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Our Guide to Specification Sheets

Christian Jay Magowan  —  6 months ago ( Jun 04, 2017 )    |    Guides

Shopping for your next mobile phone or just looking around? A store attendant must have had you introduced to a certain product with their features. Most of the time, customers are looking for specifics features on a device and may not be interested with the rest of the features simply for one good reason, they sound complicated and technical. So we’ve compiled some of those terms to help you in figuring out what your next device has for you.

Processor

Abbreviated as CPU or Central Processing Unit. The brain of every electronic device where it carries out calculations and processing of a given instruction takes place.

CPU Speed are often measured in Hertz(Hz), in the early days, CPU speeds are measured in Hertz or Kilohertz (kHz), then there was Megahertz (MHz) but today we always see these measurements in Gigahertz (GHz). The higher the CPU speeds the better.

Most notable and common mobile processors we have today are from Apple (A Series), Qualcomm (Snapdragon),  MediaTek (MTK, Helio), Samsung (Exynos), Huawei/HiSilicon (Kirin) – these are all based on ARM Architecture. We also have Intel (Atom) processors that are based on x86 architecture and are often faster that ARM variants but there are fewer devices that are powered by this processor.

Processor are also commonly differentiated by the number of cores in a given chipset: they are commonly delivered as a Single Core, Dual Core, Quad Core, Deca Core, Octa Core, Hexa Core processor.

Graphics Processing Unit / GPU

A specialized processing chip that takes the load on processing and producing of images and graphics on a display or other output device. A good GPU simply implies smoother graphics performance.

RAM

Random Access Memory (RAM) – A temporary storage memory on a device that stores data for easy retrieval. The date inside the RAM as we’ve mentioned are stored temporarily and can be access by the system as long as the device in on. Once the device is turned off, all contents from the RAM will be automatically deleted.

ROM/Storage

Read Only Memory (ROM) – A storage area on a device where data can be written with specific tools and in a specific manner by developers but cannot modified by end users, hence the term “Read Only”.

This is often confused with the device Internal Storage where the area for the ROM resides.

ROM/Firmware

Firmware are also regarded as ROM’s especially with Android, it contains all the necessary system files and configurations of an Android OS known as system image and its affiliated apps. “Stock ROM” refers to the software OS that comes bundled on the device while “Custom ROM” are ROMs from third-party developers targeted to a specific market or group of users.

Operating System

Operating System drives computing devices and mobile devices. these are the most popular operating system of today:

  • Windows (Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile)
  • Windows Phone (WP 8.0, WP 8.1, WPM 10.x)
  • Mac OSX (10.10 Yosemite, 10.11 El Capitan, 10.12 Sierra)
  • iOS (iOS 8, iOS 9, iOS 10)
  • Android (5.x Lollipop, 6.x Marshmallow, 7.x Nougat)

Internal Storage

This refers to the storage space inside a device. They are a type of Flash memory chips that resides on a device and are often described in Gigabyte (GB), the higher the storage space the better.

Memory Expansion

Device with memory expansion slots often takes in SD cards. SD stands for Secure Digital, a specific type of Flash memory chip that are commoning being used for storage on portable devices. They comes in different capacities and sizes, the most common this days are the microSD cards.

RAM and Internal storage are measured in bytes

the smallest form of data in a computer is a Binary digit (bit) which is either a 0 or 1. Human recognizable computer data are often represented in byte, a letter contains primarily 8 bits of data on ASCII encoding which equal to 1 byte.

KB – Kilobytes (1 Thousand bytes),  MB – Megabytes (1 Million bytes), GB – Gigabytes (1 Billion bytes), TB – Terabyte (1 Trillion bytes)

Camera

The most sought out in every device today, almost all smartphones, tablets, laptops and even monitors and TV’s are now equipped with cameras. They are often described in Megapixel (MP) counts or by the number of sensors. Current models may be equipped with the following configurations: VGA, 1MP, 2MP, 4MP, 8MP, 12MP, 13MP, 16MP, 19MP, 21MP, 23MP, 24MP, 41MP. It comes primarily with a single sensor but recent models includes two sensors in a single module commonly known as Dual Cameras.

Back cameras are often referred to as the main camera while the front-facing cameras are called Selfie cameras.

Audio

3.5mm headphone jack – Devices may or may not have a standard 3.5mm audio port

Audio Chipset – A number of devices are equipped with a dedicated audio chip within them designed for audio clarity, virtual surround sound and 3D sound input and output.

Loudspeaker – Devices with loudspeakers are most commonly in mono but others are equipped with Stereo speakers as well.

Connectivity

2G/GSM/GPRS – A second generation wireless telephone technology that uses Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) for digital cellular networks used by mobile phones.

3G/3.5G/HSPA/HSPA+ – third generation wireless telephone technology, devices with 3G connection or its derivatives can access the internet faster than its 2G predecessor. Earlier smartphone devices are 3G capable which was a hot trend in the past three years.

4G/LTE – the latest and fourth generation in wireless telephone technology with vastly improved, high-speed wireless connection, Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is currently the standard in mobile internet communication of today.

Wi-Fi 802.11ac/Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n – is a short wireless Local Area Network access protocol that enables Wi-Fi devices to  connect into high-speed internet connection provided by Wi-Fi routers which are basically are wired to an internet line or source. People often thought that when there’s an available Wi-Fi connection it means one is already online. But that’s not the case as Wi-Fi routers are only bridges from the connecting device to the router which also requires a wired connection to go online.

So when you are connected to your Wi-Fi network but can’t seem to go online, check your Wireless router if it has an internet connection. Often, Wireless routers comes a light indicators that provides information if there’s activity in the LAN, if there’s an internet connection or if the Wireless LAN is enabled.

Bluetooth – A standard in short-range wireless interconnection of mobile phones, computers and other bluetooth enabled devices. This technology is often used to send photos and other files to a nearby device. Devices that engage in Bluetooth connection needs to be paired before a transmission could begin.

Infrared (IR) Blaster – uses short distance infrared technology to transmit command and data to another device. Infrared are commonly used in remote controls and mobile devices.

NFC – Near-field Communication, a new communication protocol which establishes connection from two electronic devices by bringing them closer together at approximately 4cm. This technology is commonly used to share multimedia contents from one device to another and recently is used on contactless payment systems such as the Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and many other wireless payment schemes available.

Radio – devices equipped with radio receivers that can receive either AM or FM radio signal but FM are more commonly adopted on mobile phones.

USB – The Universal Serial Bus, a wired connection from a portable device to another compatible electronic or computing device such as PC’s or Macs, USB connection are mainly used to transfer data to and from a computer but today, USB connection also allowed devices to charge devices which eliminates the need for a dedicated charging port and are now even used as the main connection for headphones.

GPS – Devices equipped with GPS receivers, it pinpoints your location with the help of GPS satellites and your cell towers. This enables users to use their devices as navigation devices.

Battery

Devices are equipped with batteries to work. Alder devices comes with removable batteries while newer and the latest ones comes embedded, non-removable battery packs. Battery packs are often labelled based on their charging capacity in milliamp (mAh) or in Watt-hour (Wh). Batteries on mobile devices are often labelled in mAh with higher the mAh capacity the better.

When comparing every device’s spec sheets, always looks for the latest version incarnation of each features. As it has always been the case, the higher the version number, the better.

Christian Jay Magowan

A Medtech by Profession and a big fan of gadgets and whatever technology has for the world. I scour for anything technology and science to provide you with what’s hot in this side of space.