How Many CPU Cores Do You Really Need?

Posted January 29, 2010 3:32 am by with 7 comments

Pretty much any processor you can buy today has multiple cores. Two cores seems to be the defacto standard, however you can get up to 4 cores without breaking the bank, but do you see a worthwhile gain from these additional cores? This article titled “How Many CPU Cores Do You Need?” addresses this very question.

Jumping to the results of the benchmark tests which were run, you can see there is an across the board “real-world” increase when going from one core to two with each additional core offering some benefit. [Note "real-world" in quotes because benchmarks are merely a guesstimation.] Games benefited from the addition of a second core only and applications show respectable gains as each additional core was added. I am ignoring the synthetic results as they are pie in the sky numbers. One thing to keep in mind when looking at the results is multicore CPU’s are just now becoming true commonplace and many applications have some catching up to do in order to take advantage of this.

These are interesting numbers to keep in mind if you are in the market. Personally at this point, I would stick with a two core (unless you are a crazy multi-tasker) as most users probably do not utilize their computers in a way that four cores would be beneficial. On top this, a two core will give you the most bang for the buck as the price points go up exponentially when more cores are added.

What are you takes on this?

7 responses to How Many CPU Cores Do You Really Need?

  1. Jean M. January 29th, 2010 at 5:20 am

    Actually if you are running some simulations at home or work place you definitely do need a very high end processecing power to handle the job. An instance would be running some Cisco simulated routers on 7500 series with Dynamips 12 in total or more, a simple dual core will just not respond but won’t leave you open you simple file, but a quad core or the lates i7 with some 6G or more Gigs of RAMs will ease your job. But for a normal user, a dual core will do the job well. That was just my opinion

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  2. Eli January 29th, 2010 at 10:40 am

    I’m now running an AMD 4850e and I love it. It runs Ubuntu 8.04 super smoothly, and handles video encoding while doing other things. However, I notice a slow down when doing serious multi-tasking. Based on the results of those tests, which are similar to others I’ve seen, my next machine will be running an AMD quad core.

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  3. Lex January 29th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I can testify to the fact that having multiple CPU processing power definitely makes a difference. My desktop has the recent Intel core I7 processor which is hyperthreaded for effectively 8 processors and my laptop has the AMD Athlon X2 Dual Core processor. While both are fast there is no wat the AMD can match the Intel corei7. The simplest of tasks moves with lightning speed on the desktop. It is my personal recommendation that computer users have as many cores as possible to avoid frustrating slow downs.

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  4. David Kennedy January 29th, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Just built a new PC using a Core i7 (Quad) processor. It’s definitely worth it, but yes probably overkill for your average user. All the cores in the world aren’t going to help much with email/internet, where the connection speed is usually the bottleneck.

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  5. David M January 30th, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Is there a super fast dual core i7?

    Is the fastest dual core anywhere near as fast as the individual cores of the i7 975?

    I’m going to be upgrading to a high end i7 because Microsoft Flight Simulator is heavily CPU dependent and less so GPU dependent. Would it make sense to go with a dual core given MFS does not utilize a quad core? I don’t think it would make sense. My inclination is to go with the CPU whose two cores are going to do the most work regardless of the total number of cores….and I’m pretty sure something like an i7 965 is going to do more work per cycle than any i7 dual core and certainly more work per cycle that a previous generation dual core.

    For some people, the individual amount of work that a core does per cycle is what counts and not necessarily the total number of cores. So for some, a quad core does make more sense.

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    • David Kennedy January 31st, 2010 at 11:18 am

      The short answer: get the best you can afford.

      If price is no object, then I’d get the 965. Eventually, you can bet there will be more software that takes full advantage of the extra cores. But, if price is a problem, then there’s probably no reason for you go spend extra to do what you want to do right now.

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  6. vdisciple April 24th, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I work from home and currently running dual core. I noticed that if im running video and try to do other tasks at the same time that it bogs down significantly. Im upgrading mobo and chipset to quad core this summer.

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