Dual Core vs Quad Core – What are the differences between the two?
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If you have recently looked into getting a new laptop or desktop computer then you have certainly come across the terms dual core and quad core.
These are common descriptors for the most prevalent processors available in computers today but what does it mean? Are cores important? Do I need a quad core or a dual core? These are the questions we will answer in this comprehensive guide.
By the end, you will know exactly what it means to have a quad core computer versus a dual core computer and whether or not one is more important for you.
What is a core?
A core is a key component piece to a computer processor. The brain of a computer is its processor. It takes in all of the information from the rest of the computer and, well, processes it.
The processor connects the RAM, the memory, and the graphics card together by taking in actions and information and distributing it to where it needs to go.
The physical processor itself is made up of cores which are blocks of microchips that function together. A fast processor will have numerous cores that are able to take in a lot of information at once and process it all quickly.
You can have the world’s greatest graphics card and 128GB of RAM but without a fast processor, all of that information will get bottlenecked.
Quad Core vs Dual Core
What are the differences between Dual and Quad Core?
The difference between dual core and quad core processors is the number of cores that the processor is divided into. The number of cores does not necessarily indicate how powerful or fast the processor is. A processor with more cores simply can do more tasks at once but not necessarily faster.
It is similar to dividing up a pizza. If you have an 8” pizza that you divide into two halves, you can feed two people. But if you divide a 6” pizza into four pieces, you can feed four people a slice but the pizza itself is smaller. That is how processing cores work and how they are related to the overall speed of the processor.
A dual core processor can process fewer tasks at once while a quad core processor can handle more tasks at once because there is a greater division of processing power.
What is the better core?
Neither dual core nor quad core is necessarily better than the other. It all depends on what you are using your computer for.
If one was distinctively better than the other it would have made the opposite obsolete. Things in tech generally do not stick around if they are not useful.
A dual core processor can still be fast, it can just process fewer commands at once. If you only use your computer to check your email, stream your favorite shows and browse the internet then you will never notice the difference between a dual core and quad core setup. In fact, most people do not know which one they have because, for the majority of people, it is not an issue.
Quad core computers can process more information simultaneously. This is important for people who like to multitask. Anyone who likes to check their email AND work on a presentation at the same time will notice the core.
Video games are programs that benefit from multiple cores. Video games take peripheral inputs from your keyboard and mouse, run it through a graphical program, respond to the coding built into the game, and then outputs audio and visual feedback. That is the kind of process that needs multiple cores to run effectively.
Things to consider when choosing which core setup to buy
The number one thing to consider when choosing which core setup to buy is how intensive is your computer usage. Do you multitask a lot? Do you have multiple monitors? Do you game a lot?
These questions will help point you towards which core you are going to benefit most from. If you answered yes to those questions then you might want to get a quad core processor rather than a dual core.
However, if you do not run multiple programs at once, if you only use things like Spotify and Mail, or if you only have one screen and find that it is completely fine to only have one screen then you can probably get away with a dual core.
There are a lot of programs that benefit from the use of multiple cores and we have made a list of these kinds of programs. If you find yourself using one or more of these types of intensive programs then you should possibly consider bulking up your cores.
Software that takes advantage of the extra core
Basic tasks can benefit, at the very least, from a dual core processor. If you didn’t have at least two cores being able to have multiple browsers or streaming services up at once could cause your computer to stutter.
Indeed, back in the days of old, computers could hardly handle a single task, and clicking off an inbox while it was trying to load could prove disastrous.
While we have advanced far past that point, the use of dual cores is part of the reason why we can do multiple things at once on the computer, no matter how basic.
Animation programs cannot run without the boost obtained from multiple cores. Animation has a lot going on from moving parts to colors, independent backgrounds, models, and more.
These things cannot run in tandem without the help of a processor that can process these various types of information simultaneously. If you plan on doing any animation work, even basic animation, you are going to need multiple cores to work properly.
Today, everything requires something based on 3D models. Unless you are running a program that exists completely in text or simply uses old school 2D sprites, 3D models are everywhere.
From CGI in the biggest movies to some of the graphics on your phone that you take for granted, modelers are hard at work making these things for us to enjoy.
