Phrases like dual-core, quad-core, and Octa-Core are not new to us. You don’t have to be a tech-savvy hardcore soul to understand the modern multicore computer processors. The advancement of the miniaturization and large scale integration of the electronic components are making facts to supersede fiction now. Breakthroughs are happening almost daily. So, it’s a no-brainer. But, most of the computer literate population are fighting another scuffle with the advent of these multi-core computer processors. Which is the best computer processor? Dual-core or Quad-core? Now, the complexity of analyzing this question is a bit deep. But, when computer processors are concerned, it’s not always like ‘more powerful wins the fight.’ How?
The battle between the dual-core and quad-core is valid, and a deep understanding of how the different cores of a processor work together is required to find the best for you. Let’s start with some basic questions regarding computer processors, which can clear the mist around this topic. Better the intellection, more comfortable will be the battle.
What is a Processor?
It’s the brain behind every action that happens on your laptop. A computer processor is a piece of hardware that gets installed on the motherboard of every computer or laptop. The processor controls every application, mathematical calculations, processes, instructions. Every processor has a set of definite physical attributes. Like, a processor can house many cores, and it has a preset clock speed or processing speed and how much process cache memory is there. A typical consumer laptop comes with a processing speed of a few GHz, and they have 2 to 8 cores. Gaming laptops and specially designed computers for dedicated purposes have better clock speeds.
What is the Processor Core?
A core is a complete processing unit or component within a processor. That means a core is a processing sub-set within a computer processor. A Core can work as an independent processor. Similarly, a dual-core processor is nothing but an independent computer processor having two separate computing or processing units, broadly called as CPUs. So, if you have 2 independent processors installed on the motherboard of your laptop and each of those processors is dual-core then you have four cores in total or four separate processing units. So, a multi-core processor can be defined as a single computing unit with more than one independent processing units within it.
Now, as we can understand this, more cores drive more processing power. Thus, more cores enhance the overall processing speed of your computer. Currently, we are familiar with computer processors having dual-core, quad-core, Octa-Core, and Hexa-Core. These cores have some attached physical attributes too like each core has different processing registers, special or dedicated cache memory, and shared secondary memory to speed up the processing speed. Technically, the highest number of cores within a single processor that has been successfully designed until now is the Ryzen Thread-ripper 2990WX. It has 32 cores, 64 threads, and 64 PCI-E Lanes. But, the focus of this article will concentrate on the comparison between the dual-core and quad-core processors only.
What is Process Thread?
The processing speed of a processor doesn’t depend on the number of its cores only. Instead, how all the cores get utilized during a process is also crucial for obtaining a higher processing speed. Here, process thread plays an important role. A process thread is nothing but a part of an entire process.
The process that CPU is executing at a particular point in time. Now, a large program is broken down into a bunch of small process threads. So, processors can execute those process threads simultaneously and deliver a faster response in program execution.
What is Hyper-Threading?
Admittedly, this is the best part of this article as the whole process gets tricky here. If a CPU has 2cores, then it can only process two processes simultaneously at any instant. But, with hyper-threading, each core can take up to 2 process threads at a time as there are idle stages when a process, which is getting executed, gets busy with memory management or so. In this way, a core can partially process the next process thread in the pipeline when the current process thread is not doing anything with the processor.
So, if you have a quad-core processor where hyper-threading is enabled, you are running 8 CPUs as each core is handling two process threads at a time. As you can understand, dual-core or quad-core processor is good but to find the best you need to understand what you are planning to do with your laptop.
Dual-Core Vs. Quad-Core – Which Will Work Best For You?
Consider that you are running a great program that is not designed to harness the power of multiple cores within a processor, then it will run with it’s designated speed even if you have a dual-core or quad-core machine. But, modern programmers are designing futuristic programs that can harness the power of multi-core processing systems. Currently, according to Microsoft, the latest Windows 8 OS can take advantage of 32 processor cores with its 32-bit architecture. And, this can go up to 256 cores with its 64-bit version. But, this OS can only support two physical CPUs.
But, an OS isn’t the prime concern here. We need to concentrate on the other software, which can harness this power of multi-core processing, that we use in our daily professional lives.
Let’s move on to that list.
Basic Computing tasks
Basic computing tasks like, watching videos, surfing the web, and editing your office presentations do not require multi-core processing CPUs as these tasks never harness this enhanced processing power from a processor. So, for general-purpose computing, a dual-core processor will perform the same as a quad-core processor. But, here, the clock speed is essential. Better the clock speed, the faster will be your program execution performance.
