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  Dual core CPUs, don’t get your hopes up 
  Jan 27, 2005, 07:30am EST 
By: Sander Sassen

Both AMD and Intel decided to pull another trick out of their hats now that the clockspeed game has hit a snag. Neither AMD nor Intel seem to be able to push processor clockspeeds much further without significant investments that probably won’t make it worthwhile for them to go that route. With the cancellation of the 4GHz Pentium 4 and the Athlon 64 being the reigning champ in all but a few specific benchmarks the question now is who will be first out of the gate with a dual core CPU? But does it really matter? Would a dual core CPU running at 3GHz make much of an impact, equal 6GHz as the marketing departments will undoubtedly pitch it? Well, I doubt it, as there’s a few things that need to be firmly in place before anyone can reap the benefits of dual core CPUs, much like 64-bit computing AMD has been touting for the past three years.

In essence it comes down to the simple fact that most applications that we use today are not multithreaded, hence they can’t make efficient use of a dual core CPU. In most cases, with single threaded applications, the second core will simply be sitting there doing nothing most of the time, with the first core handling all of the load. You’d think that with Intel’s HyperThreading being a feature on Pentium 4 processors for quite a few years now more applications would’ve matured to take advantage of dual core processing. Unfortunately only a few applications are multithreaded and these applications aren’t the ones you’ll likely see installed, or used by, an average user. So you won’t see much of a speedup when running applications you use today, but rather you’re looking to upgrade in order to make efficient use of dual core CPUs. How convenient, especially the software developers should be happy with this upcoming technology as they’ll be able to sell a whole slew of new ‘dual core compatible’ applications.

These applications however aren’t available today, even with the large installed base of Pentium 4 HyperThreading processors. Therefore it is very likely that when you buy a dual core CPU system you can’t make efficient use of it until the software developers catch up. Similarly, it won’t be until Microsoft gets its foot out of its ass and finally delivers the long-overdue 64-bit version of Windows that we can make use of the 64-bit instructions on the AMD Athlon 64. Expect a similar situation with dual core CPUs. Nevertheless, once all of these things come together; dual core CPUs and 64-bit computing on both Intel and AMD platforms, we should see some healthy improvements again. Will dual core CPUs and 64-bit computing finally rid us from the tedious processor clockspeed bumps we’ve seen over the past few years? Let's hope so. In the meantime don’t start saving just yet, we’re still waiting for that 64-bit OS Microsoft promised us remember.

Sander Sassen.


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