CPU Buying Guide


Dual-core and quad-core CPUs

CPU makers have struggled in recent years to keep upping the productivity of CPUs without adversely affecting either their power requirements or heat output. Put simply, the more power a CPU uses, the more heat it's likely to produce, which makes it costlier to run -- and requires ever larger power supplies -- as well as having a limiting effect on the lifespan of the processor itself, as greater heat will burn out a processor much more quickly.

Both AMD and Intel are combating the problem with multi-core CPUs. These are CPUs that contain not one, but two, three and four core processors, with dedicated cache memory for each processor. Dual-core CPUs were the first to hit the market with AMD's Athlon 64 X2 range of chips, and Intel's Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840. Currently, the Core 2 Duo is Intel's most popular dual-core CPU, while AMD's X2 range is still going strong. Sticking two processors into a PC isn't entirely new, although it's largely been the domain of more enterprise-based computing to date. However, if you're running software that can take advantage of multiple processors, you should see improved performance with a dual-core CPU.

Likewise, if you're a fan of running several heavy-duty processor applications simultaneously -- say, running a virus scan while simultaneously encoding video and perhaps doing some light Web surfing -- you should see benefits from a dual-core approach. And quad-core CPUs offer even more scope for multitasking.

Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX6700 was the first quad-core CPU to hit the market, and it's essentially two Core 2 Duo E6700 CPUs in one package. AMD's Phenom CPUs contain four individual cores, rather than consisting of two dual-core parts, and AMD refers to this as a 'native' quad-core design. The use of individual cores has also allowed AMD to announce a CPU with three cores in it -- a tri-core CPU -- which may be a viable solution for users who want more power than what a dual-core CPU can offer, but who can't afford a high-end quad-core CPU.

If you think quad-core isn't enough for your needs, consider a dual-CPU socket system from AMD that can run two quad-core CPUs, for a total of eight cores! The octa-core platform, which requires a special motherboard with two Socket F sockets, can run two quad-core AMD Phenom FX CPUs.

Like 64-bit processors, dual-core, tri-core and quad-core CPUs will really hit their stride once more applications are specifically written with multiple cores in mind, as that's when software and hardware will be able to work together most effectively.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

PC World Staff

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?