to the ARMv6 of the iPhone and other Nokia phones. The iPhone continues to overshadow the Nokias with a higher frequency.

Nokia E71, E66, N79, N8532bit Freescale MXC300369 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N9632bit STMicroelectronics Nomadik STn8815A12264 MHz ARM926EJ-S
Apple iPhoneSamsung S5L8900620MHz ARM1176JZF (downclocked to 412MHz)
Apple iPhone 3GSamsung S5L8900835MHz (downclocked to 412MHz)

Source: iPhone 3G FCC filing

My original article wrote about the benefits of having a CPU with DSP combination and Nokia continues this with most of their latest phones except the N96. The latest Nokia phones do not have the 3D graphics accelerator as the N82/N95. It's too bad Nokia didn't outfit all their N-series devices with 3D graphics accelerators so N-gage games can stand out from standard Java games. Nokia's switch from a dual core to a single core design and leaving out graphics acceleration will improve battery life.

Nokia continues to outfit their phones with smaller batteries:
E66 - 1000mAh
E71 - 1500mAh
N79 - 1200mAh
N85 - 1200mAh
N96 - 950mAh

It is surprising that Nokia's next flagship phone, the N96, has such a low frequency and uses a single chip design compared to other Nokia devices. Out of all the Nokia phones, only the E71 has a larger battery (1500mAh) compared to the iPhone. I think it was a bad decision for Nokia to include low powered phones (like the N73) as being N-gage compatible when they could've differentiated their N-gage games from other games if 3D hardware acceleration was part of the N-gage platform.

Source:
MXC300-30: 3G Single Core Modem Platform
ARM1136JF-S - ARM Processor
ARM926EJ-S - ARM Processor
ARM1176JZ(F)-S - ARM Processor



Update 10/22/2008 notes: Revised clock speed for iPhone 3G, mentioned downclocking for iPhone, revised to refer to 3D hardware acceleration

Additional note: The Nokia N96 does support DSP and hardware video acceleration for 2D/3D with its STn8815A12 chipset. Read more at STMicroelectronics. Oddly enough, the JBenchmark scores for the N96 in the 3D category do not come close to the N82/N95 which feature a separate chip for 3D acceleration. The benchmarks more closely resemble the N85 that does not have 3D hardware acceleration.

Source: Mobile88, Mobile Arsenal




Update 09/09/2009
It's been almost a year since I updated this posting and things have only slightly changed with Nokia putting out Nseries and Eseries devices with a higher clock speed. Apple, not to let any competitor catch up, gave the iPhone 3GS an updated Samsung solution with graphics hardware acceration and higher clock speed but keeps the same CPU.

Nokia N86, N9732bit Freescale MXC300434 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia E7232bit Freescale MXC300600 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N900Texas Instruments OMAP3430600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 + PowerVR SGX graphics core + IVA 2+
Apple iPhone 3GSSamsung S5L8900835MHz (downclocked to 600MHz) ARM1176JZF + 100MHz PowerVR SGX 530 graphics core + VPU


Source: PDADB.net, Nokia N900

As I had suspected, the 32bit Freescale MXC300 used by Nokia in their Nseries and Eseries phones for the last year and a half had more capability than Nokia was using which explains the jump from 369MHz to 600MHz.

Since this post is about CPU to battery life I decided to look up the battery life of the Nokia E71 and E72 because they both use the same Freescale solution and same battery but the E72 uses a higher clock frequency.

PhoneE71E72
BatteryBP-4L 1500 mAh BP-4L 1500 mAh
Talk (GSM/WCDMA)10h 30min/4h 30min12h 30min/5h 42min
Standby (GSM/WCDMA)17 days/20 days20 days/24 days

Source: Nokia E71 Specifications, Nokia E72 Specifications

Very oddly, even though the E72 has a higher clock speed and same battery as the E71, the E72 has a much better life so there is much more to battery life than just CPU and battery capacity. Influences could be better firmware and hardware design.

Unfortunately, 600Mhz is the upper limit to the Freescale solution so Nokia had better find a better solution to keep up with their high-end competitors. I suspect Nokia will continue to use the Freescale solutions in their mid-tier devices, for its good balance of speed and battery life, well into 2011.

This is where Nokia's latest smartphone, the N900, comes in. The N900 discards the pathetic Freescale solutions and returns to the more powerful Texas Instrument solutions to provide the necessary speed to run today's applications and rich multimedia. This extra power puts it inline to compete with Apple's iPhone 3GS. If you don't believe me about how pathetic the Freescale solution is, try comparing the playability of Vampent vBagX on a E71 to the older N95.

The Nokia N900 will be a very exciting product for Nokia. I'm hoping to see a performance comparison between the N900 and the iPhone 3GS to see which will take the crown as the most powerful consumer smart phone.
Nokia Nseries and Eseries vs. iPhone: CPU and Battery Life Nokia Nseries and Eseries vs. iPhone: CPU and Battery Life Reviewed by Eric on 9/09/2009 Rating: 5

No comments:

As a courtesy, please include your nickname in your message if you are posting anonymously.

Powered by Blogger.