How important are the amount of RAM and number of cores for a basic user’s smartphone?

Drsunil V May 13, 2014

Are advanced resources like 2GB RAM and 2.2 Quadcore processor really required for basic (not professional/business/heavy) user smart phone?

  1. Dalsan M
    May 21, 2014 at 8:32 am

    In reference to your question on CPU and memory regarding lag, sufficient memory is necessary to have different processes held in ready state for quick changes to another application, or to have more than one application running at the same time (multitasking). A decent speed and quality CPU it's necessary for quick processing and ability to change from one app to another while processing any other active process. The amount of time the CPU takes to process different processes and services can be reduced when using multiple cores, but there is a limit due to how the programs are coded (most are not coded for use of more than 2 cores, if even for more than a single core of the processor.

    Generally, lower CPU speed and power can be helped with a substantial amount of memory. Low CPU speed can be helped through free available memory. Without getting into technical detail, there needs to be a balance between CPU power, speed, and number of cores in relation to the amount of physical memory as well as amount of free RAM.

  2. Bijoe
    May 15, 2014 at 10:41 am

    It all depends on intended usage. If you're a heavy gamer, then it's important. Other than that... I agree with one of previous posts - Android seems to be sucking lots of juice, so it may need greater resources. That's speaking in general terms. If the OS is optimised properly for a particular device, then anything should be fine. At the end of a day though, if you don't take care of your system, it WILL start to lag. Just like any other computer.

    • Drsunil V
      May 17, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Point noted

  3. Abbas ELMAS
    May 15, 2014 at 9:05 am

    i can give example from my device which is galaxy note (N7000) 1GB Ram and 2 core 1.4 Ghz processor (really ideal for an android device)

    My note can't work with samsung stock rom yes you read it correct can't work. There is so much bloatware in it
    I use slimrom on my note and so that it can show its capacity without any lag or slow down, my device is in like its first days which was 2011 and android 2.3 its 2014 and my n7000 has android 4.4.2

  4. Wim Van Renterghem
    May 15, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Mobile phones are sold because of 3 main reasons: hype, OS and budget

    The hype is that users buy a phone that they have seen is awesome (either through friends or online). Take the Oneplus One, there is massive hype around this phone because of it's low price but high specs. Everyone that has seen their website will probably consider this as their next phone.

    The other aspect is OS, people buy phones for it's operating system. They buy what they heard is good or what they have used. People with a tight budget will look into Android phones, others with a broader budget will look into iPhones.

    I have mentioned budget above, but it is the single most important aspect of what phone a customer buys. There are low-end phones for people with a tight budget (Symbian, Windows Phone, Android), and there are high-end phones for people with a larger budget (mostly iOS and flagship Android)

    For me, I have decided what phone to use because of what it has proven to me (almost 2 years and not a sinle hiccup), but I am going to replace it. With the newer version of course, because of the probably awesome features they will announce for it :)

    PS: Can you guess my phone?

    • Susendeep D
      May 19, 2014 at 10:59 am

      It seems that you've Lumia 920 or 1020.

  5. Muhammad Zubair
    May 15, 2014 at 6:13 am

    I have used the LG Optimus G Pro and its great in performance. I say the specifications are worth it. It feels like I am in a movie or something its tap and go. I dont have to wait for anything to open. On the other hand I am using Galaxy S2 with dual core processor and it is far behind from the Optimus G Pro.

    As for windows phones and iphones as far as I know the OS is optimized according to the hardware which makes it work so good.

    As android is used on so much devices it cant be optimized to be used on every single hardware.

    • Drsunil V
      May 17, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks. I read your response with care. Please tell what is optimum hardware specs for Android 4?

