How important is the processor to you?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: July 4, 2013

With all this talk around Motorola's Moto X, I've seen a lot of the conversation focus on the internals of the unannounced device. People are chomping at the bit to figure out how much memory the phone will offer, how much RAM it'll pack inside, and, perhaps most importantly, how fast the processor will be. Of course, it's all just speculation at this particular point in time, but all this talk has certainly made me start to think about the important bits and pieces inside our smartphones.

Specifically, the parts that we individually think are the most important. Person to person. I'm sure it wouldn't be such a big stretch of the imagination to assume that one person might have a different set of parameters to the "most important features of a phone" than someone else, and I think that goes from the smallest detail inside the phone, to the largest outside feature.

Yesterday, I asked you which part of your next smartphone you'd like to design if you had the opportunity. Unsurprisingly, many readers would like to have a say in just about everything that went into their future, purely hypothetical device. From the screen size, display type, thinness, available memory, mobile operating system, and plenty of other key details. Though, the most desired customizable feature? The processor.

That's not all that shocking, is it? Thanks to the Android Army, we've entered this place where the best possible processor is always the best possible situation.

But, is it?

In the title of the article, I ask if the processor is really all that important. And, let me be clear: it is important. However, I can't possibly be the only person out there who doesn't hold it up to this impossible height. I like a fast processor just as the next person, but ultimately it just comes down to performance for me.

In today's world, when we're so focused on numbers and cores, if you were to compare the processor in the Samsung Galaxy S 4 (CDMA), and the processor within Nokia's Lumia 920, there'd be one obvious clear winner. The Lumia 920, of course.

Oh, wait, that's not right?

It isn't, at least not by the general standard. We look at cores and GHz, and we say one is "better" than the other. But, I'm here to tell you that the 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor in the Lumia 920 works just as well as the 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor in the Galaxy S 4. Actually, I'd venture to say that the overall experience in Windows Phone on the Lumia 920 is even more fluid than the Android-based experience on the GS 4, even with the (major?) difference in processors.

The truth is, we can talk about numbers, and clock speeds, and architecture, and everything else until we're blue in the face. It ultimately comes down to the experience, and that experience will vary from one person to the next. In fact, someone may not even have as good an experience on a Lumia 920 as I have -- it could be so bad, in fact, that they outright disagree with my aforementioned declaration. Which is absolutely fine.

When someone asks me if I believe the processor in the CDMA version, or other U.S.-based versions of the Galaxy S 4 is better than the processor in HTC's One, I can't give a straight answer. At least, not the one they're probably expecting. I'll say that both processors are great, and that they provide a great experience on each device. Which is the truth, based on my experience. Based on numbers and paper specifications? Then the processor with the higher digits will come out on top.

To me, the processor is just something I look at to gauge how my overall experience should be. If my phone has an Octa-core processor, clocked at some ridiculous amount of speed, then I should be accurate in my assumption that the experience will be buttery smooth, and without any sensation of stutter, lag, or hesitation. If I can get that same experience from a dual-core device, on a different platform (or even the same one), then what's the problem? As long as I'm not frustrated by the quality of my experience, I should be a happy camper.

And that's why I find myself not so focused on the processor anymore. Yes, I'm still interested to see the power that these companies can create in such a small space, because it's incredible. But I've realized I can be just as happy with a dual-core phone as I am with a quad-core, or beyond. But of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting, or even needing, the best of the best when it comes to our processors. We just have to remember that there are a lot of different, individual parts that make up the total experience, and they have to work together to create the best possible outcome. It isn't always just about the horsepower, so to speak.

How important is the processor in your phone to you? Is it something that you look for specifically when thinking about buying a new device? Or is it just another feature in the laundry list of bullet points that make up your decision? Do you just not care at all how fast your processor is clocked, or how many cores it has? Let me know!