Differences Between CPU Cores Vs CPU Threads Vs Logical Processors

CPU cores, CPU threads and logical processors. Is there a difference between them? When shopping for a new laptop or CPU. And you take a look at the specs. You will come across these two.

Sometimes you even come across them in advertisements. Most at times, you know that the greater number of cores your laptop or PC has. The better the performance. But, does this apply to CPU threads and logical processors?

And how do CPU threads stack up against CPU cores? Here’s what you need to know about CPU cores Vs CPU Threads Vs logical processors.

CPU Cores Vs CPU Threads Vs Logical Processors – What’s The Difference?

Central Processing Units (CPUs) are the brains of computers and smartphones. They are so important to the extent that without them. Your device is as good as dead. CPUs execute instructions.

From the copying of files, the launching of applications, booting up your device etc. Because CPUs are important and necessary to the function of these electronic devices.

CPU Cores Vs Threads

Advancements have been made to make the CPU better and faster. When the first computer was made it had only one CPU or CPU core. That means it had to complete one task at a time. Plus, the CPU speed also affected how fast that task could be completed.

So to improve its speed, the number of cores and CPU speed was increased. This allowed faster execution of instructions and the invention of multi-core CPUs.

NB: Processors and CPU Cores aren’t the same. You can think of processors as the house and the CPU cores as the bedrooms. Processors contain CPU cores.

Fast forward several years later. It’s not uncommon to see a computer or smartphone have several cores and high CPU speeds.

This brings us to what threads are in a processor or CPU. Threads are sequences of processes that are executed by the CPU.

To better understand this. Think of threads as the shopping queues in a mall and the shopping clerks as the CPU cores. The more cores the more threads or processes that can be executed.

Having a lot of threads is important because they allow the CPU to handle numerous tasks or processes efficiently. That’s why computers or laptops with several cores and threads are recommended for demanding tasks like 3D rendering, video encoding, database etc.

Logical processors, on the other hand, are non-physical processors that your OS identifies as physical processors. For example, my laptop is a dual-core and has four logical processors.

dxdiag and cpu-z

DXDIAG identifies my laptop as a quad-core. Although it is dual-core. This is due to the fact the OS identifies the dual-core to be a quad-core because of the logical processors. Whiles CPU-Z says it dual-core.

What Is Hyperthreading?

Hyperthreading is the main reason why DXDIAG saw my dual-core as a quad-core. Simultaneous Multi-Threading (SMT) called Hyperthreading by Intel and Clustered Multi-Threading (CMT) by AMD.

It is because of hyperthreading or simultaneous multi-threading that an operating system sees a single core as two logical cores.

Before hyperthreading, operating systems were responsible for scheduling which processes were to be executed based on the importance of it. Because of this, the CPU core could only execute one thread at a time.

Hyperthreading

Hyperthreading allows for most processes or threads to be addressed at the same time by the CPU. This then causes the operating system to see a single CPU core as two cores.

And these two cores are virtual cores or what we call logical processors. That’s why the OS saw my dual-core laptop as a quad-core. Because of hyperthreading.

Remember the shopping mall analogy? Currently, every single CPU at the moment has two threads. The mall is an operating system, CPUs are the shopping clerks and threads are the lines of people (processes).

A CPU having two threads means that it can serve two processes or lines of people not exactly at the same time. But, fast enough that it looks like they are being served at the same time.

The operating system then sees the single CPU as if it’s a dual-core. Because it is serving two threads at the same time. Although that is not the case. So when you look at DXDIAG or the performance tab in Task Manager.

You will see a quad-core Intel i7-7700HQ having 8 cores. Although the 8 cores are logical processors or virtual cores. And it is the same for CPUs that have hyperthreading or clustered multi-threading.

How Many Logical Processors And Threads Are In A CPU Core

Until things change a single CPU is going to have two threads. This means that if you have a dual-core CPU. It is going to have four threads – two each on a core. A quad-core CPU is going to have eight threads.

To determine how many threads a CPU core has multiply 2 by the number of cores. The formula is going to be like this:

Number of CPU Cores * 2 = Total Number of Threads.

That means the number of threads is always going to be more than the number of CPUs. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX had 32 CPU cores and a whopping 64 threads. This tells you the amount of processing power the Threadripper will have. That CPU is only meant for very intensive tasks.