  6. Cody Smith
    May 15, 2014 at 4:33 am

    In any computing device (smartphones can TECHNICALLY be counted as a mobile computing device since it does all that's required to be called that and more) there are currently 5 main parts needed, a CPU, a mainboard, a GPU, RAM, and a PSU, the mainboard and PSU are usually the least important of the 5, the CPU, GPU and RAM about equally important to a smooth interface, the GPU helps determine how smooth animations and graphical stuff will be along with help from the CPU, the CPU will help with the animations and other general processing stuff that isn't passed to the GPU, and the RAM determines the multitasking capabilities along with the CPU.

    • Drsunil V
      May 15, 2014 at 6:34 am

      Thanks. Nicely put for basic user to understand! You mentioned -- quote "the GPU helps determine how smooth animations and graphical stuff will be along with help from the CPU, the CPU will help with the animations and other general processing stuff that isn’t passed to the GPU, and the RAM determines the multitasking capabilities along with the CPU." -- unquote. Please tell , 1) what is role of CPU in multitasking. Do CPU and RAM both contribute to smoothness of "multitasking / avoiding lag" , or is it only RAM which helps to "multitasking / avoiding lag" ? AND , 2) You mentioned "the CPU will help with the animations and other general processing stuff that isn’t passed to the GPU," Does this imply that if GPU is not sufficient , then a powerful CPU can help for smooth animations?

    • Cody Smith
      May 15, 2014 at 6:59 am

      1) both the CPU and RAM are almost directly linked to raw performance, and both are essential to a booting system. The more RAM you have the more multitasking can be done, likewise with a more powerful CPU,

      2) no, the CPU has a minimal hand in that, the main reason I put it there is the CPU is what assigns tasks to a GPU. Now the GPU, on the other hand can step in to supplement a CPU when needed with CUDA, something that not all GPUs have.

    • Drsunil V
      May 17, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks. You mentioned , quote -- "both the CPU and RAM are almost directly linked to raw performance, and both are essential to a booting system." - unquote.
      Please tell , out of RAM and CPU , which plays role mainly in booting and which plays mainly in performs multitasking?

    • Drsunil V
      May 27, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      Nice ans!

  7. Susendeep D
    May 14, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Such specs are not even enough to run a phone if the OS is bloated enough and you'll definitely notice lag on it(and you know such device). For smoother operations in normal usage,besides hardware,the OS must be slick enough to not to burden the hardware.

    • Drsunil V
      May 15, 2014 at 6:40 am

      thanks. Please tell ,1) is less random memory required for windows phone than for Android phone , for same level of smoothness? 2) If yes , why?

    • Susendeep D
      May 15, 2014 at 9:56 am

      The important fact is that Microsoft works on same type of hardware i.e. supports only Qualcomm processors and specific set of screen resolutions and has pre defined hardware requirements to run on.This makes the OS free from the burden of supporting varied hardware which Android has to suffer from.

      Moreover,I think that since Windows phone runs on NT kernel and uses C++ runtime which is faster than Java runtime,which is used by Android,hence windows phone OS can be optimized to run smoother.

      So,in conclusion,it's the optimization of OS that makes the OS work smoother.

    • Drsunil V
      May 17, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks. Please tell , is it true that high budget android phones and low budget android phones differ mainly on processor type ( Qualcomm Snapdragon and NON-Qualcomm Snapdragon ) with other parameters constant ( same cores , same GHZ processor , Same RAM ,.. battery..internal storage.......... )

    • Susendeep D
      May 19, 2014 at 10:55 am

      No,there are also difference in other parameters as mentioned by you(cores,clock speed,RAM etc.).

      A low end phone will not have same core design but can have same number of cores.You cannot expect two processors with same clock speed(measured in GHz) to perform same as there are architectural differences between them.

      A low end phone can have low speed RAM or of another type(like DDR2 vs LPDDR3).

      Internal storage also known as flash memory can be referred to as small sized SSDs.You might be knowing that they come in different speeds.So,a low end phone will be having a low speed memory which will be significantly slow down if it doesn't have atleast Android 4.3 as its OS.

