Dual-Core vs Quad-Core [Which One to Choose]

What’s the difference and which is best for you?

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Are you building a PC or getting a new laptop and want to know the difference between Dual-Core and Quad-Core processors? Do you want to learn how these different CPUs work and how is one better than the other? More importantly, which one is better for your needs? Well, you are not alone! 

A better understanding of your computer’s processor can help you make the right selection. 

This guide will give you everything you need to know about dual-core and quad-core processors, higher clock speeds vs more cores, and price vs performance

So, let’s get started!

Quad-Core vs Dual-Core: The Basics

While a dual-core CPU has 2 “execution” cores and provides higher clock speed when compared to a quad-core at the same price range. A quad-core processor contains 4 CPU cores and can run either more tasks at once, or accelerate CPU-intensive programs if these software programs have been written in a way that they can split into multiple threads

In a very simplistic way, which one will be faster will depend on what kind of application you will use. Since dual-core processors generally have higher clock speeds (in the same price range) they will work better for software that doesn’t support multithreading and need as high clock speed as possible. IE: most 3D animation software, such as AutoCAD, etc.

Dual-Core vs Quad-Core [Which One to Choose]

Dual-Core vs Quad-Core Comparison

ParameterDual-Core (Less Core)Quad-Core (More Core)
Number of Cores24
Clock Speed (GHz)Many Dual-Core CPU has a higher clock speedGenerally, lower clock speed
Energy EfficiencyMore energy-efficientConsumes more power
Multi-taskingCan perform two tasks at a timeCan perform multiple tasks simultaneously
HeatDoes not generate as much heatGenerates more heat
Photo Editing Almost the same preformance (1)Slight advantage
Video EditingIt may not be enough for some video editing software (ie: Davinci Resolve)Better suited for most video work
3D Modeling
(ie: Autocad 3D, 3DS Max, etc.)
More beneficial since most 3D modeling applications are single threadedMost don’t use multithreading, thus they are not taking advantage of having four cores. (except for rendering)
Music Production(FL Studio, Ableton, etc.)Not as good for music productionBetter for music production performance, especially for music with multiple tracks
GamingIf the clock speed is a lot better than the Quad-Core, the difference is negligibleBetter performance overall (2)
CostLess expensive (in general)More costly (in general)
Best ForMost 3D Modeling, such as AutoCAD (only use 1 core)Multi-tasking
Web Browsers
Newer Games 
Web Servers
Multithreading Software
Graphics Rendering

Dual-Core

A dual-core CPU performs more effectively and efficiently as compared to a single-core processor. Some examples are the Intel Core Duo, Core i7-8500Y and AMD X2. Some Intel Core i3 have 2-cores and some have 4-cores.

The hyper-threading feature in a dual-core is very useful. It allows you to switch between various threads so your computer can carry out multiple tasks, simultaneously. As a result, it boosts your computer’s performance.

Additionally, this processor offers a higher clock speed and a greater battery life.

However, a 3.8 GHz single-core processor is better than a dual-core processor of 1.8 GHz in cases where it needs to perform only a single task. That’s because a single-core processor has a higher clock speed compared to a dual-core or multi-core processor.

Quad-Core

These processors offer better performance and higher speed. Additionally, they can perform more than one task simultaneously. Intel Core 2 Quad and AMD Phenom X4 are some examples of a quad-core processor. Most 10 Generation and older Intel Core i5 processors have 4 cores.

If you’re running power-intensive software such as Final Cut Pro, Adobe Photoshop, and Avid Pro Tools, quad-core is the one to go with.

On the downside, a quad-core CPU consumes a large amount of energy. It heats up extremely quickly and requires a cooling system for the laptops. Since mobile phones don’t have enough space for a cooling system, you won’t see quad-core processors in them.

Higher Clock Speeds vs More Cores

The clock speed is usually measured in gigahertz and the processor that has a higher clock speed will generally perform better. However, a higher clock speed also means a higher energy level.

The more energy the processor will consume, the more heat it will produce. As a result, the battery life of the laptop will shorten unless you use larger batteries.

To sum it up, processors that use more cores and are in the same price range will have a lower clock speed. So, should you go for more cores or higher clock speed?

Before you decide, you need to know how you will use your PC or laptop. If you want it for lighter tasks such as internet browsing, then go for the higher clock speed.

However, if you need a laptop for intensive work and multitasking, then we would recommend going with quad-core processors.

Price vs Performance

Dual-Core vs Quad-Core [Which One to Choose]

Keeping a balance between price and performance is extremely important while choosing a laptop with the right CPU.

If you are on a budget and looking for a laptop to perform basic daily tasks only, then a computer with a dual-core processor will work just fine. On the other hand, a quad-core processor is generally more expensive and suitable for more intensive tasks.

