Dual-Core vs Quad-Core CPU: What is the Difference?

If you have been trying to get a new laptop, I’m sure you will be familiar with the terms quad-core and dual-core.

For most people, they lead to questions: what is the difference? Which one should I get?

The essence of this guide is to make you understand these terms and help you choose the one that will be perfect for you.

Quad core vs dual core: what is the difference?

A dual-core processor has two cores while a quad-core processor has four. The presence of multiple cores allows your computer to execute multiple processes at the same time.

Let’s take a step back and understand how processor work.

Processor

The processor is the main component of a laptop: it executes calculations and instructions for your programs. All actions that you carry out on your laptop have to go through the processor.

Whether you are opening a document, playing a video, or typing an article, the more powerful the processor is, the faster it will perform your instructions.

There are some programs that require a specific processing power before they can run smoothly. Basically, the higher the speed of your processor, the greater the number of programs that you will be able to run simultaneously.

What is a core?

A core is a subset of your CPU: a quad-core processor has four cores, while a dual-core processor has two cores.

The job of these cores is to ensure that you execute tasks while you are running your applications. The number of cores that come with your processor will determine the speed at which your applications will run.

It’s also important to point out that some applications use more cores than others. The clock speed of your processor is also an essential factor that determines your computer’s overall speed. 

The more cores – the better?

This depends on the kind of programs that you have on your computer. If the program permits you to break the task down into parts, then the higher the number of cores that will be required to execute the task. Also, the higher the number of cores, the easier it will be to run many apps at the same time.

For example, you are playing music while typing an article and still communicating with a friend at the same time. You can carry out these multiple actions simultaneously on a computer with a quad-core or dual-core processor.

However, these actions will run better on a quad-core since you can use a single core for a single action. It also depends on the type of tasks that you are executing: a dual-core is powerful enough to handle general computing tasks. You can simply buy a dual-core computer if you don’t plan on performing high-end tasks.  

Multiple cores or a faster CPU clock speed?

This is an important question that I need to talk about because if your program is taking advantage of your cores, you might be thinking about getting more cores. But, you will be wasting your money. Most of the latest applications and programs are capable of running on dual cores.

When would you benefit of the extra cores?

The truth is that not all programs or applications take advantage of having more than one core. Few programs take advantage of multiple cores, and it does not mean that these programs are harmful. In fact, it’s pretty challenging to identify the programs that are taking advantage of your cores.

dual-core vs quad-core vs octa

General Computing Tasks

Like I mentioned earlier, generating computing tasks like browsing the internet, editing a document, watching a video, or writing essays on your laptop does not take advantage of processors with multiple cores. However, if you will like to run all these tasks simultaneously, it will be reasonable to invest in a quad-core processor.

Animation & 3D Modeling

Tasks like drawing, editing pictures, 3D modeling, and graphic designing won’t benefit from having a lot of cores. The most crucial factor is the clock speed of your processor. Below are some of the programs and applications that will not take advantage of having multiple cores.

  • AutoCAD
  • Civil
  • Solid Works
  • Maya
  • Blender
  • Cinema 4D
  • Rhinoceros

However, if you want the apps listed above to run smoothly, you can buy a processor with more cores.

Video Editing

  • Adobe Premiere
  • Lightworks
  • iMovie
  • AVS Video Editor
  • SonyVegas Pro

Video editing has always been a single-threaded task. You won’t see a significant difference in your workflow if you decide to invest in a dual or quad-core. You only need to make sure that the processor has a decent clock speed. 

Photo Editing

  • Photoshop
  • Lightroom
  • Core PaintShop

You will hardly see any difference with applications like Photoshop and other image editing programs, even if you decide to upgrade to a dual-core or a quad-core. Image editing applications will run smoothly if the clock speed is high.

A processor with a dual core and a decent base frequency will be perfect for any image editing software.

Music Production

  • Ableton
  • FL Studio
  • Logic Pro

Musicians use the music production programs listed above to produce music: these programs benefit from multiple cores. The more music production tasks that you execute, the more you will benefit from having more than a core.

You will be able to assign a music task to a single core: however, it’s essential that the base frequency of your cores can withstand the requirements of your VST and plugins. If your cores are unable to keep up, then they are not helpful.

Basically, the base frequency of your processor is more important than the number of cores. However, if you can get a processor with multiple comes and a decent base frequency, then you should buy it. Also, if you can get a processor with lower cores but with the same base frequency, it’s worth buying.  

Programming

Programming does not receive any advantage from a processor with multiple cores. What is more important is the base frequency because it reduces the time it will to compile, emulate and launch your program.

However, the only instance that programming laptop benefits from multiple cores is at the virtualization period, and that largely depends on if you are planning to use high-end programs on your VMs. Simply, you will not see an advantage in using a quad-core or dual-core for general programming and development, but Virtual Machine takes advantage of multiple cores.

Gaming

Game engines need synchronization because it requires series of actions that are executed one after the other. Game sites will tell you that they can enhance your performance while playing their games, but you will hardly notice any difference.

The most important factor is the clock speed of your processor. An impressive clock speed will increase your game’s performance even if the processor is not dual-core. So, a powerful laptop for gaming is necessary in most cases.

You can also read the instructions on your game site to see if they can actually make a difference to your gaming experience.

Conclusion

I’m pretty sure you can now make up your mind on the perfect processor that will handle your computing needs. Some quad-core i5 laptops have similar specs to quad-core i7 ones that you can easily go for. If you have the money, you can go for a quad-core i7 processor.

But if you are on a tight budget, you can continue to use your dual-core processor. 

A lot depends on what you want and how much you are willing to invest in your machine.

Founder, writer, editor-in-chief at LaptopTalks. Starting LaptopTalks is like a dream come true, combining two of his passions – writing and technology. Even in his free time, you can often find him by his gaming laptop playing the latest video games.

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