What Is a Dual-Core Processor?

A dual-core processor is a computer processing system with two independent “cores”, a term sometimes used to describe processors. A dual processor speeds up the information processing of a computer or laptop. The core is an integrated circuit in which two computer processing units or CPUs have been attached.

Dual-core processors are just the tip of the iceberg of multi-core processors. For instance, “quad-core” processors have four cores, while you can find some “many-core” operating systems with processing units numbering into the tens. The numbering system in such cases can be tricky or even misleading, because people have differing concepts of what an individual processor or core is. Some only count CPUs, while others count a system-on-a-chip or a digital signal processor.

A good rule of thumb is that a dual-core processor has two processors which share the same resources in a CPU, while a multi-core processor has multiple processors, but don’t have to share the CPU. The dual core is faster than the single core, but slower than the multi core processor.

How Does a Dual-Core Processor Work?

dual-core-processor

When you have only one processor in your computer, it must send and receive information from different parts of your computer outside of the CPU. This normally will be random access memory or RAM devices, or other storage devices on your computer. Each of these devices have their own maximum speed, which necessarily are much slower than a processor would be. So when your processing system sends or receives information when processing information, there will be considerable slow-down on a single core processor.

With two processors working at the same time, this does several things for your computer. One, it’s like having two workers instead of one, so your computer multitasks better than it ever would otherwise. A single core processor slows to a crawl when trying to multitask, while a dual core processor can have each processor take over different tasks. Also those processors can share information between themselves without leaving the computer chip.

Because the signals on a dual-core processor don’t leave the chip, those signals degrade less. This makes for faster processing times, which can improve a number of computer processes. For one, you’ll use slightly less power, because of processing efficiency. Also, system scans and virus scans will run faster on a dual-core processor. Ripping and burning media files and other forms of file conversion will take less time. Even searching through the folders of your computer will be quicker when using a dual-core processor.

As mentioned before, the multitasking options are much better on a dual core system. So if you like to multitask on your computer, you’re life will be much easier with a dual core computer.

Dual-Core Disadvantages

Dual-core processors do have certain disadvantages, though. The manufacturer trying to integrate multi-core chip will spend more time integrating circuits, so less can be manufactured in the same amount of time. This means the dual core processor computers will be more expensive.

Your operating systems will need to be able to recognize dual core functions to utilize the potential of such a computer, too. For example, if you use a tool that isn’t made to recognize two cores at once, that tool will only use one core and you’ll face the kind of slowdown you would with a single core processor. Many of the more famous tools, like Adobe Photoshop, are built to recognize dual cores, though.

Single core processors have a better surface-to-heat ratio, so they dissipate the heat put off by your computer better. Double core processors have to take this into account, which could limit further development of this technology until new solutions are found.

Also, there are other potential bottlenecks that can limit the efficiency of dual core processors. For example, if your dual cores use the same bandwidth and system bus and a single processor is already using 3/4ths of their maximum computing power, then you won’t double your efficiency with two cores, but instead only be able to use the remaining 1/4th of the bandwidth.

Is a Multi-Core Processor Better?

Some year in the near future, computer companies will be marketing multi-core processors and saying they are better than the dual core processors you’re using right now. That’s because the multi-core processing system won’t use the same bandwidth and bus and will therefore be even faster. We aren’t to the engineering stage yet where the mass production of the appropriate multi-core chips and heat dissipation problems are cost effective, so dual core processors will remain a top option for the time being.

A dual core processor will solve most of the complaints you have with your single core computer, so if your current computer is constantly slowing you down when you try to multitask, look into buying one of the best dual core processor computers in stores today and you’ll be satisfied with the performance relative to your old computer.

For more information about what a dual-core processor is, read: