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Do More Processor Cores Make Applications Run Faster?

Nick from TX writes:

I have been told that running a single program on a Core i5 system and a Core i7 system will result in negligible differences in speed. It was said that a core i7 system only really improves performance when running multiple tasks simultaneously. Is that true?

The difference between most core i5 and i7 systems (along with various other CPU lines) is the number of threads the processor can work on at the same time. The term “CPU Core” or “processors” is often used to mean the amount of threads a CPU can process, as some CPUs may have 4 real CPU cores inside of them, but are able to process 2 threads at the same time for each core, thus giving your computer the same power as a 8 core cpu.

Intel’s highest end i7 “Sandy Bridge” processors can handle 8 threads of information at the same time, while most i5 processors can only handle 4. AMD’s highest end processors support 8 threads of information at the same time, while the A6 and A8 processors support 4.

Older software (and even some more recent software) may not be designed to take advantage of multiple threads, and will function speed-wise very similar on the same Ghz rated core i5 and core i7 processor. On applications that are multi-threaded, there can be a small to very large performance increase, depending on how many threads the application can use. For example, Adobe Photoshop – which can utilize many threads – runs complex filters almost twice as fast on a core i7 than a core i5 processor.

Keep in mind that while you may only be running one application on the screen, you may also have a virus scanner, chat client, e-mail program and other system utilities taking up CPU time, and limiting how much is left over for your main application to use.