What is a core?
If you’re reading this then you don’t know too much about processors and want to learn. Or you’re reading this to find an excuse to say terrible things about us. Whichever the reason, NCIX welcomes you and hopes you can learn something today.
A sole core can (in the most basic sense) run a single program, maintain program integrity and task execution order, and many other complicated computer things. The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is made up of one or more of these cores and uses them to run tasks which the OS schedules. More than one core can be assigned on the same task, allowing them to share the processing power and ultimately shorten the time needed to complete the task. The more cores a CPU has, the more processes can be run in parallel and the less time a task will need to be worked on for.
That’s a very general run-down of what a core is. This has been brought to you by NCIX Canada.
How many cores do i need?
The more complex your task, the more cores you will need. For users mainly focusing on browsing the web and using basic application, two cores will be more than plenty — chances are, the processes you run won’t be able to reach the bottleneck that two cores provide anyways. But for more intensive tasks such as gaming or photo editing, and depending on the gravity of the tasks, you will need a quad core or greater processor to keep up and maintain smooth performance. As of mid 2017, the greatest number of cores on a consumer processor is 16, on AMD’s Threadripper. A processing unit with that many cores will only be fully utilized in extremely intensive tasks such as rending 3D, video, and audio. Even then it simply means less waiting time.
Introducing Intel's Hyper Threading TEchnology
All of Intel’s CPUs possessing 4 cores and up have the ability to utilize Intel’s innovative Hyper Threading technology. What Hyper Threading does is the CPU essentially tricks the OS into thinking it has double the number of cores than it actually has. So, a quad-core CPU would appear to have 8 logic processors in the OS’s eyes.
Hyper Threading works by taking advantage of the fact that for most workloads, modern CPUs have a surplus of resources. While many processes can be split up to the cores inside the CPU, usually these tasks aren’t very intensive and doesn’t take up all the resources that is available. Or certain task can only be assigned to specific modules inside the cores. As a result, some of the execution units (processing units) are sitting idle. With Hyper Threading, a core presents itself to the OS as two virtual cores and allows another set of data to be used by the same core. This enables more tasks to be run at the same time and effectively keeps most of the processing units busy, shortening the time needed to execute a program.
Of course, this doesn’t beat having the actual physical cores in your system.
A quad-core processor will be more than enough for most system builds. With 4 cores, you can play any of the latest AAA games, watch all kinds of 4K videos, and render almost anything quite efficiently. Unless you’re rendering more than one 3D process, you most likely won’t cap out on the processor capacities. Take note that while your processor may be strong, you’ll need an equally powerful video card to play games at the graphical settings you desire. And while quad-core CPUs will be able to handle the majority of games, a select few titles with lots of little 3D models (GTA series or Total War series) would benefit more from a processor with a greater number of cores.