By far one of the most determining factors in its performance is your computer’s central processing unit (CPU or processor). Without a fast processor, the rest of your hardware will overwhelm it with more tasks than it can muster. In the mid-90s, when the desktop PC market accelerated dramatically, processors would have only one core.
Today’s modern processor is an architectural marvel, with several different channels for the distribution and temporary storage of tasks. They are smarter, faster and more dynamic. But the new processors have raised new questions among the public. In particular, there is one battle that will probably never end: the struggle between the amount of cores in a processor and its clock speed.
Here we go over the issue of the number of processor cores vs clock speed and tell you what is most important.
A quick warning
Before you begin, be aware that the answer may not be as satisfactory as you hoped. This is meant to be a comparison of when you can choose processors with more cores vs. faster clock speed processors. There isn’t one that’s necessarily better or worse, but processors that will fit in well in one use case or another.
Manufacturers have carefully designed their processor models to ensure that they stack up against the competition and offer a solid product that will make their consumers happy. This means achieving a realistic yet harmonious balance between cores, clock speed, and price.
Why hearts are important
If you had a computer in the 90s or even early 2000s, you might recall that when a program froze, it was likely that your whole system would freeze as well. This was mainly due to the fact that your CPU only had a single lone kernel which handled all of your system’s computations. You can see how that would be a problem, right?
If there is only one core in a processor and you ask that core to do something that takes a long time, nothing else will happen while it is working on that one thing. So when dual-core processors appeared, a computer’s ability to multitask exploded. We now have up to 64 cores in the most powerful AMD Threadripper and Epyc workstation and server processors.
Why clock speed matters
The clock speed of a processor, as the name suggests, greatly affects the amount of work that each core can perform in any given period. The speed, along with its bit width, tells you how much data can flow per second. If a processor has a 32-bit bit width and a speed of 3.93 GHz, that means it can process almost 4 billion 32-bit units of data per second. That’s 4 billion integers!
The fastest out-of-the-box clock speeds on processors hover around 5 GHz, and most operating systems are now 64-bit, so those are massive numbers. All of this means that processors can move through single-threaded applications very quickly. Gaming is a major place where higher clock speeds are often more important than the number of cores, as many games will not use a lot of cores. This changes but still holds today.
Take a decision
As with most computer hardware choices, it all depends on your use case and your budget. For example: there are laptops that can cost up to $ 10,000. But, if you need as much power as can be crammed into a laptop form factor (say you’re a traveling engineer who runs simulations on, say, the efficiency of offshore oil rigs ), it would be a great choice for you. There are desktops that can do a lot more, but desktops are much more difficult to move.
The use case for more cores depends on your workload. If you are running many different virtual machines or rendering movies, you will absolutely benefit from an extreme multicore processor. These workloads are heavily multi-threaded, and a Threadripper processor would absolutely speed up these things.
Scientists and researchers who create models that save the world would also benefit from an extremely high core count. This is because these workloads often use a lot of small jobs that can cover cores very well, and when you can run your simulations in two days versus a week and a half, you will definitely notice the difference.
The use case for higher clock speed is much more common. Gamers, developers, and content creators absolutely benefit from faster clock speeds. This usually means that the shorter-term, less multithreaded tasks that most of us run will complete faster, making the processor run faster.
So which one should you choose?
Since most processors today are multi-core, you might want to use clock speed. This will likely happen naturally, as most processor manufacturers will offer fewer and faster processors in a range that is much more affordable to consumers. Only if you have a more specialized use case will you benefit from high-end, highly multicore processors. A solid choice for most people is six or eight cores which run at around 4.8 – 5.0 GHz. This is common in AMD’s Ryzen processors and Intel’s Core series.
However, if you are the more specialized user, AMD Threadripper is absolutely the only choice. They’re a lot more expensive, as is the platform (CPUs cost $ 1,400-4,000 and motherboards $ 500-600), but when you need (or want) multicore performance, this is the only one. choice.
Hope this is a useful breakdown of the number of processor cores versus clock speeds. You might also want to know how to select a good CPU or CPU cooler and how it is different from a GPU.
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