Definition

quad-core processor

Part of the Electronics glossary:

A quad-core processor is a chip with four independent units called cores that read and execute central processing unit (CPU) instructions such as add, move data, and branch. 

Within the chip, each core operates in conjunction with other circuits such as cache, memory management, and input/output (I/O) ports. The individual cores in a quad-core processor can run multiple instructions at the same time, increasing the overall speed for programs compatible with parallel processing. Manufacturers typically integrate the cores onto a single semiconductor wafer, or onto multiple semiconductor wafers within a single IC (integrated circuit) package.

Although it's tempting to suppose that a quad-core processor would operate twice as fast as a dual-core processor and four times as fast as a single-core processor, things don't work out that simply. Results vary depending on the habits of the computer user, the nature of the programs being run, and the compatibility of the processor with other hardware in the system as a whole. The best results are usually seen when running many programs simultaneously, or in situations that require massive, brute-force arithmetic calculations such as:

See also: multi-core processor

Continue reading about quad-core processors:

Robert Hallock explains how quad-core chips work.

NVIDIA discusses the advantages of quad-core processing in mobile devices.

Before upgrading to quad-core, consider your applications.

Quad-core myths busted

This was last updated in April 2012
Contributor(s): Stan Gibilisco
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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