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Do Some Note 4s Have A 64-Bit Processor Locked In 32-Bit Mode?

September 16, 2014 - Written By David Steele

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has given plenty of people reasons to get excited, from the super high resolution screen, plentiful RAM, powerful software features and of course the processor under the hood. Samsung have traditionally put the fastest silicon inside the Note phablet to match it’s other epic specifications, capable of showing up many tablets let alone a smartphone or phablet device. And the Note 4 comes with a choice of processor depending on the market: buyers either get a quad core 2.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 or a Samsung Exynos Octa 5433, which is a dual / quad core big.LITTLE processor. I hope our readers will forgive my clumsy description of the processor, which pairs up a quad core 1.9 GHz high performance processor with a quad 1.3 GHz high efficiency processor. The idea behind a big.LITTLE processor is that for tasks that do not require much processor muscle, the chipset uses the high efficiency processor, in this case the 1.3 GHz unit, which is a Cortex-A53 CPU. The Cortex-A53 is a processor optimized for low power consumption and here the trade off is in performance; essentially, it’s slower than other designs. However, when heavy lifting is required, the processor switches up the 1.9 GHz unit, which is a Cortex-A57 CPU. The A57 is a higher performance processor but the compromise here is that at low workloads, the chip is relatively power inefficient. The chipset determines what CPU cores to use depending on how hard the device is being worked: it’s a “best of both world” type of chip.

Samsung have divulged very little about the new processor but Anandtech have taken a look at the source code and determined that this processor appears to be a 64-bit unit with 64-bit mode essentially turned off. But before you grab your pitchforks in protest at a processor being nerfed or hobbled with only 32-bit support, there are a few things to take into account. The first is: 64-bit processors are pointless with current versions of Android. That’s because Android doesn’t support 64-bit processing. It will when Android L is released but for the time being, we’re in the 32-bit camp. If Samsung released the Note 4 with a 64-bit processor and attempted any marketing, I’m sure they’d be at least heckled! Another important point is that the ARM Cortex-A57 and -A53 are an evolution of the older generation processors and include improved power management instructions. Oh and the chipset is built on Samsung’s new 20nm die fabrication process. Here, the smaller the die, the physically smaller the processor core and (in simplistic terms) the faster and more efficient it can theoretically be made. There’s less distance for the electrons to travel and less wasted heat. Essentially, the processor is designed to work seamlessly between 32-bit and 64-bit code and be fast and efficient in both modes of operation.

Anandtech also believe that the Exynos 5433 comes with the Mali T760 CPU, which is clocked at 700 MHz and ought to give the chipset searingly powerful graphics. Of course, the Note 4 also comes with an ultra high resolution display so it’s going to need plenty of graphical horsepower to keep all of those pixels moving around smoothly. The Snapdragon 805 comes with a 600 MHz GPU, but let us not forget that Samsung’s handset running a Snapdragon or an Exynos chipset have tended to have comparable performance with not so much between them. And we may find that our choice of model is determined by the region and market we are in. Still, do you have a preference for a processor type in your Note 4? Or will you not mind so much either way?