PC Gaming 101: Is Quad-Core Better for Gaming than Dual-Core?
Is a quad-core processor better for gaming than a dual-core processor?
Next week, we’ll be taking a look at the…
All right; it’s a little more complicated than that. At first blush, the answer seems obvious; “Quad” means “more,” and “Core” means “awesome,” right? In terms of raw power, having four cores versus two cores is a clear advantage — assuming all cores are created equal.
However, not all applications or games are built to make use of four cores. Whether a dual-core or a quad-core is right for you largely depends on your needs as a gamer.
A few years ago, it was rare to find a game that made use of four cores. A quad-core processor was overkill — worse yet, a high-end dual-core could outperform a quad-core if its individual cores were more powerful than the quad’s.
For instance, comparing a 3.0 GHz dual-core with a 2.4 GHz quad-core — which were equally priced in 2007 — saw the dual-core emerge as the clear winner. Why? Because most games at the time only used two cores at best, so it was no longer a comparison of two 3.0 GHz cores to four 2.4 GHz cores, but rather two 3.0 GHz cores to two 2.4 GHz cores.
Today, quad-cores have become the standard — and the age of the hexa-core is right around the corner — so there is a shift toward developing games that support four cores.
It should be noted that, even with games that support four cores, a quad-core will not necessarily translate to double the performance of a dual-core. In-game performance is measured in Frames Per Second — the number of times the on-screen image refreshes in one second. A higher FPS results in a smoother image, while an FPS below 30 produces a visibly choppy image. A quad-core may double your FPS, or it may squeeze out only a dozen more FPS — it depends on the game and how well it is optimized to make use of multiple cores.
If you’re aiming to buy a new computer, consider your needs. If you envision yourself playing the latest AAA titles, get a quad-core. If you want a computer that will last you several years, get a quad-core, or invest in a hexa-core if you can afford it.
Quad-cores are dropping in price, and unless you want to build a throwaway PC for running older games and you don’t intend to keep the system for more than a year, a quad-core is presently a sound investment for the average gamer.