Smartphones, Tablets and... Overheating...

by mrpsyman

In recent years, most embedded devices suffer from the same issues. It’s the same old story; again and again. State-of-the-art devices, top notch specifications, expensive to buy, yet they deliver underwhelming results. All that because their processors overheat.
It’s happening everywhere. On routers, netbooks, smartphones, tablets, modern TVs and even notebooks. It’s a plague, really.

Running software with high hardware requirements on such devices is problematic and leads to all sorts of issues. The ones blamed are most often the software developers whereas the culprit is the hardware, the device.

The steps are straightforward:

-You run your favorite highly demanding game/emulator/whatever

-It works fine for a while

-It slows down unexpectedly and stays like that until you quit

The worse part is that you cannot do anything about the issue unless you add active cooling to the hardware. I’m referring to a cooling fan, at least!
If the device is a router or a notebook you just might be able to do something. On a smartphone though… fan on a smartphone… yeah, right. Even if you took that route it’d be disastrous for the aesthetics and the battery life of the device.

The absolute worst part is identifying if and when your hardware is affected… Unless you’re an engineer, or you’ve read an article like this one. In that case you already know if your hardware is affected for certain.

The answer is simple. If your hardware is passively cooled then overheating will sooner or later happen. No way around that.

The tricky part is identifying when your device overheats… and that’s also the part where loads and loads of misinformation exists.

Some claim that certain processors overheat (ie: snapdragon 810), others claim that products from specific smartphone/tablet manufacturers do overheat and products from other manufacturers do not.
Well, the truth is more complicated.

As mentioned earlier, overheating will sooner or later will occur. When this happens depends on a combination of how much heat is produced by a processor, under what kind of processing load is that heat generated , how well the device dissipates that heat and how high is the environmental temperature.

There are devices out there that are passively cooled and yet they keep going for hours at high loads without significantly slowing down.
On the other hand, there are devices out there that crawl after encountering high loads for just a couple of minutes.

Unfortunately there isn’t any kind of standardized test that checks how well each device handles long time periods of high load, not total load at least.

The only kind of test that remotely resembles something like that is the “long term performance” test I’ve seen on gfxbench (see for results of various devices).
Now, take the results of the above test with a grain of salt, for it’s mostly a gpu load test, not to mention that the circumstances of each test can and will vary greatly. There are people who’d go as far as using ln2 in order to have their phone perform as fast as possible.

So, when getting a new gadget it’d be nice to learn not only how fast it is, but also for how long.

That’s all by me for now,
Until next time…

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