Why Does Number of Cores Affect CPU Performance?

By Dominic Chooper on February 17, 2023

It is helpful to know how many CPU cores you require, whether you want to run simple programs or need more power from your PC.

These elements directly affect any software you can use and number of simultaneous programs your PC can run. You can avoid frustration and additional expenses by planning ahead for your computing needs.

It can be challenging to determine the precise number of cores required for your system to operate at its peak performance. So read on if you want to understand why the number of cores affect CPU performance.


9 Reasons Why Number of Cores Affect CPU Performance

Why Does Number of Cores Affect CPU Performance

In order to understand why and how the total number of cores in your system affects its performance, you need to understand what role it plays in your system.

Once you know how each component affects your system’s performance you will be able to clearly understand why the number of cores affect CPU performance and optimize your system accordingly.

1. Older CPUs Lack Core and Have Poor Performance

A CPU is a tiny but powerful computer chip that can be found on top of your motherboard in your PC.

Its pins face down and are inserted into its CPU socket. It is kept secure by a tiny lever.

Even when only running briefly, CPUs produce a lot of heat. Your CPU is typically attached to a heat sink that has a fan directly on top of it because of this thermal activity. If you purchase a CPU, these two parts will typically come together.

Your GPU (graphics processing unit), which renders images and videos for your display, is distinct from your CPU.

Having said that, integrated GPUs are present on the CPU and share memory with it.

Separate cards and memories are available in standalone GPUs (also known as dedicated GPUs).

Memory of a PC is sometimes mistaken for your CPU, but it is a completely different component where data is stored on your computer.

In 1971, the first commercial CPU in history was released. With a maximum speed of 92,600 instructions per second, it operated at a frequency of 740 KHz. Intel 8008 was released five months later, marking the first 8-bit CPU.

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In order to provide some context, i9, Interl’s latest chip, runs at a 5. 0 GHz and is capable of processing over a million instructions per second.

On a computer chip, billions of tiny transistors are arranged to form CPUs. Because of these transistors, your computer’s CPU can run programs and perform calculations.

Size of transistors has decreased steadily over time as CPU technology has advanced. This means that as chips advance in generation, they can contain significantly more transistors, increasing a CPU’s overall speed.

Gordon E. Moore, an Intel co-founder foresaw a trend, which was later dubbed Moore’s Law.

According to Moore’s Law, the cost of general computing devices is decreasing while the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years.

It has remained true that transistors have steadily increased in number and shrunk in size, even though this trend is more of an observation than a “law.”

However, rather than happening every two years, the number of transistors on computer chips is now doubled roughly every 18 months.

The clock speed and features of CPUs have greatly improved as CPU technology has advanced.

2. Single Core CPU Lowers Performance

These days, single-core processors are extremely rare.

Majority of operating systems in 2022, such as Windows 10, macOS, and Linux, operate more efficiently when there are more cores or threads.

Multiple processing units can also be used by programs and applications. Any program will be very difficult to run on a single-core CPU.

It is forbidden to play video games on this system as well as do any productive work.

3. Dual Core CPU Increases Performance

Although they are less common today, dual-core CPUs are still available in new CPU generations like AMD’s Athlon APUs and Intel’s Pentium and i3 lineup. It may be challenging to run a browser on a two-core CPU, which is quite out of date.

Thankfully, multithreading allows modern dual-core CPUs to support four threads.

Four threads can improve a user’s experience when running simple word processors, browsers, and some video games like League of Legends or Counter-Strike Global Offensive if your system’s cores are fast enough.

Though your experience will probably be significantly less slick, it is possible to run more demanding games. Though it will be slow, rendering or video encoding is possible.

4. Quad Core CPU is Amazing for Games

Compared to dual or single core processors, processors with 4 cores and 8 threads are much more prevalent.

Comparing a system with four threads to one with an eight-thread CPU will result in a very different experience.

With no noticeable stuttering or hitching, you can run several programs at once, including a game. Rendering or encoding of video will be carried out much more quickly.

Although this type of productive tasks greatly benefits from having more cores, it will undoubtedly be slower than 8 or 12 cores.

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5. Hexa-core CPU for Superfast Individuals

Modern mid-range processors typically have six or hexa-cores. 34 percent of Steam users have a six-core processor, according to the hardware survey from August 2021. 40 percent of users are still using 4-core processors, so it is still not the majority, but that will probably change soon.

