Mobile Gaming

This piece comes from a simple question

‘Why can’t I run my all my favourite games on my mobile phone?

The answer describes the elements needed to view a game, and then what today’s mobile can achieve.


The way we view images/games is a function of the Resolution of the screen and the quality of the source material.

Our usual reference point for visual material is our Television screen.

The smallest piece of information on a screen is a Pixel.

A TV’s Resolution is described as the number of Horizontal Pixels and Vertical Pixels. The more Pixels the cleaner the image. So a HD-TV is 1920 horizontal pixels x 1080 vertical pixels giving a total of approximately 2million .


Scan Rate also impacts quality. The more frames displayed per second the less blur you will see, especially when watching sports like football and tennis.

Source Material

To support our new HD TV’s the industry is providing an increasing number of HD channels.

Likewise the major gaming platforms like XBox and PS-2 also support HD viewing and the accompanying HD source material from the actual game.

Graphics Cards

Look through any computer/gaming platform specification and you will find reference to a GPU, Graphic Processing Unit located on a Graphics card. Companies like AMD and Nvidia  produce GPUs like Ratheon and GeForce, to process raw source material from the computer game into HD images on the screen.

These graphic cards sit on a dedicated PC bus/slot and are controlled by a high performance CPU like an Intel Dual Core processor.  In the process they use up large amounts of power and space and also generate additional heat. Hence the electric fans in your home computer or Xbox.

What you See

Computer Generated Imagery(CGI) came of age with the triangle, or to be more precise the use of a huge number to build up an image as the camera appears to move. This basic principle underpins how your computer displays the images on your screen.

The common method by which a gaming programme interfaces with your screen is called Rasterisation, which means taking the shapes(generated by the gaming software) and turning them into pixels, which in turn form the image you see. The shapes are  forms of Polygons whose constituent element is a simple triangle.

Thus when computer types talk about the performance of GPU’s they will use the term Triangle Pushes per second and a Fill Rate which is the number of Pixels per second


The initial observation would be that a 320GB based Xbox S is twenty times the memory capacity of a high end smart phone @ 16GB. Subtract from that 16GB the need to support various interfaces and applications and clearly memory will impact the ability to support certain games.

Mobile – Power, Performance, Space and Heat

Your average  mobile phone battery has much less  power than a computer plugged into the main 220v electrical supply. Even if it did, the heat generated from the electronic components would far exceed what a slim-line mobile phone could remove.

In addition a phone’s primary function is to communicate, via a range of devices(Antenna, Bluetooth, Wifi, NFC), and to process the resultant voice and data activity.


To get around some of the limitations mobile phones manufacturers use integrated components like the CPU and GPU into one superchip.

Nvidia’s Tegra 2 solution offers mobile phone manufacturers a low power CPU/GPU/Video super chip, small and light enough to fit into the required form factor.

Still a standard Gaming platform’s GPU is 5 more powerful than those on the latest tablets or Smart phones.


In the battle to improve the mobile phone gaming experience one big issue has been audio quality.

Whilst the technology push has been to integrate more and more into a single chipset, the opposite is now happening with audio. Indeed, the move is not isolated as power management could also be moved/combined with audio management into a separate Integrated circuit as the two are closely linked.

The Answer

On today’s mobile phone the combination of  screen functionality, memory, processing, battery capacity and heat production all combine to restrict the gaming experience when compared to Gaming platforms or high end PCs.

Yet the past few years have seen extraordinary technological advances in the mobile space, with that same technology driving upwards to deliver the new and numerous Tablets/iPads.

Like most of the articles on this web site they need constantly refreshing to accommodate change, and this one will be no exception.


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