If you were shopping for laptops, you’ve probably come across around a thousand times with the terms quad core, dual core, octacore, etc, and the first thing that pops up to your mind: which is better for me ? and what does it mean? Don’t worry whether you are buying a laptop or computer for whatever software, application or task you have in mind we’ll tell you and explain you everything behind the meaning and which is better for you. Before we go through that there’s a few basic terms we have to go over.
It’s the main component of a laptop. It runs the calculations , instructions from your applications . Everything you do on your laptop has to go through the processor: open up a document, play a video, typing an article,etc. The higher the clock speed, the faster it will run your applications.
Some applications require a certain “CPU Speed” to run properly, if said speed is not met your application will run slowly. The higher the speed of your CPU, the greater the number of different and complex applications (one at a time) you’ll be able to run.
What is a core?
A core is a subset of your processor. A quad core processor has four, a dual core processor has 2. These cores are responsible for running the instructions and calculations behind your applications. The more cores you have, the faster your applications may run. Just like a brain, the more brains you have to solve a problem. The faster you’ll solve it. But only certain amount of applications take advatange of having “more cores”, the rest only rely on the “clock speed” which is measured in GHz.
Quad Core vs. Dual Core: Which is better?
It depends on what kind of applications you are running. If your applications allows you to break down the problem into “multiple parts”, then the higher the number of cores the faster it will run.
Higher number of cores will also allow you to run many programs simultaneously without being your computer running too slow. Think of playing a computer game while watching a video , communicating with someone and typing a document at the same time. You can do so with a dual core or a quad core but it might perform better with a quad core processor since each task can be assigned to one core at a time.
However, for most daily tasks and basic multitasking there won’t be much difference in performance from having more than two cores. You can safely buy a dual core processor over a quad core if you don’t plan on running any application that benefits from it.
Do I need lots of cores or a faster CPU clock speed?
Great question, if your application already takes advatange of having more than one core, then you are probably thinking the more number of cores the better! But, actually, that’s not true. In fact, most applications today haven’t been optimized to take advantage of more than 4 cores.
Which Software Takes Advantage of the Extra Cores?
Not all software take advantage of multiple cores, in fact, very very few do and if they do as you will see they only do so in some instances.
It’s not that their cheap or bad software, making a software that takes advantage of all the number of cores you have on your computer is extremely difficult and in some isntances it just can’t be done.
As mentioned before, basic tasks such as word editing, web browsing, video watching, chatting and video conferencing do not take advatange of multi core CPUs. However if you plan on using all of these applications at the same time: skype, web browsing, playing games, youtube watching and more ( who does that? well me), then you would benefit from a quad core processor but the increase in performance isn’t that great. I am doing all of that just fine with a dual core processor.
Animation & 3D Modeling
Your workflow, applying effects and modeling (in real time) with such sofware won’t benefit much from having multiple cores or too many cores. The most important thing you should be concerned about is the clock speed. Out of this list, as far as I am aware only Revit and Invetor take advantage of more cores.
- Autocad 3D
- Civil 3D
- 3DS Max
- Cinema 4D
However when it comes to rendering your project with any of the applications above all of them will benefit from more cores. There will be a decrease in rendering times. As mentioned before, rendering is similar to a math problem, the more brains you have, the faster it will cut down the process of finding a solution.
- Final Cut Pro
- Adobe Premiere
- SonyVegas Pro
- Corel VideoStudio
- AVS Video Editor
Editing in general has always been a single threaded task. There won’t be a huge boost in your workflow with any of the software shown above if you opt for a dual core or a quad core or higher cores, it’s actually the clock speed what will speed up applying those effects and the editing your videos.
However, rendering, encoding and previews do generate from a quad core processor and even a processor with 6 cores but no more than that (there’s almost no increase in performance past 6 cores). If you’d like to see an increase in rendering, encoding and previews then opt for a quad core in a laptop.
- Core PaintShop
PhotoShop and other image editing applications will not see an increase in performance whether you decide to get a dual core or a quad core or an octa core CPU. Applying effects and performing actions benefit more from the the clock speed than the number of cores.
There are a few effects in Image Editing software that do benefit from multiple cores but most actions are single threaded so you can safely opt for a dual core as long as it has more base frequency than a quad core.
- FL Studio
- Logic Pro
By Music Production I don’t mean itunes, windows media player or listening music from youtube videos. Music Production software (that musicians use to mix/create their songs) do benefit from multiple cores, the more tracks and VSTs you have on your editing software (one for vocals, the remaining tracks for instruments, another one for sounds effects, etc), the more you will benefit from multiple cores.
Each channel or track can be assigned to a single core however if the base frequency of each core can’t keep up with the demands of your VST and plugins being used on each channel, then it isn’t much useful. At the end base frequency is far more important than the number of cores, but if you can get multiple cores with a similar base frequency or even more than a lower number of cores processor, then go for it. It’s worth the increase in performance.
Programming in general does not benefit from multiple cores at all. The base frequency is far more important to reduce compilation times, launching your application and emulations fast.
There is an instance in which it can be beneficial and that is: Virtualization. But only if you plan on using several heavy applications on each VM you create.
Are you better with a Quad Core over a Dual Core? For Basic Programming and development NO. For virtual machine testing YES.
Game engines require synchronization, one action is followed by another one before moving towards the next action. Even though game sites will claim to increase your performance during gaming , it won’t be that much. Usually the higher clock speed CPU will always perform better whatever number of cores it has. But you can always check on your specific game site if something happens to be different.
If you are not sure which ones are the current dual core and quad core laptops worth looking at. I’ve written a separate post where I go over dual core processors, mostly which core i5 processors are worth looking at. Since there’s not much advantage over i7 processors with two cores.
I also have another post where I go over quad core i7 processors and the best and cheapest ones as of 2017.
There are a few quad core i5 machines out there too and sometimes they are on par with quad core i7 laptops. If budget is not an issue you might as well invest on a quadcore i7 processor, if it is make sure you learn how to read their labels to figure out which ones are the fastest as it is not that obvious. I explain all of that on each separate post.