Today’s processors are predominantly equipped with several CPU cores. The number varies, however, sometimes considerably. In our guide you can find out which processor is suitable for your application and what significance the number of CPU cores Dual (2), Quad (4) or Octa (8) cores has.
We also give you some tips on how to view information about your current processor and how to set the responsibility of each core.
How does the number of cores affect the performance of the processor?
Since the clock frequency of a processor cannot be increased arbitrarily due to heat development, CPU manufacturers were increasingly forced to develop multi-core processors from 2005 onwards. Since then, several cores have been installed in one chip; single-core solutions have been largely ousted from the market.
The fact that several processor cores are located on one chip means that the arithmetic operations that occur can be distributed. Computers with several CPU cores are usually faster and less often overloaded.
However, the number of cores alone is not an indicator of a good processor. It is therefore quite possible that a dual-core processor offers better performance than a quad-core processor. In addition to the number of cores and the clock frequency, which is specified in gigahertz (GHz), the CPU architecture also plays a significant role. In order to understand these parameters, a sound knowledge of how a processor works is required.
Due to their complexity, these processes are difficult for laypersons to understand. But to find the right processor, no precise expertise is required. When choosing the right CPU, you should primarily be guided by the performance and application area of the processor.
Different processors for different applications
In general, these processor types are available for selection:
- Single Core
- Dual Core
- Quad Core
- Hexa and Octa Core
- More than 8 processor cores
Single and dual core processors are becoming increasingly rare in modern computers. Especially for more complex programs, the purchase of such a CPU is not recommended. For simple office applications, however, a dual core processor is sufficient.
Quad Core processors are much more common nowadays. They are a good compromise between price and performance and usually offer everything a normal user needs. Many programs and games can only use up to 4 cores. However, this is only the current state of the art, which is why you should definitely make provisions for the future with a Hexa or Octa Core. Multiple CPU cores are especially useful for users who have many applications open at the same time. Even if you do a lot of video or sound editing, it’s a good idea to use a solution with more than four cores.
Recently, industry leaders Intel and AMD have added processors with more than 8 cores. These are the best processors on the market today. However, their price is also correspondingly high. You should therefore consider waiting a while before buying such a processor.
Whether you choose an Intel or AMD CPU is ultimately a matter of taste. AMD has caught up with its competitor Intel in recent years. Both manufacturers are roughly comparable in their performance categories. However, comparable Intel CPUs are often slightly more expensive than those of competitor AMD.
How to compare CPUs with each other
Because it’s hard to compare processors with a glance at the data sheet, you should use so-called benchmark tests, just like with graphics cards. In these tests the performance of hardware is evaluated with points. The higher the score, the better the CPU in the PC.
The Only4gamers processor ranking is especially interesting for gamers. Here the different processors can be compared with each other without having to deal with the architecture of the CPUs. What counts in this case is the performance. Benchmark results can be transferred to the performance in gaming.
Balanced combination of PC components including CPUs
Investing in a good processor alone makes little sense. If you are using sophisticated software, you need a suitable mainboard and a powerful graphics card in addition to the processor. Although the CPU is the heart of the PC, older hardware components can prevent the processor from developing its full potential. A particularly common weakness of older computers are HDD hard disks. If your operating system runs on such a hard disk, it is worth switching to an SSD, which considerably shortens the response time.
Before you buy a new processor, you must make sure that the CPU fits on the mainboard or its socket. Especially with older sockets it can happen that the new CPU is not suitable. For newer processors you must also use a current operating system. For older Windows versions such as 8.1 or 7, Microsoft does not offer support for new processor types. This means that you may not be able to use the full performance of the new hardware. Therefore, it is recommended to use Windows 10 for the new processor generation.
By overclocking a processor you can also get more performance out of old CPUs. However, you should monitor closely whether your CPU fan can still prevent your processor from overheating. A slight increase in clock frequency is usually possible without installing a new CPU cooler.
How do I find out how many cores my processor/computer has?
The easiest way to find out your processor under Windows 10 is to select “System” under Settings and then click on “Info“. Alternatively, you can also enter “PC Info” in the search bar. The exact processor type is also shown under the displayed device specifications.
However, this does not tell you how many cores your processor has. In Windows 10 you can see this in the task manager under the “Performance” tab. Alternatively, you can open the “Command Prompt” (“cmd“) via the search bar. If you enter “wmic cpu get numberofcores,numberoflogicalprocessors” and confirm with Enter, the number of physical cores is displayed under “NumberofCores“. Under “NumberOfLogicalProcessors” you will find the logical processors generated by Hyper-Threading.
Assign specific CPU cores to programs
Windows also allows you to assign individual CPU cores to the programs. To do this, open the “Details” tab in the task manager. With a right click on the corresponding program, you can “define the affiliation“. This is useful if computationally intensive programs slow down other applications. By default, Windows distributes the computational tasks equally among all cores. Even for games that are designed for less than the available cores, it is a good idea to limit the use of the cores
Limit number of cores
You can also set Windows to use only a certain number of processors. To do this, use the search function to open the “System Configuration“. Under the “Start” tab, select “Advanced Options…”. Then you can specify how many cores Windows should use. The changes will take effect as soon as the system is restarted.