If you are into image editing, then there is a higher chance for you to work with one of these popular software applications:
- Adobe PhotoShop
- Adobe Lightroom
- Adobe Illustrator
- Skylum Luminar
I bet there are other image editing software which is famous for their specific reasons, but this list is the most versatile one. Now, when image editing is analyzed, the most crucial factor of a computer processor is its clock speed as image editing is mostly a single-threaded process. Most of these software applications will treat a dual-core and quad-core processor equally. But, very few image editing features require a higher core processor. So, overall, if you are going for a quad-core processor with an enhanced base speed or clock speed, it will be a better choice for you as an image editor.
There is an old saying in the digital marketing arena, ‘Content is King’. Better content will always fetch better results for your brand. Now, among different types of contents, Video content is the best. Thus, most of the companies are rooting for better video content editors, and video editing is experiencing its golden days. There is a bunch of professional video editing software:
- Windows Movie Maker
- VideoPad Video Editor
- Adobe Premiere
General video editing has always been a single-threaded execution for a computer processor. So, a dual-core or quad-core machine will not make any difference in the overall performance of video editing tasks. Likewise, the clock speed of the processor is essential here.
But, some of the video editings features much depend on the cores like video rendering and video encoding. Watching the previews of an edited video also support a multi-core processor. So, for obtaining an overall video rendering and editing speed a quad-core CPU with a good clock speed will work best for you.
Animation & 3D Graphics
3D animation is a sophisticated task, and it requires a stronger multi-core CPU where Hyper-threading is enabled. Although, most of the animation coupled applications depend only on the clock speed of a CPU as they do not look for more cores within a CPU. Most of us think that applying effects and hardcore 3D modeling needs a bigger brain and CPUs having more cores can only do the heavy lifting for animation allied tasks. But, in the real world, very few animation software like Revit and Inventor can harness the power of multicore processing. I bet, you are familiar with this list of popular animation software-
- AutoCAD 3D
- 3ds Max
The only thing which connects an animation software with a multi-core CPU is the rendering process of any 2D or 3D animation. When you are rendering your animation project, a multi-core CPU is a must as rendering is not a single thread process. So, for animation work, a quad-core CPU is always better than a dual-core CPU.
Most of the modern games are designed to run on any number of cores. But, more specifically, older games are designed to utilize mostly two threads at a time. That means a single-core CPU with hyperthreading will do for lighter gaming.
Now, newer games are generally broken down into four or more process threads. DX12 games require more than that. According to avid gamers, if a CPU can not process at least eight process threads at a point of time, there will be severe stuttering of DX12 games. Likewise, if you have a quad-core CPU with hyperthreading enabled, then, your laptop can smoothly run these games.
Moreover, we need to understand a simple thing here. Typical PC games are more GPU based than the CPU. That means heavy graphics comes before the multi-core CPU. That’s why graphics cards are there to execute the extra memory processing a deliver a seamless gaming experience. Lastly, for Gaming purposes, a quad-core CPU with larger primary and shared secondary memory is required, which can offer an enhanced base speed.
Does a hardcore programmer need the support of a multicore CPU, always? The plain answer will be both yes and no. For general code editing, a multicore CPU is not required. Healthy clock speed will do everything for your general software development workaround. But, when it comes to virtualization, simple things become a bit heavy, and these require more cores.
Let me explain in a spartan way. If you are running one or two VMs simultaneously, on your laptop, then the overall execution will not get bottlenecked. But, if you are planning to run several VMs on the same machine, then you will surely need to have a quad-core CPU with hyperthreading enabled as each VM likes to use a dedicated CPU core for obtaining a glitchless virtualization process and a faster emulation of your virtual apps.
This is the only sector within the world of computer applications where more core means more power. But, listening to music on YouTube and other online music streaming applications is pretty different from the production of the same. I’m sure that you are familiar with these popular music editing applications:
- Ableton Live
- FL Studio
- Apple Logic Pro X
- PropellerHead Reasons
Music production software or digital audio workstations are built to use multiple cores to infuse the maximum number of virtual studio technology, tracks, and other music effects and so. According to the music creator software makers, each channel to track has the power to use a dedicated core for itself. Thus, the more core you have within your CPU, the more channels you can use within your sound editing software. But, without a good clock speed, this endeavor is not that much effective. So, despite using multiple cores, the music editing software greatly depends on the base speed of your CPU.
The Last Decision
So, we are the finishing line of this article, and it’s the time to decide whether to go for a dual-core machine or a quad-core machine. There are three parameters which will help you to make this decision, and they are:
- Your particular requirement from your laptop
- Deep understanding of the applications you are going to install and use
- Your budget.
Personally, if you do fall within these categories described above of computer users, then you can choose your type of device accordingly as the technicalities are detailed there. Lastly, if you need more insights for making an informed decision, always feel free to bug us with your queries.