What is a Dual Core Processor

With dual core computer chips becoming the norm, it's essential that a new computer buyer knows what they are all about, and how they can drive up performance.
A computer processor is the central processing unit of a computer. It is an integrated circuit made up of a silicon chip, with billions of transistors etched on it, at the nanometer (10-9 meter) scale. The speed of a processor is dependent on the number of transistors that can be etched on the silicon wafer.

This speed is measured in terms of the clocking frequency of the processor. In an effort to maximize the processing speed, manufacturers went on adding more transistors until they hit a 'heat limit'. The generated heat could not make the construction of a processor, with higher number of transistors possible, after a limit. That is when manufacturers came up with the idea of chips with two cores.

About Computer Processors with Twin Cores

This is a computer chip with two cores or central processing units, etched on a single silicon wafer (also known as a die). It is the integration of two cores on a single chip, to maximize the processing speed. The processor cache and the bus circuits are etched on a single die, along with two complete processor cores. These processors can perform parallel execution of tasks, by sharing the workload.

Effectively, there is an increase in performance speed, due to the division of tasks between the two chips. Just as two capable chefs working together will prepare a meal faster, compared to a single chef, a dual core works faster, compared to a single core. Both AMD and Intel launched dual core chips some years ago; pioneering the era of multicore processing.

How are they Different from Single Core Processors?

Being equipped with two complete processing units, instead of one, a dual core processor is faster than a single chip. It can handle two data streams simultaneously, compared to a single core processor, which will handle only one. The two cores share their resources and thus perform better than a single core, while providing a higher clocking frequency.

The examples of dual core chips are the Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel Dual Core, Intel Core i3, and Intel Core i5 lines of processors. Another example is AMD Athlon X2.

Applications

To be able to harness the power of dual cores, a computer operating system must be designed, such that it can let the two cores work in parallel. The technology that can enable this parallelism, is called 'Multithreading Technology'.

Most software programs, including operating systems of today, are designed with multithreading technology, which can allot two different processing 'threads', to each of the processor cores. Thus, these processors are good for multitasking, as they can handle more workload simultaneously.

If you look at the Intel core i3 vs. i5 vs. i7 processor comparison, you will realize that today dual cores have been superseded by quad core processors, with the high-end core i7 line sporting as many as six cores. It is the era of multicore processing, which has helped laptop and desktop computers reach processing speeds, that only supercomputers were once capable of.