The power saving mode of laptops limits the performance of the processors. If you need maximum CPU power, you can switch the “Power Saving Plan” (also accessible via the search bar) to “Maximum Power“.
Intel Core i9-9900K vs AMD Ryzen R7 3700X
Competitor AMD has overtaken Intel with the latest Ryzen models – but that doesn’t mean that Intel is out of the picture in the desktop processor sector. Especially when it comes to gaming, CPUs are as strong as ever. But the CPU company is also paying well for the excellent performance. We show you the best and cheapest recommendations from our tests.
Intel and AMD have been fighting for the crown in the desktop processor market for years. Intel CPUs were unrivaled for years. However, because of Ryzen, the processor manufacturer had to give up the cosy sunny spot. Now, three places in the top 5 of the best list go to the competitor – also the number 1. The same applies to enthusiast processors. The manufacturers are fighting a relentless battle here, however, and it remains to be seen whether Intel will catch up and overtake AMD again with the next generation.
Ranking: Intel Core i9-9900K vs AMD Ryzen R7 3700X
With the sixth processor generation – Skylake – Intel had abandoned the tick-tock development model. In addition to new architecture as one step and die-shrinkers as another, the developer introduced an optimization phase. Compared to the predecessor, the processors of the seventh generation (Kaby Lake) come up with a clock acceleration. Since the eighth generation (Coffee Lake) Intel has also increased the number of cores per model series – the flagship Core i9-9900K (Coffee Lake Refresh) now has beaten 8 cores and 16 threads. The very good i7-9700K also has 8 cores, but does without hyperthreading. There is always a ten percent performance difference between the CPUs of one generation.
This is enough to put the chips in our best list on top places in their categories. You also need at least one Kaby-Lake CPU in the consumer sector for Intel’s Optane SSDs, DDR4 memory with 2,400 MHz and for hardware acceleration with the H.265 codec.
High clock frequency, poor price-performance
Intel provides new clock records like clockwork and makes it easy for overclockers to set the bar higher. The Intel Core i9-9900K already reaches the 5 GHz mark without any intervention. Single-core performance is still an important factor for gaming. But this might change in the future. Multicore performance is gradually leaving the professional user sector and is occasionally moving into games from large publishers as added value. But until this paradigm shift is completely acceptable, Intel is still just ahead of the game industry.
It looks different when it comes to price-performance. AMD offers considerably cheaper comparable models in the high-class i9 and i7 divisions as well as in the mid-range i5s. For an i9-9700K with eight cores (rank 5) you get about an AMD Ryzen R7 3700X with eight cores (rank 2).
What is a processor? Simply explained
Each computer is clocked by a processor that processes the tasks assigned to it step by step. This article explains exactly what a processor is and what tasks in the computer it is responsible for.
The Processor – heart of the computer
The processor is the heart of a computer because it works in a regular rhythm. In general, the processor is also called the CPU (Central Processing Unit). The CPU is included in many electronic devices and serves as the central processing unit for processing instructions. Well-known processor manufacturers are Intel or AMD.
- Clock frequency: Each processor has a rhythm, also called clock frequency. The faster the clock frequency, the faster the processor can process instructions. A measure of the speed of the rhythms is hertz. One Hertz is one clock per second.
- Cooling: High speeds of the clock frequencies cause large heat losses. The electronics in the processor can be damaged by the heat generated. To dissipate the heat, fans or water cooling systems are usually used.
Tasks of a processor: What the CPU does
Processors have certain tasks. Arithmetic operations must be performed and parts of the computer must be controlled. Data is entered, processed and finally output. The processor can only process data as binary code. This means that the processor only understands zeros and ones. Therefore, every number or digit must be encoded in binary code.
- Calculating: Each processor has a calculating device. Within the arithmetic unit, the processor carries out calculations. For example, a simple arithmetic operation would be 1+1 = 2, in which case the arithmetic unit outputs the number 2.
- Control: A processor also contains a control unit. The control unit is responsible for the cooperation of the individual components in the processor. The control unit stores and reads data from the main memory and processes the inputs and outputs of peripheral devices (mouse, keyboard, etc.).
- Bus system: Bus systems are used for data transmission between the different components of the computer.
Multi-core processors and Hyper-Threading
The performance of a processor core is physically limited and cannot be expanded at will. Therefore the clock frequency cannot be increased infinitely. In order to increase the performance nevertheless, processors can be interconnected without increasing the clock frequency.
- Multi-core: Several processor cores are combined into one processor. In this case, the manufacturer differentiates between single-core processors (single-core), dual-core processors (dual-core), quad-core processors (quad-core), hex-core processors (hexa-core) and octa-core processors (octa-core).
- Hertz: High-performance processors operate in the GHz range. A CPU can thus perform 1 billion operations per second.
- Multi-core processors are not only found in large devices such as notebooks or desktop PCs, but also in tablets and smartphones.