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Quad core vs Dual core CPU

  1. Jun 9, 2013 #1


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    As a soon to be physics major I am about to purchase a laptop. However, I can't decide what I want. Should I go for a laptop with a dual core processor with a higher clock rate or a quad core processor with a slower clock rate. The laptop with the quad core is a bit out of my price range but I am willing to stretch if it is worth it. What do you think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 9, 2013 #2
    Stick to what suits your budget.
    Any physics department will have some computing facilities available to students, so there should be no need to buy a high end laptop.

    I would like to highlight that many students simply go for a laptop though it hardly leaves their desk at home, the point being, if you don't need a laptop, you can put the money into a decent desktop.

    If you truly need the mobility, take the weight matter into consideration.
  4. Jun 10, 2013 #3

    I cannot agree with this one enough!! When you have to carry that laptop and it's power cord around on your back all day, every day, in every kind of weather, along with all your books and notebooks and lunch and other assorted "crap," you will find that the computer that weighs the least, will be worth the most; because you will actually USE it! Don't pick a tablet for your only computer though, because a lot of web sites you might access during school assignments (i.e., Webassign, Mastering Chemistry, Mastering Physics, etc.) don't work well without Firefox (Seriously).

    Pick the least expensive one (because you will have to replace it in a few years anyway) and the one that weighs the least. I currently have about 6 assorted computers, laptops, and tablets; the one I use the most is the Acer Netbook that cost about US $200.00. Other computers are good for gaming and stuff, but I even use the netbook for computer science classes - it runs absolutely everything!
  5. Jun 10, 2013 #4


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    A quad core is going to be a waste unless you have software that makes use of it which most software doesn't, or you are a power user and run a whole bunch of resource-hungry apps at the same time.
  6. Jun 11, 2013 #5


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    Processor speed is really no longer a useful factor when choosing a computer, particularly a laptop computer. As processors have gotten faster, other bottlenecks have become apparent. Memory and disk bandwidth are now more important specs than processor speed.

    You'll find a computer with a solid-state disk to feel much faster than one with a hard drive, in every way. Programs and files will open more quickly, the computer will boot, wake and sleep faster. Your entire experience with the computer will be greatly improved.

    Next up, consider portability. Look for a laptop that is lightweight, thin, and lasts a long time on a charge. You'll be carrying it around everywhere, you'll be out of your dorm room for long periods of time, and you'll find yourself in lots of buildings where many people are competing for a power plug. You'll really enjoy a laptop with great battery life.

    I realize these are very utilitarian features -- thin, light, good battery life, and with a fast disk -- but utilitarian features and creature comforts are what will ultimately make you love or hate your laptop.

    You'll run a few compute-intensive programs during your undergraduate education, but you'll probably never run anything that takes more than a minute or two to complete. Don't sweat it. :smile:

    - Warren
  7. Jun 11, 2013 #6
    You guys forgot to mention the keyboard. My first laptop drove me nuts because the keys were too close together. I kept hitting the cAPLOCKS every time I hit the "A" button (see). And double typing letters etc. As far as the processor, any old i3 double core should do fine. Mine is an i3 hyperthreaded, so you get 4 virtual cores (there's a compromise for you:smile:) And they're cheap. If you find you need more than that, you should probably use the schools computers for those heavier problems. I personally use my desktop for any heavy cpu lifting projects, which has a lot more firepower. Then I'll just flip from the desktop to the laptop with a thumb drive. I imagine you could do the same. And the battery is important. Try to get with one over 4 hours of life on it. That way you can just grab and go without having to undo the cord and wind it up everyime, weather at home or out in public. The weight of the cord isn't the problem, it's the hassle. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you use your laptop a lot on the road, they add up.
  8. Jun 12, 2013 #7
    By the way, those virtual cores do virtually nothing...

  9. Jun 25, 2013 #8


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    Hyperthread is only good for running programs that benefit from parallel processing. It's great for image processing, but, little else IRL.
  10. Jun 25, 2013 #9


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    IMHO hyperthreading changed in time. I see it working on my i7 now, it didn't work so nicely on my earlier single nor two core Intel processors.
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