What Does Quad Core Processor Mean?

by techtiptom

Originally posted on wibc.com on 07/11/2011

Quad core processor refers to a computer central processing unit or CPU that has four distinct processing cores contained in a single physical chip; quad core processors can allow a computer to perform more calculations simultaneously.

The purpose of quad core processors is to pack more processing power into a small space. Quad core processors can result in increased computing speeds, especially when performing tasks that require a large number of raw calculations such as graphical rendering and data compression.

Many programs are not written to fully utilize the power of quad core processors; the benefits of quad core processors may not be noticeable for average computer users currently, but this may change in the future as programmers learn to better utilize multiple cores.

Is quad core faster than dual core? How will a change to quad core affect my computer performance?

Just like putting in more cylinders in a car engine provides greater speed and power, one would think that putting in twice as many processors should double the performance speed, right? Unfortunately, that is not true in case of multiprocessor chips and the speed does not double up, but is substantially higher. The reason for that is twofold. Although a dual or a quad core has multiple cores, the clocking speed does not double up as the task is not shared by the two or four processors simultaneously. However, there is an increased multitasking ability due to division of tasks among the chips. So quad cores can be fast but not twice as fast.

The second reason why the increased speed of the quad core due to greater multitasking ability is not useful is the incompatibility of software being run on them. The software that is being run has to have a multithreading facility. That is, it should be programmed to be able to use the four cores at a time! Very few software products can do that currently. If you run Adobe Photoshop on a quad core, which has a multithreading facility, you will see the application zooming fast compared to that on a dual core computer. Though the clocking speed is not substantially higher than dual core processors, quad processors offer phenomenal multitasking ability which surpasses any other processors. Let us get into a more specific comparison in terms of the quad core vs dual core – benchmarks. Here I present a performance comparison between Intel’s dual core vs quad core processors and AMD’s quad core vs dual core processors.

The Intel quad cores provide a maximum clocking speed of around 3 Ghz which is comparable to the high end dual and is a lot more expensive than Intel dual cores. With a greater (12 Mb) L2 cache, the processing speed is indeed enhanced for the quad. However, you won’t see the difference in the operation of a high end Intel dual core and a Intel quad, unless you run graphic intensive applications or application that use up substantial processing power.

If you make a comparison between dual core vs quad core processors, in terms of 3D graphic intensive gaming, the quad processors are clear winners. Due to their higher multitasking ability and the multithreading capacity of 3D gaming softwares, quad processors can easily handle graphic intensive gaming.

In terms of performance, the quad core wins over hands down over the dual cores in terms of multitasking ability. More and more software are catching up and being upgraded with multithreading ability. That essentially means that buying a quad core is sound investment for the future. Once you upgrade to a quad core, you won’t have to upgrade for a long time for sure!