Wednesday, September 09, 2009

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/N95
Texas Instruments OMAP2420
330 MHz ARM1136 + 220 MHz TI TMS320C55xDSP + PowerVR MBX 2D/3D Graphics Accelerator + IVA
Nokia E71, E66, N79, N85
32bit Freescale MXC300
369 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N96
32bit STMicroelectronics Nomadik STn8815A12
264 MHz ARM926EJ-S
Apple iPhone
Samsung S5L8900
620MHz ARM1176JZF (downclocked to 412MHz)
Apple iPhone 3G
Samsung S5L8900
835MHz (downclocked to 412MHz)
Nokia N86, N97
32bit Freescale MXC300
434 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia E72
32bit Freescale MXC300
600 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N900
Texas Instruments OMAP3430
600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 + PowerVR SGX graphics core + IVA 2+
Apple iPhone 3GS
Samsung S5PC100
600MHz ARM Cortex A8 + 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, N85
32bit Freescale MXC300
369 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N96
32bit STMicroelectronics Nomadik STn8815A12
264 MHz ARM926EJ-S
Apple iPhone
Samsung S5L8900
620MHz ARM1176JZF (downclocked to 412MHz)
Apple iPhone 3G
Samsung S5L8900
835MHz (downclocked to 600MHz) ARM1176JZF + 100MHz PowerVR SGX 530 graphics core + VPU

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 a thorough updating with the new ARM Cortex A8.
Nokia N86, N97
32bit Freescale MXC300
434 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia E72
32bit Freescale MXC300
600 MHz ARM1136JF-S + 220MHz StarCore SC140 DSP
Nokia N900
Texas Instruments OMAP3430
600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 + PowerVR SGX graphics core + IVA 2+
Apple iPhone 3GS
Samsung S5PC100
600MHz ARM Cortex A8 + 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.
Phone
E71
E72
Battery
BP-4L 1500 mAh
BP-4L 1500 mAh
Talk (GSM/WCDMA)
10h 30min/4h 30min
12h 30min/5h 42min
Standby (GSM/WCDMA)
17 days/20 days
20 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.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

N82 has 3G, great GPS, a better camera w/ zenon flash, video recording, better txting ... all lacking in the iphone.

The only iphone advantages are a better screen and better UI.

I choose the N82.

rich said...

when iphone gets gps/3G - my somewhat 'sluggish' n82 is going on ebay..

Anonymous said...

I have had an iPhone since Day 1 and am getting an N95 in the mail soon. Why? As powerful as the iPhone CPU maybe there is no concept as multitasking with the iPhone. Even Apple's new SDK doesn't allow apps to run in the background. This is ridiculous and it gets frustrating after a while. i.e. If you start loading a web page in Safari and then click the Home button, go to a different app...when you go back to Safari it will not have loaded the web page yet - it essentially just freezes the app in current state. Completely retarded. I'll happily take the lower powered but multitasking capability of a Nokia.

Anonymous said...

i think that we shouldn't judge battery performance from processor usage alone. what about the screen's power consumption? efficiency of radio antennae for cellular, wifi and bluetooth? what about efficiency of OS?

Anonymous said...

i've both iPhone and N82.. what i got to say is.. iPhone means showoff while N82 means business.. N82 beats iphone in every aspect except turning heads.. with regard to features... iPhone fails 2 give any competition to N82..

Anonymous said...

My gf has an Iphone and I have a nokia n82. She had previously owned some blackberry phone which had better call quality. Also she texted me more with the blackberry and hardly text me with her Iphone.

Anonymous said...

Your gf may have gotten a bit more attention with her new iPhone. Me thinks that might be the reason for her texting you less and less. Hmmm...you may wish to consider the Porsche C4S with GPS/Car Phone accessory to counter her move.

Al Pavangkanan said...

1) The N96 has a dedicated video encoder/decoder as well as a dedicated sound processor.

2) I thought the iPhone was downclocked to 412mhz to save battery life.

Belall said...

The iPhone is only for showoff... the UI of the iphone is really great for touchscreen but it is controlled entirely by apple... the Nokia N82 has everything that the iphone has and much much more.... The N82 is a complete phone with great features and performance... I choose without hesitation the N82....

Marcin said...

I think the best re e66 & n82. e66 why? becouse is the smallest and have more style than N79/N82/N95/iphone and some people dont need in phone good camera or sounds, but built quality and presence - that's why i bought e66. N82's great phone but! it's big! but if u really want good camera so this is the best choice (e66 camera sucks xD).

Anonymous said...

You are an idiot. You can't compare mobile by just having two pieces of paper. Have you tried them both??? Well I did, and I can tell the iphone is nothing compared to an N95 8GB. Not to mention the new N97. It lacks GPS, Camera, Video Recording for staters. That's what youget by paper. I used them both so I can teel you: The N95 8GB battery is better, the User Interface is slower, but I prefer it from the iphones, multitasking is way better, texting/calling is easier, it has a better user interface for a phone (more call/texting oriented) after all it is a phone not a laptop; and the best thing..it's Symbian.

Anonymous said...

Hey,

Just to let you know, but n82, n95, n93, e90 can all reach cpu frequencies like the iphone. They are downclocked as well, due to additional processors, and the twice as powerful 3d hardware. These phones use the professional powervr mbx version, while iphone uses the lite version to save battery life. These phones are more powerful than iphone both in the cpu and gpu. They are just downclocked.

Eric said...

@Anonymous - Yes, the Ti solution is downclocked but the max recommended frequency is still 450 MHz. I just updated my posting with the iPhone 3GS so we can see the iPhone has leapfrogged Nokia at the moment... until the N900.

Anonymous said...

The iPhone 3GS has not an ARM11 CPU: it has an ARM CORTEX A8 CPU.

Eric said...

@Anonymous - You're right. I had the wrong CPU listed in the tables. I've updated the iPhone 3GS to say it's using the Cortex A8, similar to the Pre and N900

Phasekay said...

Phasekay

Well done guys, good job.
The fact is if you want a always wanting UI choose the iphone but if you wanna multi task choose the Nokia symbian phones
for the iphone everything seems to be controlled by apple....

Shakshi S said...

Nokia phones have been most popular brand in the mobile phone segment. Associated with quality, reliability and affordability. Nokia Phone Battery likely too has a wonderful backup and charging capacity.