      Earlier,other components of a phone was progressing much faster and battery tech was ignored.Now,Samsung has been said to have improved its battery by using only 2600 mAH capacity and ensuring it to last full heavy usage for a day.This type of tech you might not get in low end phones.Also,USB 3.0 port will not be which is beneficial for a large capacity battery to get charged quickly.

  8. Rajaa C
    May 14, 2014 at 1:57 am

    Sunil, My Lumia 520 is Dual Core with 512 RAM and i have till date not faced any lag or performance issue. What Oron says is correct, however also depends on how resource hungry the Mobile OS is also. I personally feel Android needs more juice in hardware than Windows Phone OS. :)

    • Oron J
      May 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

      I completely agree about Windows Phone, and in fact have written in another answer around the same time!

    • Drsunil V
      May 15, 2014 at 6:39 am

      @Rajaa : thanks. Please tell ,1) Is it the FREE random memory which is responsible to prevent lag / offer smooth multitasking? 2) In windows phone , the app processess do not keep restarting and eating "FREE" random memory , and thus avoid lag to function smoothly with 512 mb random memory?

    • Rajaa Chowdhury
      May 16, 2014 at 1:53 am

      YES for both Sunil. :)

    • Drsunil V
      May 17, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      Thanks. Please tell , 1) do you mean that Android phone requires greater RAM and CPU cores , in comparison to Windows phone with other parameters constant?
      2) Does Windows phone use lesser battery than it's Android counterpart? Please elaborate

  9. Oron J
    May 13, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    2GB RAM are not necessary, but 512MB, as found on many budget phones, really is not enough
    so I'd suggest at least 1GB. And no, quad core CPUs are not required but again, a single core processor has the potential to get bogged down at times, so a dual-core would be much better. If I had to compromise on either memory or the CPU, I'd sooner have the slower processor.

    • Drsunil V
      May 15, 2014 at 6:36 am

      Thanks. Please tell , how much "Free" RAM is sufficient to avoid lag on Android phone of 5 inches?

    • Oron J
      May 15, 2014 at 10:08 am

      I don't know. I know (from own experience and that of others) that having 512MB in total is often not enough, but 1GB seems to be just fine.

    • Dalsan M
      May 16, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      I noticed that the free RAM also depends on the processor as far as single core, multi-core, and speed as far as performance. Higher than 1GHz single core performs better with 190MB or more free RAM, but 1GHz dual or higher speed or cores can comfortably use about 120MB or more free RAM, down to 90MB. Any less than 90MB, expect stuttering and lag.

      I'd recommend 1GB RAM dual core processor for best performance with today's apps and websites to ensure minimal lag and stuttering, but this also depends on bloatware pre-installed as well as what apps you have installed that runs in the background. If you must have a single core device, the higher the speed, the better. Any more than 2 cores for basic use and the extra cores would hardly be used, which would be more of a waste of money except for the fact that it would be more future resistant.

    • Drsunil V
      May 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks. That is very important point! Does this imply that both CPU and RAM play role in avoiding lag on Android use? If yes , how much is role of each in lag prevention?

    • Oron J
      May 18, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      It's difficult to quantify the role of each. Basically, if you run out of memory then the system needs to engage in a lot of work ("garbage collecction", swapping files in & our of RAM) to make space for what is currently running.
      Processor speed is more closely related to overall speed, but the first core can sometimes get bogged down by particular threads (think of that as programs) which may or may not be important to the running of Android as a whole. A second CPU usually bails you out as it is unaffected by such runaway threads.

    • Drsunil V
      May 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      As asked to Mr.Dalsan , the query is about role of each and not only of CPU as you specified

    • Drsunil V
      May 18, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      Please tell , 1) Android phone requires greater RAM and CPU cores , in comparison to Windows phone with other parameters constant? 2) Does Windows phone use lesser battery than it’s Android counterpart? Please elaborate

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