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What Are CPU Cores and How Do They Work?

What Are CPU Cores and How Do They Work?

Let's talk about CPU cores. What are they? How do they work? And how many do you need for video editing, graphic design, photography, or whatever creative profession that you are in?


What is a CPU core?

Well, of course, it is the amount of course on a CPU. When the CPU was first developed it had 1 CPU core on it. Every task performed by the computer was controlled on that single CPU core. But as technology developed computer manufacturing brought us multiple CPU cores.


So core accounts identified how many cores are now available on CPUs?

Well to explain what you see as far as terminology is concerned  2 cores is dual-core, 4 cores is a quad-core, 6-core is hexa-core, and 8-cores is an octa-core. Now we move up to 12 cores, 16 cores now. And actually, the largest core count on a processor should be coming out this year from Ryzen. So this was announced at CES 2020. They have a 64 core processor CPU that came out in 2020. This processor is probably going to be around 3000 to 35000 or beyond dollars. So it's pretty insane how expensive this processor is but it is a beast of a processor.


How do cores work?

To keep things simple, the computer views each core as its own processing unit. At first, manufacturers try to install multiple CPUs on one motherboard so they try to take separate CPUs build a larger motherboard with more CPU slots and build it out with more CPUs. But that served to be expensive. Plus there was the issue of latency.  The CPU is able to split up the work onto an individual core. So Core 1 Photoshop, Core 2 Premiere Pro, Core 3 Google Chrome, Core 4 Spotify.

So rather than doing multiple CPUs on a motherboard, they were able to internally alter the CPU to have extra cores. This allows you to divide the work and each core handles a specific program.


What if I have more programs open?

So say for instance you then open another app inside of Adobe. So like in Design or Illustrator what if you have more programs open than cores available? Will your computer explode? Well no it will not explode when you load a program say Photoshop. A process is created so that process is assigned its own memory. So that's kind of like a serial number. So it has an Identifier number and it has a certain amount of Ram attributed to that process.

The system will assign that process to a specific core. If there are no cores available it will virtually split the core into one of the cores threads. Now threads are something that was developed after cores as a way to virtually divide out a core to create more cores. So you'll see this in advertising on computers as 4-cores 8 threads, 8-cores 12 threads, 8-cores 16 threads. So that's what we're talking about here. 

If there are no cores or threads available then the process waits its turn in line in the queue until it is called to action. So the really cool thing is about the CPU is it has an organization system so if it can attribute to a core it will go to a thread. If it can't attribute to a thread it will wait in the process and however long takes to get through the process and then it will activate. If it isn't an unessential task to that moment and it will actually sometimes cancel out that process and it will move on to more important things. So it's really neat how intelligent they have made the cores and threads and the process is inside of the CPU.



So more cores = a faster computer right?

Well not necessarily. There are a few reasons why core count alone is not enough to make for a faster processor.


Here are a few things to consider when choosing a processor.

  1. The clock speed which is rated in megahertz.
  2. The amount of threads. Like we said 8-core 12 thread, 8-core 16 thread so on and so forth the instructions per cycle.
  3. This is very important and you cannot regularly find this information. This is not something that computer companies advertise that our processor can do X IPC but that's something we're going to talk about in the future articles and why that is important and why a 4-core processor could be faster than say a six-core processor because of the IPC rating.
  4. Watts- how many Watts the processor can reach? Is the processor made for battery life or is the processor made for high performance is made for video editing or gaming? What is that specific processor? And how is it built and what is it built for?

Last thing to consider -

How many cores and threads do you need for video editing and graphic design?

Like I said this will differ according to the IPC the instructions per cycle but there's really no way to understand that specific classification because manufacturers don't offer that information to us. However, I will note that I use a 4-core 8 thread processor on my current laptop. I edit the 1080p video. I do graphic design work on it so I'm using Premiere Pro. I'm using Affinity Photo. I'm using Adobe InDesign. So those are the programs I'm using and it runs it well it's not the best performance.


I do occasionally get some slow down with the 4 quarters 8 threads but it is a good processor. It's the i7 7700 HQ. I do plan on building my own desktop computer, my own PC build, and I'm gonna have at least 6- cores and 8 threads on that build because I want to be able to start doing 4K video editing and have it very smooth in the timeline have quick exports and be able to run multiple programs at the same time.

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