The HTC Edge raises glaring battery life questions

Yesterday PocketNow published the first renders of the upcoming HTC Edge smartphone, a Tegra 3 powered quad-core successor to the HTC Rezound. The device looks much more appealing than the HTC Rezound which is quite ugly when compared to other Android phones in its class and features some pretty impressive specs on paper. A 720p HD screen and 1GB of RAM? Beats Audio and a 28mm f/2.2 camera lens? Ample 32GB of built in storage and Bluetooth 4.0? Four cores clocking in at 1.5Ghz each and Sense 4.0? Consider me sold! At least until I escape the reality distortion field and see the glaring issue of battery life that this device clearly has.

The nVidia Tegra 3 (known as Kal-El) is set to hit smartphones in Q1 of 2012 and it’s sporting dramatic GPU and clock speed improvements over its predecessor, the Tegra 2. The ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor will have four cores that max out at 1.5Ghz, meaning the Edge will be the fastest running nVidia smartphone chip on the market. It also features a fifth “companion core” that will be tapped when the smartphone is not running intensive processes, reducing the power consumption of the chip. This sounds promising to battery life until you realize that the Tegra 3 is a 40nm chip, meaning it has the same heat and power limitations as the current generation of single and dual core smartphone processors. The fifth core was deliberately added to offset the crazy power drain four cores would have on a 40nm platform, and it will definitely allow for better power management, but will it be enough?

The 1GB of RAM is the new standard in smartphones but 1GB of RAM requires twice as much power as 512MB of RAM. The next generation of smartphone RAM should address this issue of power consumption, but just like the current 40nm – 45nm processors, they are part of the reason Android devices have such terrible battery life.

PocketNow also reported that the HTC Edge was not going to feature LTE and instead it would stick with HSPA+ for high-speed data. PocketNow expects the Edge to ship Q1 or Q2 of 2012 and that is a fair estimate considering how the Tegra 3 wants to make its smartphone splash within the next four months. Reading between the lines, the exclusion of LTE is a larger hint at the intense strain on battery life this phone will have. LTE is known to be a very power-hungry feature and smartphone vendors are eagerly looking forward to the second half of 2012 when the low-powered 28nm processors land in devices, such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 or the ST-Ericsson NovaThor A9600.

Considering how beefier processors that sip much less power will be less than a year away from the HTC Edge’s launch, the HTC team must pull some amazing feats when it comes to power consumption to make the Edge live up to any hype it hopes to carry. The constant delays with the Tegra 3 (it was originally supposed to be available Q2 of 2011) have also put its release dangerously close to it successor, codenamed Wayne. The Tegra Wayne will in fact sport the power-sipping 28nm platform and is scheduled to make its début later in 2012 to compete with the next generation of System-on-a-Chip processors. The HTC Edge looks like a powerful and attractive device, but if HTC hopes to offset its power issues with a bigger battery then it should take a lesson from the Motorola Droid RAZR and expect some not so favorable reviews in regards to battery life.

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