A significant improvement over 8 threads is six cores, or more specifically, 12 threads. With good reason, most people are content with this number of cores.

On six cores, most top video games today perform incredibly well. Moving to 8, 10, 12, or more cores won’t significantly improve FPS in the majority of games.

Work would also be completed much more quickly and easily. Two additional cores will be very helpful for applications like Blender, Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, and others.

6. Octa-core CPU for Future-proof Computers

Competition between Intel and AMD is at its most intense right now, as the two companies continuously trade blows by lowering prices, raising frequency, increasing core count, and other strategies.

Eight-core processors may gradually become much more affordable and possibly even the standard in a few years due to the two brands’ intense competition.

Eight-core processors are used by 40% of users. Increase in work productivity has been significant, though. 8-core processors are the best choice for anyone who wants to work on their computer while also playing games.

7. Cores Needed for General Computer Usage

For typical desktop tasks like web browsing, light image editing, media consumption, etc., you don’t need many CPU cores, assuming you’re using a decently modern CPU architecture.

In some circumstances, even a dual-core CPU with SMT (Simultaneous Multi-Threading) enabled can prove to be more than adequate for basic desktop use and multitasking because modern CPU cores are relatively quick.

It is more likely that you don’t have enough RAM if you’re experiencing bottlenecks in typical desktop use than it is that you don’t have enough CPU cores, especially if you’re doing a lot of web browsing.

Therefore, 2-4 cores should be sufficient for your needs for typical desktop use.

However, heavier desktop workloads like file compression can be a different matter.

Performance scales fairly linearly as those two factors increase, but compressing large files can be quite resource- and bandwidth-intensive.

The workloads of more specialized users and professionals are largely excluded from this.

8. Cores Needed for Gaming

First of all, it’s crucial to keep in mind that very few applications are designed to use multiple cores at once, and those that are typically do not operate in real-time.

For instance, some professional workloads, such as video encoding, perform well when distributed across as many cores as are available.

Additionally, since latency is not an issue, this task can be distributed across your CPU pretty much however it pleases.

A video game, on the other hand, has an objective of rendering as many frames per second (or, hitting a certain framerate cap as consistently as possible) in real-time, as they are required.

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A lot of real-time calculations go into making a video game, so for many years, most games could not really use more than a few CPU cores at once.

This has significantly improved with contemporary game engines.

Most recent game engines can, to some extent, efficiently distribute their workloads across multiple CPU cores, but there are still diminishing returns after a certain point.

Additionally, unlike other workloads, raw core count isn’t really king of performance in gaming: Per-core CPU speed and GPU power frequently have a greater impact on performance than raw core count.

No matter how fast your GPU is, it won’t matter if your CPU can’t send data to it quickly enough.

A crucial point regarding CPU cores and gaming performance is that, unless you’re also working on something else simultaneously, SMT’s enablement or disablement won’t significantly affect how well you play.

Since it’s still a real-time workload, SMT’ing it across a few extra virtual cores doesn’t really improve performance in some cases, it might even slightly worsen it.

9. Cores Needed for Video Editing and Encoding

You will undoubtedly need extra CPU cores if you are working with numerous videos.

Furthermore, neither of these workloads are real-time, so they can be more easily distributed across multiple CPU cores and CPU threads.

As a result, this is one of the workloads that is significantly enhanced by having SMT enabled.

Although video rendering and video encoding involve slightly different workloads, they both fall under the category of “video editing” and depend on roughly the same amount of CPU power.

A clear advantage for powerful multi-core CPUs at least, until returns start to decline with significantly higher core counts but significantly weaker individual cores.

However, those diminishing returns don’t start until we surpass 16 cores.

More cores are always better for the vast majority of desktop CPUs available to consumers, and how many you actually need will largely depend on your patience and time constraints.

As you increase the number of cores used for video-related workloads, you can anticipate a nearly linear improvement in performance across CPU architecture.


Now that you know why the number of cores affect CPU performance, you need to think carefully before purchasing your CPU.

Since, the number of cores is not the only factor deciding your system’s performance.

However, if you have recently purchased a CPU which does not meet your needs, you should wait a couple of years before upgrading.