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All About Dual-Core Processors

Dual-core refers to a CPU that includes two complete execution cores per physical processor. It combines two processors and their caches and cache controllers onto a single integrated circuit (silicon chip). It is basically two processors, in most cases, residing reside side-by-side on the same die.

Dual-processor, Dual-core, and Multi-core: Keeping it straight
Dual-processor (DP) systems are those that contains two separate physical computer processors in the same chassis. In dual-processor systems, the two processors can either be located on the same motherboard or on separate boards.  In a dual-core configuration, an integrated circuit (IC) contains two complete computer processors. Usually, the two identical processors are manufactured so they reside side-by-side on the same die, each with its own path to the system front-side bus. Multi-core is somewhat of an expansion to dual-core technology and allows for more than two separate processors.

Taking Advantage of Dual-core Technology
A dual-core processor has many advantages especially for those looking to boost their system's  multitasking computing power. Dual-core processors provide two complete execution cores instead of one, each with an independent interface to the frontside bus. Since each core has its own cache, the operating system has sufficient resources to handle intensive tasks in parallel, which provides a noticeable improvement to multitasking.

Complete optimization for the dual-core processor requires both the operating system and applications running on the computer to support a technology called thread-level parallelism, or TLP. Thread-level parallelism is the part of the OS or application that runs multiple threads simultaneously, where threads refer to the part of a program that can execute independently of other parts.

Key Terms To Understanding Dual-core

dual-core
Dual-core refers to a CPU that includes two complete execution cores per physical processor.

CPU
Abbreviation of central processing unit, and pronounced as separate letters. The CPU is the brains of the computer. Sometimes referred to simply as the processor or central processor, the CPU is where most calculations take place.

processor
Short for microprocessor or CPU.

integrated circuit
Another name for a chip, an integrated circuit (IC) is a small electronic device made out of a semiconductor material.

Related Webopedia Categories:
Microprocessors

Even without a multithread-enabled application, you will still see benefits of dual-core processors if you are running an OS that supports TLP. For example, if you have Microsoft Windows XP (which supports multithreading), you could have your Internet browser open along with a virus scanner running in the background, while using Windows Media Player to stream your favorite radio station and the dual-core processor will handle the multiple threads of these programs running simultaneously with an increase in performance and efficiency.

Today Windows XP and hundreds of applications already support multithread technology, especially applications that are used for editing and creating music files, videos and graphics because types of programs need to perform operations in parallel. As dual-core technology becomes more common in homes and the workplace, you can expect to see more applications support thread-level parallelism.

Intel & AMD Dual-core Desktop Processors
The Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840 running at 3.2 GHz and Intel 955X Express Chipsets are being built into computers that are now entering the market. This is Intel's first desktop dual-core product supporting Hyper-Threading Technology. Processor features include the following:

  • Hyper-Threading Technology: Enables you to run multiple demanding applications at the same time.
  • Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology: Provides flexibility for future applications that support both 32-bit and 64-bit computing.
  • Dual-Core: Two physical cores in one processor support better system responsiveness and multi-tasking capability than a comparable single core processor.  [Source: Intel Dual-core Desktop Processor]

AMD also announced its line of desktop dual-core processors, the AMD Athlon 64 X2 processor family. The initial model numbers in the new family include the 4200+, 4400+, 4600+ and 4800+ (2.2GHz to 2.4GHz).The processors are based on AMD64 technology and are compatible with the existing base of x86 software, whether single-threaded or multithreaded. Software applications will be able to support AMD64 dual-core processors with a simple BIOS upgrade and no substantial code changes. [Source: AMD Dual-core Desktop Processor]

Both companies have also announced or released dual-core processors for servers and workstations as well.

Did You Know...
"If we assume that the number of transistors per processor core remains relatively fixed, it is reasonable to assume that the number of processor cores could follow Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors per a certain area on the chip will double approximately every 18 months."
[Source: Intel Software network/Dev]


Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Writer, www.Webopedia.com
Last updated: May 06, 2005


Related Links

Platform Trends: Waking the Dual-Core Giant
These new CPUs are real demons in terms of multitasking and multithreaded software performance, and will provide the highest-end corporate desktop option.

AMD Multi-Core Technology 
This AMD technology Web page provides an overview of AMD multi-core technology.

Intel Dual-Core Technology 
This Intel technology Web page provides an overview of Intel dual-core processors and Hyper-Threading technology.

Platform Trends: AMD's Dual-Core Strategy
It seems like only yesterday when Intel announced its dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition and Pentium D models, and quickly ushered in the era of multiple-core x86 processing.




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