Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lag Lag Lag

This is one blog post I am dreading to write, but I had to even if it invites a horde of fanboys over to stampede on the comment section. Last week I received a call from my brother who is now the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy S3. I asked for his impressions and the first thing he mentioned was there is some lag. Lag? How is that possible? This monster has four fricking Cortex A9 cores. That's two more cores than I have on my laptop!

Then I remember what pretty much every Android smartphones review I ever wrote - each one has noticeable lags even the One X (which I loved - thanks HTC Sense!). Most are fine, and I am sure the Galaxy S3's lag isn't detrimental to its usability. But for a flagship phone with four cores, it shouldn't even lag, at all. Today I played with a friend's Galaxy Note 2, and boy, does the thing lag like it's entering a competition to see whether it can a trophy in lag. Even excusing the amazingly awful lag from the S-Pen stylus (something which never happened with old style resistive touchscreens), the Note 2 was practically unusable.

This isn't an Android witch hunt. In fact, I have been using a RAZR MAXX for more than a month now and since updating the ICS, the handset has been relatively lag free (shocker!). Only on rare occasions would the device stutter, and that's only because I have ten apps running in the background. I know Motorola gets a lot of stick for their lack of support, but I am pretty happy with the MOTOBLUR-free ICS update. Add to the fact that the RAZR MAXX has a massive battery, you would need to pry it off my dead fingers. And this is a device that has two partly Cortex A9 cores.

But, but, but, I hear some geeks protesting, you can install custom ROMs. I am sorry, but that's just no excuse and certainly isn't something one should use to excuse bad support. When one purchase a £450 smartphone, one should always expect that it runs the best as it could. Even as a self proclaimed geek, rooting and installing a custom ROM isn't something I would like to do. I have done my fair share of ROM 'hacking' back in the PalmOS days, and I can think of a thousand things I would rather do (like writing this) than downloading and installing nighties these days. No reviewers should excuse slowdowns because you can root.

Perhaps manufacturers just can't be bothered, hoping against hope that their poor coding could be fixed through sheer brute force. But there is a fundamental problem that, if even through multiple cores, a device would still not run as smoothly as it should. Google is attempting to fix this through Jelly Bean, but Jelly Bean isn't available for every smartphones out there is it? And what's to say that any improvement by Jelly Bean or subsequent version wouldn't be reversed by future iterations of TouchWiz, Sense etc.?


Alex Walsh said...

Is this what project butter on Jellybean is supposed to sort, or is that a different sort of lag?

Jon Choo said...

Both. It stutters as well as take ages to launch an app. Jellybean is supposed to fix the stuttering.

Anonymous said...

Which is why the nexus phone is the only one I will consider at all at the moment from the whole android range.

If you device can't perform functionality, no amount gee whiz bang features mean anything

Anonymous said...

Best article ever! Thank you! Well said, I couldn't agree more. I am surprised none of the reviews I have read/seen have mentioned this.