Sunday, April 16, 2006

4. Dual-Core, 64-bit, and Hyperthreading

From NotebookReview
Almost all by Lowlymarine, Rest by Me

One topic of confusion is 64-bit and Dual core processing. What do you need, and what are the advantages (and disadvantages) of each? Here's a rundown of the definitions:


Compatable processors:
AMD Mobile Athlon 64
AMD Athlon 64
AMD Athlon 64 FX
AMD Athlon 64 x2
AMD Turion 64
AMD Sempron Winchester Core (Socket 939)
AMD Opteron 64 (Workstation)
IBM PowerPC G5 (Apple)
IBM PowerPC G5 Dual Core (Apple)
Intel Pentium 4 6xx
Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition
Intel Pentium-D
Intel Pentium-Core Duo
Intel Pentium-M Yonah Core (not yet available)
Intel Xeon (Workstation)

What a list! As you can see, 64-bit technology is all around you (at least on fairly modern computers). The thing to note, however, is that these are mostly desktop processors; few truly mobile processors have 64-bit capability, although the upcoming Yonah Core Pentium-M gives us a glimmer of hope in this department. Another note is that most of these 64-bit chips are from AMD; there's a reason for that: they pioneered the technology, and still are the primary source of 64-bit chips, especially in custom-built machines. Now, what is it good for? Technically speaking, 64-bit chips are more efficient than their 32-bit bretheren, capable of handling more complex calculations with fewer CPU cycles. These CPUs allow for future-proofing your PC without breaking the bank; the next version of Longhorn, for instance, is built for 64-bit processors, and some games are already beginning to take advantage of this technology (through Windows XP Professional x64 Edition). IS 64-bit a necessity, however? That's hard to say. I'd venture to say yes, in most cases, it is these days. However, if you need ultimate portability, you need a Pentium-M, so it may not be an option for you. Is it worth waiting for if you need an ultraportable? Perhaps, but if you need a computer now, don't be scared away; the Pentium-M is a capable processor, 32-bit design notwithstanding.


Compatable Processors:
AMD Athlon 64 X2
AMD Opteron 64 (Workstation)
IBM PowerPC G5 Dual Core (Apple)
Intel Pentium-D
Intel Pentium-Core Duo
Intel Pentium-M Yonah Core (Not yet available)

Dual core processors, as yu can see, are advancements on 64-bit technology. Dual core doesn't mean you're getting two processors; it means that one processor is splitting the load over two different cores, reducing stress on each and freeing up resources for other programs. The purpose of dual core processing is to allow for more efficient multitasking power. The top-of-the-line Athlon 64 x2 4800+ may be outshone by the single core Athlon 64 FX-57 in Doom 3 benchmarks, but open up a few word documents and Firefox windows in the background, and wacth the x2 fly right past the FX. IS dual-core the way of the future? You can bet on it; AMD has even announced intentions for a 4-core processor, and Intel is building a triple core processor for the Xbox 360 (because I suppose they're expecting a lot of people to be multitasking on their Xboxes...) Anyway you slice it, yes dual core is here to stay, but is it worth waiting on? Due to the scarcity of dual core notebooks (approximately 0 exist at the time of writing), expect to wait quite some time if you really want one. If you need a notebook now, however, I again stress that today's processors are still very competant.

So what's this "Hyperthreading" thing, then?
Well, Hyperthreading is Intel's (largely failed) attempt at emulating dual-core processor efficiency on a single core chip. In the end, Hyperthreading had negligible performance impacts, with AMD and IBM processors still showing up Intel's chips for efficiency with ease. However, all modern Pentium 4s have the technology, and it doesn't cost you that much extra, so there's little reason to complain. Just be aware that this IS NOT a substitute for either 64-bit or dual core technology, and just because a CPU has Hyperthreading does NOT necessarily mean it's up to snuff for tomorrow's (or even today's) top-end programs.

1 comment:

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Screen Size 14 Inch
Resolution Pixels 1366x768
Backlight Type LED
Aspect Ratio 16:9
Screen Surface Glossy
Data Connection 40-Pin
Application Laptop or Notebook

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