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quad-core processor

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. Some programs are just single-threaded in nature and don't speed up much from multi core CPUs.

Quad-core and higher multi-core processor configurations have become common for general-purpose computing, not only for PCs, where octal and decacore are not uncommon, but for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

This was last updated in February 2017

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