What is Quad Core?

Category: Hardware

You will often see references to Quad-core technology when looking at high-performance personal computers. Quad-core is leading-edge computing power, very fast and of course more expensive than single or dual-core processors. But what is Quad-core on a technical level? Read on to find out…

Quad Core Processors

Quad Core Processors

A "core," in hardware jargon, is part of a central processing unit (CPU) that reads and executes program instructions; other parts of the CPU get instructions into and results out of the core. CPUs were originally developed with just one core. But in search of ever faster processing, chip makers developed CPUs that have multiple cores.

In a multi-core processor, two or more cores are wired together so that they process instructions cooperatively. It's like having two people picking tomatoes instead of one, or an 8-cylinder engine instead of 4 cylinders; the work goes faster and you get the desired results sooner. A two-core processor is called a dual-core; a quad-core processor has four cores.

A quad core CPU is about the highest-performing processor that one can get in a desktop computer these days. Quad core processors are used in high-end gaming machines; video processing workstations; computer-aided design (CAD) applications; statistical modeling; working with very large database files; and in other extremely calculation-intensive applications. Generally, quad core processors are used in highly profitable applications because they are not cheap to buy. Quad core servers, which process tasks for many users, are ideal applications for quad core technology.

Intel Corp., the dominant CPU manufacturer, sells quad core Xeon brand processors. A medium-fast clock speed quad core Xeon goes for around $300. AMD, Intel's smaller, feisty competitor, sells Opteron™ quad core processors for about half of Intel Xeon's price. Some say that AMD's quad core design is more elegant and efficient than Intel's.

Is a Quad Core Processor Right For You?

Before you buy a quad core processor, make sure the software you plan to use can actually benefit from quad core technology. Software must be written to take advantage of quad core's multiple streams of simultaneous data input and output; otherwise, you get only the performance of a single core or even less, as the software designed for a single core may have difficulty with four cores.

Quad cores come in 32- and 64-bit versions, and software must be designed for the matching bit bandwidth in order to maximize performance. A 32-bit core moves data in and out in blocks of 32 bits, while a 64-bit core does it twice as fast. But even if your software applications are not specifically designed for a quad core processor, you can benefit from the technology by using a newer operating system like Windows 7, which was designed to take advantage of multiple cores.

Also, consider the middle road of dual-core processors. There is a big difference between single- and dual-core performance, and a bit less of a difference between dual- and quad-core performance. The performance difference depends in part on your application. A good bit of research is necessary to determine with confidence whether a dual-core processor is sufficient for your needs, and whether the next step up to quad core is worth the price difference.

Quad core technology is not for everyone. But if you want the ultimate in desktop computing, a quad core processor is the best you can buy for now.

Do you have something to say about quad core processors? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "What is Quad Core?"

Posted by:

30 Jun 2010

"Quad core technology is not for everyone. But if you want the ultimate in desktop computing, a quad core processor is the best you can buy for now."

Hmm, well aside from a hexacore which although relatively expensive, are widely available now.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not sure that ANY software will support the 6-core processors yet. And they cost over $3000!

Posted by:

Bill Armstrong
30 Jun 2010

Hi. Don't they now have 6 core processors?

Posted by:

Jack Mccurdy
01 Jul 2010

Well I don't know how elegant AMD quad core is but. I have a mildly overclocked Intel Q9550, which is a generation behind the AMD Phenom 2 Quad, and the newest AMD with an equal clock speed is still not quite as fast as my old school Intel Core2 Quad, and a new core i 7 will straight smoke the AMD!
By the way Intel and AMD are making 6 core processors, but very few programs are able to actually use all those cores.

Posted by:

02 Jul 2010

I have a motherboard housing an Athlon II 250 x2
processor. Instead of displaying it as a dual-core configuration it posts as 'unganged mode'. My memory
is DDR2-800 PC6400 2gb (2X1 modules).
Why the 'unganged mode' instead of dual-memory?

Posted by:

Jack Mccurdy
02 Jul 2010

Quote, EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not sure that ANY software will support the 6-core processors yet. And they cost over $3000!

The Intel six core is about $1000 US dollars, and the best AMD 6 core is about $300 dollars, But performance wise the AMD is not even in the same league as the Intel version. There is some software that will support 6 cores, but it's not any software that the average person will have. The software that is used on multi CPU systems would be useful for them.

Posted by:

Gary Wigle
05 Jul 2010

My computer in the states has a AMD X4 CPU. Fast? Not really but it sure does a lot of work. I ran SETI 24/7. Each CPU ran at 100% all the time. Wish I had it here in the Philippines.

Posted by:

08 Jul 2010

I try to keep my computers for many years, my Dell 8200 is going on 9 years. So when I ordered my new Toshiba laptop, I bought the Core I7 quad-core processor knowing that even though it is unlikely to be fully utilized with todays software, in a few short years it will be greatly utilized.

Posted by:

06 Feb 2011

I have used both the core i7 and quad core.
But from my experience i have discovered that quad core is best!!!!

Posted by:

Tan KK S
19 Jun 2011

I am looking for laptop which can be used to run AUTOCAD 2011 smoothly and perfectly. Please suggest. TQ

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