It came as no surprise that Intel wanted to talk about dual-core and multi-core technology at IDF, after all it’s one of the most exciting developments in CPU technology that I’ve seen in a while. Still obsessed with Moore’s Law, Intel sees dual-core technology as the way to carry on doubling the amount of transistors and processing power every couple of years.
Personally, I think it’s time that Intel put Moore’s Law to bed, but at least, this time around, trying to adhere to Moore’s Law has resulted in a genuine technological advancement. With 15 dual/multi-core projects underway right now, it’s clear that Intel is well aware that this technology is the way forward, and the recent dual-core demonstration from AMD shows that this opinion is pretty much universal.
With the personal computer being used for a broader range of tasks than ever before, the idea of dual and multi-core processors is a very attractive one. These days you’ve probably got multiple applications running whenever you switch on your PC, with one processor trying to take care of them all. If you’ve ever tried to get on with something else while you’re running a virus scan you’ll be aware of how a CPU can get bogged down with one task and leave the PC all but unusable. With a dual-core CPU, the virus scan could be running on one core, while you’re running another application on the other.
Of course, multi-tasking with multiple applications is only half the story. With applications that are coded to specifically take advantage of multi-threaded processors, the performance gain can be significant. This is nothing new and we’ve seen 3D rendering packages like LightWave show massive performance gains when run on SMP (Symetric Multi-Processing) systems. But with a dual-core CPU, you’ve basically got an SMP system, with only a single processor.
To demonstrate the advantage of a multi-core processor running a multi-threaded application, Intel ran the Cinebench 2003 benchmark. While the benchmark rendered a scene, the system monitor showed that all four CPU threads in the dual-core Pentium Processor Extreme Edition were being utilised simultaneously and the scene was being rendered in four distinct bands.