The age of single-core CPUs is long gone; nowadays, processors feature at least two while some of the strongest models sport twice, or even four times as much. However, not everyone needs to have the most robust CPU installed in their laptop while on another hand some people rely on this particular component more than on anything else.
That being said, how many cores do you actually need on your laptop? Today we’ll talk about what processor cores are, how they make an impact on your laptop’s performance, compare standard setups, and ultimately answer this seemingly simple question.
What is a CPU core?
Basically, the Central-processing-unit (otherwise known as CPU) is a computer/laptop component that is both the brains and the brawl behind the operation. Whenever you run any kind of application, the CPU issues appropriate commands that are processed through RAM (random-access-memory), launching the program.
Each core features multiple ‘threads’ - these are virtual representations of the core. It’s fairly safe to say that these threads perform the same tasks digitally that actual cores perform physically.
What affects the workload of the CPU?
Every program and application that is currently active on your laptop occupies a bit of your CPU’s workload.
This includes both offline and internet-based applications. Multi-tasking puts massive stress on the cores, as its total strength needs to be divided between each task. This is one of the key reasons why single-core CPUs are basically of little value today.
CPU-starved & light-duty programs
The ‘weight’ behind each task revolves around its complexity (or simplicity). For instance, simple applications such as Paint or Wordpad can be considered light-duty applications.
The issue of ‘dual core vs quad core’ is not of any merit in this particular scenario, as even obscure single core CPUs could tackle such tasks with ease. Of course, the same can be said for built-in games, such as Hearts and the iconic Minesweeper.
Now, the scenery becomes much different when we begin to talk about actual gaming, editorial programs, web-building apps, and such.
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Dual Core vs Quad Core
The easiest way to explain this issue is to perceive the number of cores as X, which would multiply Y – the strength of the processor measured in GHz (gigahertz).
Essentially, a single-core CPU with 2.6 GHz of strength would be almost equally strong as a dual-core processor with 1.3 GHz of power per core.
Now, even in this scenario, dual-core processors have a bit of the upper hand, as the divided strength of DC CPUs allows for easier compartmentalization.
Each application and program will burden a single-core processor cumulatively; its performance will gradually begin to drop the closer it gets to its maximum capacity. On the other hand, the load will be distributed evenly (as opposed to cumulatively) to both cores in the case of a dual-core CPU.
Now, let’s talk a bit about how this translates to quad-core vs dual-core processor issues.
It’s hard to imagine that even some of the finest dual-core CPUs could come close to quad-core models in any field of performance.
One of the strongest dual-core CPUs is Intel’s Pentium G4560, and its specs are completely amazing. Namely, its base frequency (per core) is 3.50 GHz, and it sports four digital threads. Even though it was a revolutionary piece of technology a few years back, every quad-core CPU with at least 1.8 GHz per core would beat it in terms of raw strength.
Additionally, let’s steer back to when we talked about even workload distribution. You wouldn’t be able to squeeze out all 7 GHz from G4560 without burning your setup down. That being said, quad-core CPUs are obviously stronger.
Quad Core vs Hexa Core
The topic of quad-core vs dual-core processors may be interesting for casual gamers and people who dabble in content writing and soft editing tasks. If you’re either a serious gamer or a programmer of any kind, two cores will be insufficient.
Four cores offer robust, all-around performance for most tasks, but more importantly, having a quad-core CPU in your laptop will ensure its smooth performance. Games that were recently launched, as well as the vast majority of programming and editing apps, can be launched with a quad-core.
However, there’s a number of CPU-intensive tasks that a 4-core processor would struggle with, such as 3D rendering, video encoding, compression & decompression tasks, and such.
In this case, having a hexa core CPU is more than recommended. Even though you would be able to tackle the aforementioned tasks with some degree of fluidity while using a quad-core CPU, your laptop would be sluggish, to say the very least. Additionally, you would need a top-dollar cooling system to prevent the cores from overheating.
Hexa Core vs Octa Core
Plainly put, the most spec-starved programs, CPU-intensive applications, and most current competitive online games demand an octa-core CPU.
The first thing an 8-core processor will give you is absolute reliability; these are more dependable when heavy-duty tasks are involved simply due to the fact that they boast unparalleled compartmentalization.
No matter how many tabs you have open in your online browser and how many apps you have running at the same time, an octa-core processor will be able to balance the workload with ease.
Furthermore, octa-core CPUs are, to some degree, future-proof. Most high-quality 8-core processors can be 'over-clocked', allowing you to squeeze a bit of extra strength from each core. In fact, most CPUs can be over-clocked, but not with this degree of efficiency.
For example, if you would amp up your dual-core CPU’s strength from 1.6 GHz to 2.0 GHz per core, you would get a bonus of 0.8 GHz. Now, if you would do the same to a 2.5 GHz Octa-core processor, clocking it to 3.0 GHz, you would essentially gain an extra 4.0 GHz core in terms of raw performance.
At the end of the day, the number of cores you need in your laptop depends on what you intend to use it for.
- If you’re into binge-watching movies and killing time, a dual-core CPU would suffice;
- casual gamers and content writers may want to upgrade to a quad-core while
- serious die-hard fans of competitive e-sports and programmers need a Hexa-core processor.
Finally, Octa-core processors are basically reserved for most CPU-intensive tasks, such as compiling (and creating) programs, video encoding, data mining, and such.
Image Credit: Image by Sergio Stockfleth from Pixabay