Last updated on October 15th, 2019 at 12:51 pm
When shopping for a new laptop or buying a new desktop. You will look at the specification sheet. Specifically what processor it has, RAM and graphics card. Most laptop or desktops have Intel Core processors.
For example, Intel Core i5 quad-core processor or Intel Core i3 dual-core processor. For one, you know dual-core and quad-core processors are not the same.
But, what about the cores and processors? Are they the same? And why is it called a quad-core processor? Here’s what you need to know about the differences between processors and cores.
What Is A Processor?
When we say processor most of the time or all of the time we refer to the CPU (Central Processing Unit) not the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). The CPU or processor is the brain or calculator of the computer.
It is responsible for decoding and executing instructions that have been sent to it. The processor does the arithmetic, logic, controlling and input/output functions dictated by the instructions.
Without the processor, your computer will not function at all. It is one of the most important pieces of hardware on your motherboard.
Since it serves as a control centre or unit. The processor is connected to the motherboard either by a socket or a slot. Most processors make use of the socket type connection.
There are five components that a processor or a CPU is composed of:
Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU)
Just as the name implies the arithmetic logic unit (ALU) performs the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Aside from that, it can also perform logical reasoning and comparisons. You can think of it as a highly advanced calculator.
Control Unit (CU)
The control unit is where the magic happens. When you input an instruction using a keyboard or mouse. The control unit receives that instruction decodes and sends it to the arithmetic logic unit or register for it to perform that instruction. In short, it’s the control unit that decodes the instructions and executes it.
They are temporary storages found in the circuitry of the processor. It is where information is held whiles it is being interpreted or manipulated. They are like real-life register but instead, they store bits and pieces of data.
Just like real-life buses are responsible for moving people from one location to another. Buses in processors or computers, in general, are responsible for moving data or information between the processor and other computer hardware.
Cache memory is where data is stored. It is different from registers which act as temporary storage. Cache memory store frequently used data. This allows for fast retrievals and speeds up the computing process.
What Is A CPU Core?
A core is a name given to a processor in a multi-core processor unit. When processors were first invented they used to be single cores. So that means if you wanted a dual-core computer. You had to put two different processors on the same motherboard.
This eventually led to some problems because of the unsustainability and inefficiency. What if you wanted a quad-core or octa-core computer?
Will you put four or eight different processors on the same motherboard? That will eventually lead to some energy, efficiency and heating problems.
As time went on. Technology got better and now we have multi-core processors. That just means that processors now contain two or more processors on the same integrated circuitry chip.
You could think of the multi-core processor as a house and the cores as bedrooms. This led to better energy efficiency, less heating and faster response times.
And now because of this, some processors have a high number of cores. An example is Intel’s Core i9-9920X which has 12 cores or the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX which has 32 cores. The Intel Core i9 houses 12 cores or processors in its multi-core processor unit. And the AMD Threadripper houses 32 cores or processor in its multi-core processor unit.
This wouldn’t have been possible a few decades ago. Because a motherboard should have 32 different processor sockets for it to support 32 cores. But now all those 32 cores are housed on the same integrated circuitry chip or multi-core processor.
Types Of Core Processors
Intel and AMD are the two main types of core processors. Intel’s main line-up are the Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and i9. AMD’s main line-up is the Ryzen 3, 5, 7 and 9. Both are powerful line-ups that are multi-core processors. They both have several other types of core processors. But, these are the most common and popular.
Both line-ups have similar computer performance. But, there are two main differences between the two. The first is that AMD CPUs are APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) and the second is that AMD CPUs are more affordable.
AMD APUs is the term given to processors that have the central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) on the same circuitry chip.
This makes its graphic processing power more powerful than integrated graphics cards. So you can expect better performance in graphic related work or gaming.
Intel CPUs are not APUs but are straight out CPU processors. For the graphics processing part, they make use of integrated graphics cards which are found on the motherboard. The integrated graphics cards are not powerful. Because they share your computer’s system memory or RAM in processing graphics.
How Many Cores Does A Processor Have?
This depends on the manufacturer and what the processor is going to be used for. This can range from being a dual-core processor or quad-core processor to having 32 cores. Laptops and desktops that are going to be used for basic tasks (typing, watching movies or web browsing) are going to have dual-core or quad-core processors.
Processors meant for gaming or heavy-duty tasks are going to have at least high-performance quad-core processors. For servers, you are looking at multi-core processors of up to 32 cores and 64 threads.
Now, thanks to Simultaneous Multi-Threading which Intel calls Hyperthreading and Clustered Multi-Threading by AMD. Single cores act and operate like two cores.
This makes the operating system see dual-core and quad-core processors as quad-core and octa-core processors respectively. These virtual cores or logical processors allow for more processes or instructions to be executed.
The number of cores a processor has depends on the purpose and the manufacturer. These are the two main determinants of how many cores a processor will have.
Are More Cores In A Processor Better?
Now that we have looked at how many cores a processor has. It is time to look at if the more cores a processor has the better. The answer is yes and no depending on the situation.
For the average user, more cores don’t always equal better. Tasks like basic web browsing, listening to music, watching movies, etc. are not heavy-duty tasks. So it won’t make sense to get an octa-core or a 16-core processor. Because all the cores would be under-utilised and you would have wasted money.
But gamers, CAD users, video editing, music production, etc. all tend to benefit heavily from processors with several cores. These tasks require a large amount of computer processing power.
Because of the amount of information that has to process and outputted. So in this case, the more cores the better and even holds truer for computers meant for servers.
For the everyday user, dual-cores and quad-cores are sufficient enough. But for heavy users like gamers, programmers, content creators, 3D modelling and rendering etc. Quad-core processors and above are highly recommended for these applications.
How To Check The Number Of Cores You Have
You can use Windows Task Manager to check the number of cores your laptop or desktop has.
- Press CTRL + ALT + Del together
- Click the Windows Task Manager.
- When it opens click the Performance Tab.
- Under the performance tab. Click CPU – it is the first on the list.
- Look at the right-bottom side. You will find the information about the number of cores your laptop or desktop has.
Processors Vs Cores – Final Thoughts
The main difference is that processors now are multi-core processors that house two or more cores or processes on the same integrated circuitry board. And cores are processors in a multi-core processor.
So when you see an Intel i7 quad-core processor in the specification sheet. Just know that the Intel i7 is a multi-core processor that houses four cores or processors on the same integrated circuitry board. The same applies to AMD processors.
You can think of the multi-core processor as a house and cores as the rooms. While the integrated circuitry board is the foundation.