Computer hardware is scaling towards more and more processing speeds in leaps and bounds and softwares are yet to be made which will utilize the full potential of a high end machine. Hardware manufacturers are increasing the number of cores in a CPU in order to increase the overall performance but benchmark testing shows that a lot depends on the applications; whether they are capable of utilizing the multi-threading facility of the CPU or not thereby giving the maximum performance at a per watt basis.
The Intel Core i7 and the AMD Phenom II belong to this category of processors with 6 cores and if power consumption versus performance is taken into account then you can keep all the cores switched on because the idle power for six cores, four cores or two cores if kept active does not vary much and so you can concentrate on the performance instead. Unfortunately, keeping aside the professional applications the home user based popular software like Adobe for instance is not really capable of utilizing the multi-threaded environment. So the clock speed becomes very important which from efficiency stand point is not very relevant.
These flagship processors from Intel and AMD come with a Turbo Boost feature which makes them capable of increasing the clock speed for better performance but must take into account two factors, the CPU threshold load limit and the thermal headroom. The two processors that are Intel Core i7 and AMD’s Phenom II implement the Turbo Boost technology in a different way. AMD calls it to be the Turbo Core technology and uses one acceleration mode but Intel uses two. In the dual acceleration mode all cores are accelerated to 133 MHz at the first instance but in the second one a 266 MHz boost is obtained when one or two cores are active. AMD’s Turbo Core is more like the reverse implementation of its Cool ‘n’ Quiet technology for saving CPU power and is implemented exactly on three cores taking into account the CPU load threshold and the thermal headroom factors.
The utilization of multicore processors by modern softwares is best manifested during the benchmark testing with softwares like 3D Max, Cinebebch 11.5 and Photoshop CS4 softwares where each additional core makes a notable difference to the performance. However, for Adobe Acrobat 9 Professional the notable difference is only between a single core and a dual core processor and so you do not really need a 6 core processor for Adobe to be fast because the experts say that Adobe should parallelize processing workload a bit to utilize multi-core features. For WinRar and WinZip the notable difference is again between the single and the dual core, more number of cores is not making too much of a difference for these softwares. HandBrake software for video transcoding is more efficient with the increase in the number of cores in the CPU. Calculation of Total Run Time for the previous mentioned softwares show a notable difference in the one core, two core and four cored processors but using all the six cores is always advantageous. PC Mark Vantage memory test software show notable difference in performance for one, two and four cored processors but adding the fifth and the sixth cores are not adding too much to the performance.
We can conclude by saying that in most cases, a dual core should suffice most of the performance enhancement needs and in a fewer number of cases we can go for quad core. A six core should only be considered taking into consideration the multi-threading capabilities of specific softwares that you intend to run on your computer.