If you are planning on doing any sort of 3D modeling, such as using AutoCAD (check out our list of laptops here) you are going to want the versatility of a multicore processor. Modern graphic design features more and more digital 3D models so the art is becoming more and more prevalent and definitely will benefit from additional processor cores.
There is a lot that goes into video editing that most people do not think about at first glance. The image and the audio streams are separate, the raw video feed is often very large in size and precise edits often utilize powerful and bloated programs to get the job done.
All of these things beg for the help of a multicore processor. Without it, getting the video and audio to sync or performing quality edits would be hampered by slow loading and rendering times.
Basic image editing and programs such as Photoshop can probably get away on a dual core system as the process is less intensive than say video editing. However, it still can use a powerful processor to interpret the information flowing between your inputs, the editing software, and the image itself.
Almost everyone does some kind of image editing nowadays and that means everyone can benefit from the use of an extra core while doing so. If you love drawing on your computer, these laptops are worth checking out as well.
Music production is another program that sorts and processes numerous inputs and outputs at once. Whether you are building sounds from scratch using Midi files or playing a live track that you previously recorded, there is a lot of audio input that goes into music production.
Being able to play multiple audio sources, look up things and edit the sound on the fly while getting crisp clear playback when you need it is all done with the help of a multicore processor.
Programming takes advantage of extra cores because you have to be able to run the coding software as well as the program you are building, often times, simultaneously.
Programming will quickly become a slog if you can’t test your code on the fly. Having extra cores allows you to fluidly code, test, recode and test again without having the computer bog down, especially if you are getting a lot of errors or crashes.
Gaming is one of the most well known uses for multiple core processing. Due to the nature of the programs, gaming takes in a lot of manual inputs from the player and then generates a large number of outputs.
This cycle is what makes up any computer game whether it is Pong or the latest AAA adventure saga.
Sometimes you will hear about games that are “CPU intensive” rather than graphics intensive. That means that the underlying program requires a lot of processing power to run smoothly that has nothing to do with the graphics card.
That is why gaming, especially modern hardcore gaming, really benefits from extra processing cores. And if you are on the lookout for a gaming computer, be sure to check out our best gaming laptops under $500.
The choice between a dual core, quad core, or even a hexa core is going to be entirely up to you, the consumer. Each has their own uses and their own benefits.
There is no one core that is going to be perfect for everyone, especially considering the large price discrepancies that can appear in the market.
If you are getting a brand new computer, the best thing to do is to simply choose the latest generation processors. The newer processors will be faster and more capable than older processors, no matter what kind of core configuration they have.
If you are currently looking for a new laptop here are some great examples of dual core and quad core computers that are very good and have a ton of features. You can even get the same model laptop, like the featured IdeaPad 3, with either a dual core or quad core processor so the choice is truly ultimately up to you.
Dual Core Laptops
HP Pavilion HD Laptop
Dual core does not mean poor quality. Take, for example, this excellent HP Pavilion Laptop. This machine has an Intel dual core processor but it also has a ton of other great features to go along with it. It has 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid state hard drive.
This computer is no slouch. It is available for a fair price and it has all of the bells and whistles you need to do work from home including an HD webcam, Bluetooth capability, and a large 15.6” screen. When it comes to laptops with dual core processors, this is one of the best available.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3
The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 has been a staple of the laptop market for many years. There are various configurations with multiple options that are easily customizable.
This version of the classic computer comes with a large 15.6” touchscreen as well as 12GB of RAM and 512GB of solid state hard drive space. All of this is powered by a competent dual core AMD processor that tops out at 3.5GHz.
This is another great example of a flagship laptop shipping with tons of great features plus a dual core processor capable of running everything you need it to. The savings you get with a dual core processor allows this computer to ship with extra RAM (12GB instead of 8GB) and a large touchscreen.
Quad Core Laptops
ASUS VivoBook 15 Thin
The ASUS VivoBook 15 is an all around great laptop available for a solid price. This machine is run entirely by AMD components.
It has an R5 quad core processor and AMD Vega graphics. The combination is excellent and if you have never had a computer with majority of AMD components then this is one to definitely consider.
