There is nothing worse than looking for a new laptop or computer only to be bamboozled by the complex terminology and jargon that manufacturers use.
For those of you who find yourself confused when it comes to computers and their parts, this article is for you. Specifically, we are going to look at the main component in your computer, the processor.
If you have been looking at computers already, then you have probably heard of the terms dual-core processor or quad-core processor. If you have no idea what that means, we're here to help. By the end of this article, you're going to be a master of processor terminology, ready to find the perfect laptop or computer for your needs.
Your processor is the component that sits at the heart of your laptop, in the control room. Responsible for making thousands of decisions every single second, your CPU or central processing unit is the most important part of your PC.
When looking for a PC, the main factor in its performance will be how strong the processor at the heart of your machine is. To increase performance, you simply need to get a better CPU.
When you have to decide what processor to get, there are hundreds of different benchmarks you could look at. For most people, there are 3 specific factors you should look at, the clock speed, the number of cores, and the make/generation of the chip.
What Is Clock Speed?
Clock speed is the brainpower of your CPU. This is how many decisions or processes it can make in a given second. The higher the number, the better your PC will run. Clock speed is measured in gigahertz or GHz, with 1GHz being 1000 processes per second.
This is massively important once you start asking your PC to run demanding software such as Photoshop or a game. This kind of software requires a lot more power and will utilize a larger percentage of your processors' brainpower.
Is a Higher Clock Speed Better?
A higher speed is usually faster, but it is from a newer generation and a reputable brand. Older processors may have a high speed, but their architecture stops them from being useful in modern tasks.
What are Cores?
Next, we have cores. Cores have been around since the beginning. Old processors came with a single core. This meant that old CPUs could only complete a single task before moving onto another one.
Dual-core CPUs have two cores, meaning each core can complete its own task. This essentially doubles your computing power.
Quad-core CPUs are the next evolution of multi-core chips. 4 cores means that these processors can work on 4 separate processes at once.
These are the most common CPU's used in laptops and computers today. Most Intel Core i5 chips fall into this category. Above these are the more commercially designed chips that can have 6 cores or more.
These are usually reserved for the top-level chips like the Intel Core i7 or i9. These chips are designed by Intel to provide faster processing power that makes single-threaded cores look slow in comparison.
Intel i7-core vs. Intel core-i5
i7 processors are expensive, and unless you run demanding software on your computers, you don't have to spend the money. A core i5 should be more than enough for web browsing and some light editing.
Intel Core i7 chips are designed for those that want to game and heavily edit or design.
Remember that many cores do not equal high performance; you will need your processor to be strong in the other areas too.
Check out our article on core speed here.
Brand and Generation
You should always check that the CPU you are looking at synergizes well with the other parts in your computer. Intel tech generally works well with other intel tech and likewise with AMD.
One thing that is MASSIVELY IMPORTANT is the generation of the chip. Every couple of years, both AMD and Intel release their newest generation of chips. They are almost always 30-50% better than the last generation. This means this year's i5 is better than last year's i7.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Is it better to have more cores or higher GHz?
Higher GHz is generally better than more cores unless you plan to heavily photo edit or play AA+ games.
What are more expensive, Quad or Dual Core?
Again, cores do not mean anything if the two chips are 4 years apart in terms of their generations. In the same generation, a quad-core processor will have a higher processor speed overall compared to a dual-core chip.
Faster processor speeds and multiple cores do mean a higher cost, so be prepared to pay more for a quad-core chipset.
Where Do More Cores Really Help?
There are some applications where having multiple cores really does help.
Gaming - Unfortunately, when it comes to modern gaming applications, a dual-core chip will not be able to cope with the strain. A quad-core chip is a minimum that we would advise for those that want to do some AAA+ gaming. These games can take advantage of the higher number of faster cores to make your gaming experience seamless. Quad-core chips simply work at a much faster CPU speed when it comes to multitasking.
Video or Photo Editing Applications - Nothing causes a CPU chip to sweat as much as when it is being used during photo or video editing software. When you are working on multiple layers, it really helps to have separate cores to work on individual tasks.
1.6 ghz vs 1.2 ghz - what’s the difference?
A 1.6GHz processor is one with a clock speed of 1.6GHz, a 1.2GHz processor is one with a clock speed of 1.2GHz.
What is the fastest dual core processor?
The fastest dual core processor is the intel core i9-10900K which can be overclocked to give a speed of 6.0GHz.
If you are planning to game or do heavy editing, look for a quad-core or above. If you do not plan to do any gaming or editing, a dual-core processer from a newish generation will be perfect.
Andrew White is the founder of TechGearoid, a leading technology review & information website that is designed to help consumers make better decisions when it comes to their IT purchases. As a specialist tech writer (nerd) with over 10 years of experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern technology & the newest market innovations. When he isn’t providing value for his readers, he’s usually drinking coffee or at the beach. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and family.