When browsing through different notebook computer models, you are guaranteed to encounter the "Intel Core 2 Duo" or the "AMD Turion 64 x2" labels. These labels indicate dual-core processing technology for mobile computing. Multi-core processing is the buzz-word of the day, but what does it mean for you?
Mobile Dual-Core Processors
Mobile dual-core processors refer to a processor system consisting of two independent processor cores combined in one integrated circuit (IC) or, as industry professionals say, in a single die. Basically, mobile dual-core processors place two central processing unit (CPU) cores in one processor. Dual-core processing was first applied to desktop computing and home console gaming, but it was quickly adapted for mobile computing. As expected, AMD and Intel both have numerous mobile dual-core processing options available.
Dual-core processors have a different architecture than twin- or double-core processors. Dual-core processors refer to a processing system where two processors are integrated in one IC die. On the other hand, twin-core processors refer to a processing system where two independent processors - each on its own die - are directly plugged into the motherboard.
Each of the processors in a dual-core processor has a built in cache (Level 1 cache) so each has its own potential for speedy and efficient recovery and processing of frequently used instructions. More than that, however, there is a Level 2 cache, in the same IC board, which the two processors share in Intel's Mobile Core 2 Duo chipsets (either 2 or 4 MB); In AMD's Turion 64 x2 chipsets, each of the two processor has a dedicated 512 kb cache per core. The L2 cache is the processor's backup cache in case the L1 cache is not enough.
The Benefits of Mobile Dual-Core Processing
The foremost advantages of dual-core processors are speed and efficiency. Instruction processing and data retrieval are handled by two processors, so more processing speed can be achieved without overheating either processor. The fact that the two processors have their own easily accessible L1 cache also assures more speed. Furthermore, especially in the case of the Intel Core 2 Duo where the L2 cache is shared, full L2 cache memory can be quickly utilized by either one or both processors as the need arises.
In a nutshell, a notebook computer which has a dual-core processor is assured of fast and efficient processing performance with a greatly reduced risk of overheating. Multi-tasking is much improved. Dual-core processors also consume less power than twin-core processors.
One other benefit of dual-core processors in notebook computers is the possibility of lighter and smaller notebooks that can approximate desktop PC performance. Since two processors share one IC die, one can enjoy the benefits of dual-CPU processing without having to deal with extra bulk.
It is important to note that users of older programs will not see any benefit from their dual-core processors if they only run one program at a time. Older programs were not designed for dual-core processing, so they are only able to take advantage of a single core. A dual-core processor still gives considerable advantages in multi-tasking, however, as each core is able to handle a different program, speeding up multi-tasking considerably when compared to a single-core computer.
As time goes on, more and more software developers are developing their products with dual-core processors in mind, so users will see more and more benefit out of their dual-core processors in the near future.
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