With a wide variety of desktop PCs on the market — ranging from traditional towers, to all-in-ones, to custom media and gaming rigs, to Mini PCs and Workstations — selecting a system that addresses user needs can feel like a daunting challenge. “Will the amount of memory or storage in the device suit my needs?” or “Does the system support the hardware peripherals I’ve grown accustomed to using?” or “Will the hardware I select set me up for success down the road?” are some of the many questions that will arise as prospective PC users weigh the market options when selecting a device.
At the heart of the computer is the central processing unit (CPU), and processor core count in the market has increased in recent years. As an example, Intel has seen the top end of its High End Desktop (HEDT) processor market leap from 10 cores in 2016 to a whopping 28 last year with the introduction of the Intel® Xeon® W3175X. The amount of CPU cores may only continue to increase.
More CPU cores and the hyper threading capability that comes with them can offer an opportunity to boost performance for demanding workloads like 3D rendering, simulations, and video post-production. But conversely, increasing the core count may interfere with the performance of less-demanding applications that don’t need a lot of cores and threads. So two questions should come to mind when selecting your next PC: “How am I going to use my computer?” and “Do more cores always mean better overall processor performance?"
Core to the CPU – Your Use Case
For mainstream desktop users or those who don’t need special software to do their jobs, more cores may not be the most sensible option. However, for power users or performance-first gamers, there are a number of use cases where having a machine with a high-core processor can make resource-intensive tasks much more pleasant and productive.
Gamers: Most games don’t utilize a lot of cores and are much more dependent on CPU frequency for the best experience. If you’re a gamer looking for buttery smooth gameplay, your best option will be a processor with high frequency like the 9th Gen Intel® Core™ i9 desktop processor that can reach 5 GHz out of the box. It will perform better than higher-core-count machines that have lower frequency speeds to deliver the gameplay you need to turn your fast-twitch muscle movements into instant game satisfaction – whether you’re playing on your desktop or in VR. As a bonus, it also offers eight cores and 16 threads so budding streaming stars can get the optimal gameplay with up to 5 GHz frequency and the power for recording, encoding, and streaming all at once.
Content Creators & Workstation Professionals: Are you an architect, filmmaker, engineer, scientist, video blogger, or other type of content creator? As professional software is generally optimized to leverage more cores that can churn through many tasks simultaneously to get things done quickly – yet still needs relatively high frequencies – the power of a double-digit core machine with high frequency is likely the best option. These types of prosumer desktop and professional workstations, such as those that run on an Intel® Core™ X-series or Intel® Xeon® processors, are designed to scale performance needs and tackle heavily threaded, I/O workloads so you can quickly complete content-rendering tasks and high-performance challenges – while remaining focused on content strategy or next month’s business project.
While there are plenty of good reasons to seek out a high core count, it’s important to understand the balance between high-core-count platforms and the technology required to optimize those systems.
Utilizing More of the Cores – Is More Really “More”?
The dependency of a user’s PC use case answers the question if more cores translate into more performance.
If a processor has 12 cores, the operating system sees the computer as having 12 CPUs that can equally share computing resources to accomplish a given task. While applications work best with processors that have the highest frequency, most of today’s popular productivity software, as well as many gaming titles, are not “highly threaded” or designed to use more than 10 cores.
With respect to PC design, systems with extra cores produce extra heat. Once processor cores reach the top end of their thermal envelope (or thermal design power), they regulate their performance to work within the designated thermal envelope. Without the proper technology in place, any extra, unused cores can reduce the performance of the machine as a whole, thereby impacting the performance of those common, day-to-day applications.
To counteract this effect, the smartest processors are engineered to prioritize core usage in an intelligent way.
Some cores within a multi-core processor have higher frequencies (it’s a natural part of the manufacturing process), and smart processors – in conjunction with the operating system – will identify and leverage their best-performing cores for applications that only need to make use of one or two cores, since these tend to be the most critical day-to-day applications. This is where Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 comes into play to optimize performance – and is only available with Intel® Core X-series processors.
That prioritization gives the machine the ability to handle multi-threaded applications and lightly threaded applications equally well. With these capabilities, users can run a multitude of different types of applications and switch among them without experiencing interruptions or difficulties.
The bottom line is that not all systems – and not all high-core processors – are created equally because most of them do not have this prioritization technology.
Intel Caters to High-Core Performance across Workloads
A higher core count can unleash better performance for demanding applications without negatively affecting your day-to-day workloads, but only if you know what you’re looking for. To learn more about systems powered by Intel processors, visit intel.com.
Software and workloads used in performance tests may have been optimized for performance only on Intel microprocessors.
Performance tests, such as SYSmark and MobileMark, are measured using specific computer systems, components, software, operations and functions. Any change to any of those factors may cause the results to vary. You should consult other information and performance tests to assist you in fully evaluating your contemplated purchases, including the performance of that product when combined with other products. For more complete information visit www.intel.com/benchmarks.
Intel technologies' features and benefits depend on system configuration and may require enabled hardware, software or service activation. Performance varies depending on system configuration. No product or component can be absolutely secure. Check with your system manufacturer or retailer or learn more at http://www.intel.com.