iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Dual-Core Versus Quad-Core

Comparing Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad processors of new and old generations.

May 26, 2008

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Non-professional tests


It's the second group of tests, where we suspected that the new core would be hardly better than the old core, because archivers, just like compilers, need a large cache. However, our doubts were unfounded: Wolfdale/Yorkfield performs well even with the smaller L2 Cache. Its representatives even take the lead on the chart. But we shouldn't forget that they operate at a higher clock rate. I'd call it a draw. It seems that only WinRAR can benefit a little from four cores (see detailed results).


Funny results: a dual-core processor on the new core almost catches up with a quad-core processor on the old core in media encoding! It's an illustrative situation for this class of software. The table with detailed results shows two codecs that can use four cores to this or that degree: DivX (its results are not impressive) and x264 (excellent results - four cores are almost twice as fast as two cores).


If we have a look at the table with detailed results, we can easily single out champions of truly multi-core optimizations (not limited to dual cores). They are two games: Unreal Tournament 3 (a quad-core processor outperforms a similar dual-core processor by 26-40%) and World in Conflict (quad-core processors are faster by 12%). The others demonstrate much lower results. We can mention Crysis (5% performance gain for quad-core processors) and Call of Duty 4 (performance difference between quad- and dual-core processors appears only with the old core). Those seven points of advantage on the total score chart in E6600/Q6600 and E7200/Q9300 pairs are earned practically solely by Unreal Tournament 3. The other games cannot load quad-core processors.

Non-professional photo processing

Quad-core processors take the lead. If you have a look at the table with detailed results, you will see why: excellent multi-threaded optimization of Paint.NET helps quad-core processors outperform dual-core models by almost twofold. But you should keep in mind that additional two cores are almost of no use in all other applications.

Total non-professional score

Pairs of dual-dual and dual-quad processors demonstrate practically identical pictures, which illustrate the advantage of new cores over the old ones: Q6600 lost six points to Q9300, E6600 lost six points to E7200. If we compare an old dual-core processor with an old quad-core processor and a new dual-core processor with a new quad-core processor, results will be identical: quad-core processors get nine points more. Is this result high or low? It depends on whether you are ready to pay at least 1.5 times more for these nine points... We can only add that the advantage of quad-core processors over dual-core ones in the professional score is one point higher than in the domestic score. It's not surprising: heavy tasks favor "heavy" processors.

Estimated power consumption*

* - we actually measure power consumption of the on-board VRM, so our readings may be higher, because VRM does not have the efficiency factor of 100%.


There is nothing surprising about results of E7200 and Q9300 - 45-nm processors naturally consume less power than 65-nm products. However, one especially effective comparison is really striking: the higher-clocked quad-core Q9300 consumes less power in idle mode than the lower-clocked dual-core E6600.

100% Load

The situation repeats: the fully-loaded quad-core processor on the new Yorkfield core still consumes less power than the dual-core Conroe.


The new core is apparently much faster than the old one. The main "sufferers" here are old quad-core processors (Kentsfield): very few applications can use four cores; besides, dual-core processors have been overhauled so that a dual-core Wolfdale performs on a par with an equally-clocked quad-core Kentsfield (3% of performance difference for more than a 1.5-fold difference in their prices.) However, two groups of users don't have to worry about their investments: those who use 3D Modeling applications and Adobe Photoshop. Quad-core processors are almost always faster than dual-core products here.

The final chart shows no radical changes: Core 2 Duo processors (especially Wolfdale) are still the most reasonable choice in this family. Quad-core processors make sense only for certain applications - you must be sure that your application can effectively use all four cores. Even attractive prices for the cheapest models will hardly be a ponderable argument for quad-core processors, if you are not sure that performance in your application of choice will come up to your expectations.

If you didn't test your tasks for performance gains on quad-core processors versus dual-core products, or you didn't obtain definitely positive results - you will most likely fail to get significant performance gains from using a quad-core processor instead of a dual-core model these days. That's the main tendency now. There are only a few exceptions. Advantages of quad-core processors are open to those users, who know for sure what they want from a CPU and how their applications of choice can use it.

In fact, dual-core processors came through the same period in the beginning of their brilliant career not long ago. The history is repeating...

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