With nearly universal praise, a price that is more than fair, and every common feature needed for a day-to-day laptop the Vivobook 15 checks every box.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Quad Core
Laptops, and computers in general, are very customizable. They are modular machines that can take various different components in multiple configurations and still come out the other side looking the same as another model with completely different innards.
That is why there are so many options for computers. It is also why we featured the IdeaPad 3 twice. Not only is the IdeaPad 3 a high quality everyday laptop for the common computer user, it is also super customizable.
You are able to choose from a variety of different options, including dual core versus quad core or touchscreen versus a traditional screen.
This configuration of the IdeaPad 3 features an Intel i5 quad core processor, 8GB of RAM, and a traditional 14” screen. Slightly different from the touchscreen dual core model featured above and still a great option.
Dual and Quad Core Alternatives
There are other options out there for processors and core configuration. Dual core and quad core processors are currently the most common and the most popular. These are some alternatives to dual or quad core processors that might come up in research or conversation.
While becoming less and less common, there are still computers and devices that run on a single core. Cell phones for a long time ran on a single core which is why they struggled to do more than one task at a time.
Today, the most likely place to find machines running single cores are going to be super low budget laptops, old laptops, or certain models of tablet.
Anything that is difficult to run multiple apps or programs on at once probably has a single core rather than a dual core. If you are looking to save money then you might want to consider looking into basic things that feature a single core.
One step up from quad core is a hexa core computer. These are becoming more common in the gaming computer space but they still haven’t completely overtaken the quad core in terms of overall availability and popularity.
Instead of four cores, these processors feature six cores which allow you to divide actions even further than a quad core processor. If you are looking to do some serious gaming, coding or multitasking you might want to look into a hexa core processor.
In addition to hexa cores, there are also eight core processors making their way onto the market right now as well. The more cores you pack into a processor the more expensive they will be, but if the idea of having the biggest and baddest cores inside of your premium processor makes you super excited then you might want to look at setups that exceed simple quad core.
Another option to try and get more out of your current processor is to look into overclocking. There are overclocking guides all over the web.
A big disclaimer is that if you are planning on overclocking your processor, know the risks. Improperly overclocking a processor can fry the chip or void the warranty, both of which can leave you without the most important part of a computer.
If done properly, overclocking can eke out more speed and power from an existing card, whether it is dual core or quad core. This is a way to try and get a little bit of extra juice for things like gaming or coding without having to upgrade your entire computer.
It is risky but it can be done if you know what you are doing.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I need lots of cores or a faster CPU clock speed?
The answer to this question will depend on what kind of computing you will ultimately be doing the most of. Generally, more cores are going to be better for average people than a super fast clock speed.
Unless you are mining for crypto or are running truly strenuous programs, the average computer user will not be doing anything that will push the limits of a truly fast processor.
For the most part, multitasking is far more common a task for a computer than anything requiring raw processing power. But that is not true of everyone. Some people’s hobbies or jobs might require more processing power than the number of cores, it all depends.
AMD vs. Intel
We could write a whole article comparing AMD to Intel but for the layperson, there is effectively little difference. Intel is better known and more common but they are not overtly superior to AMD.
AMD also makes chipsets and graphics cards that perform the same or better than Intel components.
Both are very good and the same principles of cores versus processing power apply to them equally despite being different brands. This is truly just a personal preference and if you have no opinion on the matter, you don’t really need to worry about it much.
Which is faster? Dual core or quad core?
The speed of a processor is calculated independently of the number of cores that it possesses. You can have the fastest processor in the world that only has a single core. They are independent.
A quad core will be faster when running multiple programs at the same time over a dual core. However, you might find a dual core with a noticeably larger amount of processing power that will be objectively faster than an old quad core.
Is i5 quad core better than i7 dual core?
For the average person, an i5 quad core is going to be better than an i7 dual core. You really only need an i7 if you plan on doing a lot of high intensity computing such as gaming, programming, or editing.
For the average, or even slightly above average, computer user, an i5 quad core is going to be more than enough. Being able to run a web browser, a music program, and an email client at once is going to be more beneficial to most than the hyperthreading capability that an i7 boasts over an i5.
If you do not know what hyperthreading is, then definitely default to the quad core i5.
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