For every single-core, there is going to be two threads.

For logical processors, it is the same as having the same number of threads. Because the operating systems see a thread as a virtual core. The formula is similar to that above:

Number of CPU Cores * Number of Threads Per Core = Total Number Of Logical Processors

How To Check How Many CPU Cores, Logical Processors And CPU Threads I Have

There are three ways you can check the number of cores or threads your CPU has.

Check On Userbenchmark

If you know the name of your CPU core. Then that makes things simple. Just go to Userbenchmark. And enter the name of your CPU. Click on the results and Userbenchmark will give you all the information you need to know about your CPU.

Windows Task Manager

Press Ctrl + Alt + Del. Click on Task Manager. Click on the performance tab next to the processes tab. The performance tab is where you see how much per cent of your CPU, disk, memory, GPU etc is being utilized. Click on CPU.

windows task manager
Windows Task Manager

On the right side, look for cores. Once you see the number of cores. Simply multiply it by two and you will know the total number of threads.

It also shows you the number of logical processors your CPU core has.

Device Manager

Press the Windows button and type in Device Manager into the search menu. And click on it. Once Device Manager opens up.

Proceed to look for the Processors drop-down menu. Remember earlier in the article where it was mentioned that the Operating System sees a CPU core with two threads as two virtual cores or logical processors?

device manager
Device Manager

That’s the same thing happening here. In these case, because my CPU has 4 threads the Windows Operating System sees my laptop having four cores whilst it’s only two cores I have.

If you have four cores and 8 threads. Windows OS will see your CPU having 8 cores not four. Simply dividing the number of the core shown in Device Manager will give you the true number of cores.

Do Cores, Logical Processors And Threads Affect Performance

Three things affect the processing power of a computer – CPU speed, number of cores, threads and logical processors.

That means a CPU core that has several threads is going to be faster than a CPU core without threads i.e. if they have the same CPU speed and cores.

There might also be the case they have the same number of threads, logical processors and cores. This is where CPU speed becomes important.

If CPU A speed is faster than CPU B speed. Then CPU A is going to be faster and more powerful than CPU B.

This goes to show how greatly cores, threads, logical processors and CPU speed affect performance. So in determining which one is faster. You have to consider three things:

  • The Number of CPU Cores
  • The Number of Threads and Logical Processors
  • CPU Speed (GHz)
i7-7700hq vs i5-8250u
i7-7700HQ Vs i5-8250U

Take a look at the picture above. The performance of Intel Core i7-7700HQ and Intel Core i5-8250U are being compared. Both have the same number of cores and threads.

But, the Intel Core i7-7700HQ has a high CPU speed than the Intel Core i5-8250U. And so it is going to be the faster of the two even though it’s older. The picture was taken from userbenchmark.

Final Thoughts

Because of having several cores. CPUs can multitask and complete tasks efficiently and quickly. And with the addition of CPU threads.

CPUs can handle the most daunting tasks. CPU cores are physical, threads are processes that complete tasks like a CPU and logical processors are virtual cores.

CPU cores will always have threads. And threads belong to CPU cores. They are not the same but are inseparable.

In the past, you could have CPU cores without threads. But now it is impossible to find a CPU core without thread.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

What Do 2 Cores and 4 Threads Mean?

Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the command centre and the brain of your computer and smartphone. Threads are the processes or CPU programming that allows a single CPU to behave as several cores.

All computers have several cores and threads. This allows several tasks to be completed efficiently and quickly. So if you have a laptop of PC with 2 cores that support the CPU thread technology. Then according to the technology. You will have 2 cores and 4 threads.

So now, your laptop of PC with 2 cores is going to behave as if it has 4 cores. Going by this logic. A quad-core with 8 threads is going to behave as if it has 8 cores. The same applies to 16 cores with 32 threads. And so on.

Number of CPU Cores * 2 = Number of Threads.

Can You Have More Threads than Cores?

Threads are always going to be more than cores. Because that’s the nature of the technology. Threads are twice as many as CPU cores i.e. until the technology changes.

Are Cores Better Than Threads?

It is not much of which is better. But, a matter of how many cores and threads a computer has. Cores are what houses the threads. Without CPU cores there will be no threads.

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