Dual-Core Or Quad-Core?

8/27/2012 9:41:34 PM

Multi-core CPUs started to invade the market in 2005. Intel is the pioneer with multi-core model for servers based on x86/x86-64 platforms of itself (Itanium chip series), AMD immediately responded with dual-core Opteror chip models in April 2005. Intel took one step ahead when introducing Pentium D chip for entry-level market in May 2005. This event is considered “the starting point for the multi-core CPU competitions some years later. This competition spread out from desktop segments to laptop segments, from servers to smartphones and tablets. The number of cores is changing all the time, from 2 cores to 4 cores, than 6 cores and even some 8-core chip has been outlined (Bulldozer construction of AMD). However, the most popular to users are 2-core and quad-core chips, still. 6-core chips hardly appear in the entry-level market. 8-core chips and so one are only available for server systems. The question is, which should you choose to equip your new computer, dual-core or quad-core?

Description: Construction of Pentium D chip

Construction of Pentium D chip

What does multi-core affect?

When your computer has a multi-core CPU, or simply your computer can manage to do many things concurrently (multi-task), or perform a great task more quickly than usual, if that apps are designed to support multi-core. The definition of “multi-core” is easy to get: you can browse the webs, check your emails regularly, process 20,000-cell Excel, and those tasks are processed at high speed, because they do not have to take turns like in single-core CPUs. When you handle only one task, CPU will separate it into small fragments and assign them for the cores to process concurrently. It results in the fact that your task will be processed much more quickly in comparison with single-core CPUs. Another popular task is gaming. CPU will distribute the 3D objects into many parts and blocks and each core will handle a part of that object at the same time then they integrate the processed result and output to the screen. Sounds simple? In general, imaging a multi-core CPU is identical to a cash counter: the more cashiers, the more customers will complete the payment processes concurrently.

So dual-core with high clocking frequency or quad-core is more beneficial?

This is a question that I have set for myself when comparing two 1st generation CPU core i7 620M and i7 720QM. One has 2 core but the clocking frequency is high (620M) and one has 4 cores but the clocking frequency is lower (72QQM).

Description: Modern construction of Core i7 chip

Modern construction of Core i7 chip

In general, for the normal tasks that we use every day, the 2-core high-frequency chip will deliver a feeling of greater speed than quad-core (with lower clocking frequency), simply because many softwares now are designed to make full use of dual-core CPU. But, for heavy tasks optimized for quad-core chips, quad-core chips will be much better than dual-core chips in handling, no matter how high the clocking frequency is (heavy 3D games, movie editors, photo editors, etc.)

A detailed example: Intel Core i3 2100 (dual-core, 3.1 GHz clocking frequency) in a Gateway ZX6961-UB20P can reach 2.639 scores for PCMark 7 (an app to check the daily working ability) but only 2.99 scores for Cinebench R11.5 (building 3D images benchmark).

Meanwhile, Intel Core i5 2500S (quad-core) with much-lower clocking frequency of 2.7GHZ reaches 2.190 scores for PCMark 7 but 4.45 for CineBench.

So, what to choose?

If you are considering between dual-core and quad-core, you get your answer based on your own demands. If you just need it for normal demands such as browsing webs with many tabs, checking different email accounts and playing simple games like Angry Bird, dual-core chip will bring you best experiences with reasonable prices. If you have a passion for gaming, especially 3D games, making movies and editing photos, quad-core CPUs will be your best choice. Although the prices are higher, they do save you from waiting.

However, when buying a new computer, we tend to choose the stronger configuration than usual demands. But computers do not include CPU only. It is a combination of other components. For example, CPU is so quick but HDD is so slow, you have to wait to download the files and CPU will be in the waiting mode. It is really a waste which is called “Bottleneck” phenomenon. So, it is not necessary that CPU must be the strongest. Choose a balanced configuration among CPU, mainboard, RAM, HDD/SDD and PSU and other tiny things such as cooling glue or fan, which will help you to make full use of performance and prolong the computer’s life. Finally, choices much depend on your budget and interests, because dual-core and quad-core are only aimed at demands of working or entertainment. It does not matter much how many cores it has. The matter is your own satisfaction. 

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