Blame it on the chewing gum.
Double the processor cores means twice a fast, right? That’s what a lot of people are mistakenly thinking. In the past three years, starting with the AMD Opteron, both major producers have been serving up dual core processors like they were tater chips. Manufacturers have been incorporating them into their latest and greatest portables and desktop offerings. Intel has confirmed this as a great decision by following suite with their version of Dual and even Quad core processors. The general public is snatching them up like chips for dip. The overclockers and benchmarking people have all switched, and articles as far back as 2004 are pointing out the differences and making interesting analogies to explain what dual core processing is, and what it might some day do for you.
Is it twice as fast? No, not in the way most perceive fast, not as it relates to our daily computing. All else being equal a 2200MHz, dual core processor is no faster than a 2200MHz single core processor. Bear in mind I said “all things being equal.” There are other things that come into play, cache, memory speed, front side bus, and yes there are faster and slower architectures. Does your new dual core 2200MHz rig surf, instant message, and open programs as fast as my friends old 3.73GHz EE (extreme edition) single core? Nope, it’s not even close. Does the processor burn a DVD while rendering a photo or downloading a program, as fast? Yes, it beats it do death
I think this is where things get muddled. Many of the current articles would have you believe that “the average user” doesn’t need multi-core computing. I believe that assumption to be incorrect.I don’t view the problem as one of misunderstanding CPU architecture or misguided altruism. The problem seems to be what each of us thinks of as a normal computer user. My friend, who can’t figure out how to turn off sleep mode, is constantly downloading songs and programs, while surfing and using instant messaging. Does his dual core laptop do that better than a higher clocked single core? You bet it does. The multi core processor can do more work faster, but only when asked. If you don’t call on it to perform it won’t.
Although the average computer user may not be running CAD programs or using PhotoShop everyday, I do think the average user is using much more processing power than ever before. Many now download songs, render photos, and even record “home movies” (DVDs). The computing skills of the average user have increased rapidly and, fortunately, the processors are in place to deliver what is needed. People, who at one time confused the computer with the monitor, are now on their third computer purchase. Their children and grandchildren are computer whizzes and starting computer savvy families of their own.
A quick look at this excerpt from information provided by Lyle shows the steady rise in number of multi core processors tested at PC Pitstop. AMDs original dual core Opteron and Intel’s dual and quad core are all on the rise. In January of 2006, less than a year after their introduction, multi core processors were used in only 1% of our total tests. Look at this dramatic and unwavering increase in the number of multi core processors being tested at PC Pitstop.
Now, only two years later, that share has grown to almost 30%. From 1% to 13% the first year, from 13% to 28% the second year, and if my guess is right we’ll be looking at over 50% by the end of this year, 2008.
If my physical count of SKUs on local retail shelves tells me anything, it’s that the 50%+ figure might be conservative. The dual core offerings are literally shoving the single cores out of the stores.
Notice also the jump in CPU scores. Those scores increase and scale dramatically in relation to CPU MHz.(speed). There has been great improvement in the number of instructions per clock cycle as well as the cache size from the Pentium D to the Core2Duo. This has given Intel a solid lead over AMD in the performance arena.
Because both AMD and Intel have dual core processors available for under $60.00, price is anything but a hindrance to this rapid takeover.
So that brings us to the Big Question. Do you need it? Well, if you don’t, I do, and so does my old neighbor Brenda Berhans who plays casino games while downloading tunes for her I pod. So does my daughter who records and creates DVDs of the properties she’s selling before driving clients to the actual location. I suspect the next year will see an increase in the number of applications that take better advantage of dual core processors, but even more important, I expect the average user will progress into a more demanding user in the future. Just remember to get the fastest dual core you can afford and enjoy the best of both worlds.
*From NewEgg the least expensive listing for AMD is the Athlon 64×2 4000 Brisbane HT 2.1 @ $59.00.
*From NewEgg the least expensive listing for Intel is the Celeron E1200 1.6 @ 58.99.