So, keep a balance between the performance requirements and your budget, and then decide which processor to go for in a laptop or desktop.

More Cores Does Not Mean Higher Speeds

If you are thinking of getting more cores for your laptop to boost the speed, remember more cores do not mean higher speed.

Even if you have the right type of software while keeping the same hardware for your laptop, it does not mean that your quad-core processor will offer twice the speed as compared to a dual-core processor.

Multiple cores will only help if you are using multi-threaded programs or if you are running multiple applications simultaneously. But in some cases, using a multi-threaded program is not enough either. The way you use the program also matters.

The reason behind it is the problem of scaling. Theoretically, with scaling, the software assigns the tasks to the suitable cores so that it can compute at its maximum speed. That’s not how software usually functions in real life. Instead, tasks are split either randomly or sequentially.

For example, if you are using a quad-core processor and your computer needs to perform three different tasks for a single action. The software will divide the tasks either sequentially or randomly.

However, in most cases, the software is not smart enough to distribute the longer and harder tasks between different cores for better efficiency. And the cores performing the less time-consuming tasks will finish faster. 

Since the cores with the more time-consuming tasks are not yet finished, others will have to wait for them to complete. So, even though the tasks were distributed among different cores the overall efficiency did not increase much.

So we see that many programs today cannot take advantage of multiple cores at their full capacity. That’s why doubling the cores does not necessarily mean a faster processing time. 

So, you’ll get a higher speed using multi-core processors only if you’re using multi-threaded programs that are specifically designed to use multiple cores. More on this later in the article.

Dual-Core or Quad-Core: Which is Better for Me?

Dual-Core vs Quad-Core [Which One to Choose]

OK, if you read this far you understand the difference in terms of speed and pricing, but which one is better for specific cases? Well, a newer dual-core processor will generally outperform an older generation quad-core because of a higher clock speed. But, it also depends upon the type of applications you run.

Let’s see how different user-types have different requirements and which type of processor will best suit each.

Everyday Tasks

If you want a laptop for everyday tasks such as chatting and web browsing, then we’d recommend a dual-core processor because of the higher clock speed.

However, if you want to run all these programs simultaneously, then quad-core will offer you a real boost in performance.

Gaming

If you are a hardcore gamer, get more cores for your PC. That’s because most games support multi-thread architecture.

Programming

A dual-core processor is enough for basic programming and development. However, if you want to perform virtual machine testing, then go with a quad-core processor.

Image Editing

A dual-core processor with more base frequency will work perfectly for most image editing since such software benefits more from clock speeds.

Video Editing

If you want to work with video editing, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro, etc. programs, then more cores will be more beneficial since the majority of these programs take the advantage of multi-threaded processing, and for DaVinci Resolve you will need at least quad-core CPU. (see page 10 of this PDF)

Music Production

Although clock speed is more important when dealing with music programs, it will be worth the investment if you can get a quad-core with a better clock speed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s check out some frequently asked questions below about these processors.

Should I go higher than quad-core?

Although Hexa and Octa-core processors offer better multitasking performance, they are also more expensive and reserved for premium laptops. Running everyday tasks on these laptops would be overkill.

Consider purchasing one of these only if you need that level of power and have the budget. They will future-proof your laptop for sure.

What is a quad-core processor?

A quad-core processor comes with 4 cores or CPU units. These processors can perform the tasks quicker than the dual-core processor because of their ability to perform more tasks simultaneously.

That’s because the more cores a processor has, the better and faster it will be at multitasking.

What’s the difference between dual-core and quad-core?

The main difference between the two processors is that dual-core processors have 2 cores while quad-core processors have 4 cores.

Dual-core processors offer higher clock speed. Moreover, they are more energy-efficient, as well.

On the other hand, a quad-core processor can multitask at a better speed. However, its clock speed is less than the dual-core processor and heats up relatively quickly.

Conclusion

More cores do not necessarily mean higher overall speed. And keeping a balance between your budget and performance requirement is extremely important.

Don’t forget, the CPU is one of the components of a computer. You will want to take RAM and GPU into consideration as well. 

Whether you are looking for a laptop with a dual-core processor or one with a quad-core processor, all you need to do is put your requirements in our laptop finder to find the best suggestions.

We hope this guide answers all your concerns and helps you make a better choice between the different processors. Feel free to ask us anything else in the comments section below.

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Avatar of Khizer Kaleem
Written By
Khizer Kaleem

Khizer is a tech expert and unraveling the tricky tech and gaming questions have become his hobby. This led him to build his own tech website, WornByFit. In his free time, Khizer wades through seas of laptops, phones, and hardware just for the fun of it. He is a true artist when it comes to guiding readers about different notebooks and gaming systems. He brings all his experience to Freedom251 for reviewing and benchmarking products and writing valuable how-to articles.

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