Can’t decide whether to go for a 4-core or a 6-core CPU? Well, you’re not alone! It can be a pretty daunting task if you don’t know the major differences between the two. Do higher cores mean more speed? Is the extra investment worth it? Should you go for it?
You’ll have all the answers by the end of this article. Here, I’ve compared both types of CPUs side-by-side in every way possible and covered every detail. So keep on reading to find out which core count is more suitable for you.
But first, let’s understand what cores are and how they work.
How do CPU cores function?
To decide which core count suits you, you must know what a core is and how it works.
A core is the processor of your CPU that is responsible for handling a single task at a time. In old times, CPUs only featured a single core, therefore it processed every task sequentially. However, with the advancement in technology, it became clear that single-core processors were no longer enough. Consequently, big companies like Intel and AMD started to produce multi-core processors.
These multi-core processors can handle different tasks at the same time, making your system more efficient and faster. Even so, this doesn’t mean that more cores will always outrank fewer cores every time. This is because all cores will only work if there are enough instructions to execute. Let me simplify with an example here;
Suppose we have two cars, one is a two-seater and the other one is a four-seater. There are only two passengers who want to travel. Which car would be able to carry more passengers? Obviously, both cars can have only two! The four-seater vehicle would only be able to take more passengers than the two-seater if they were available.
The same principle applies to CPU cores; a Hexa-core processor can only outperform a quad-core processor if there is enough workload. I hope you understand how cores work now, so let’s move on to a detailed comparison.
What’s the difference: 4 core vs. 6 core
Now let’s dive into all the significant differences between 4-core and 6-core.
The most obvious difference is the physical core count itself. A Hexa-core CPU would usually process instructions faster than a Quad-core CPU. But does high cores make a difference?
Yes, they do. A Quad-core processor is the minimum requirement for most gaming, editing, and graphic-intensive tasks. But you won’t be able to enjoy the full speed of all the programs.
However, if you opt for a 6-core processor, it would boost your system’s performance. All the software would load faster and you’ll have better frame rates in the games.
Another reason why Hexa-core CPUs have an edge over Quad-core ones is the threading difference. The 6-core processors can have a maximum of 12 threads while a quad-core CPU can have up to 8 threads. The more the number of threads the better easily it can handle heavy tasks.
However, keep in mind that a weak 6-core CPU won’t be able to outperform a powerful 4-core CPU. So I’d suggest reading the full specs sheet before you make the purchase.
The processing speed is one of the most important features when choosing a processor. It is measured in GHz which indicates how many times a CPU can process tasks in one second. For instance, if a CPU features a processing speed of 4 GHz. This means it can perform 4 billion cycles in one second.
The number of cycles a CPU completes in a second is referred to as the clock speed. Most Hexa-core processors have higher processing speeds with faster clock speeds. Even if a 6-core CPU has a lower base clock speed than a quad-core CPU, it would still be more efficient.
To understand this, you’ll need to understand base and boost clock speeds.
Base clock speed vs. Boost clock speed
You might’ve come across these terms while looking for a CPU, right? A CPU has the base clock speed when it’s handling low-intensity tasks like working in Word or Excel, browsing on the internet, and light editing work. Even when a CPU is idle, it still hits the base clock speed at times and it keeps flickering randomly. So, even if you need a CPU for light work, you can opt for one with a lower clock speed.
Modern CPUs are designed to run even under base clock speed to save power. If you launch an app, it can work at the base clock speed. The boost clock speed is only achieved when you’re performing heavy-duty tasks. As a rule of thumb, higher base and boost clock speeds are always better. But there’s a catch; it also depends on how many cores the task uses.
For instance, if the task only utilizes two cores and you have a quad-core processor, it’ll provide enough speed. But if your task needs 4 cores then you’d be better off with a 6-core CPU.
A 6-core CPU can complete all tasks way quicker than a quad-core processor with its boosted clock speeds, no matter if it has a lower base clock speed.
To understand what multithreading is, I’ll give you a simple example. Imagine if you had four hands instead of two, would you be able to work faster? Of course! The same goes for multithreaded CPUs. They have extra virtual cores or threads that assist the CPU cores to divide among these threads. This is why multithreaded CPUs have an advantage over older, single-threaded CPUs.
In most up-to-date CPUs, each core has at least two threads. This means that a quad-core processor would have 8 threads while a Hexa-core processor would have 12 threads. Although there is nothing bad in going for a high thread CPU, the real-world gains from the thread count aren’t so exciting. So if I were you I wouldn’t give much thought to it.
Thermal design profile (TDP)
Thermal design profile or TDP is known as the amount of power needed by your CPU to function properly. TDP is measured in watts and it can significantly affect your power bills.
Just to be clear, TDP is not the actual power consumption. It refers to the maximum power your CPU withdraws only under a heavy workload. Most companies offer just a single TDP number, e.g. 100 watts.
You can also find some CPUs that are entitled to both maximum and base or idle TDP. The Base TDP is the amount of wattage needed by a CPU when it’s not under any stress.
To clarify, TDP doesn’t directly affect your CPU’s performance, but it is essential for managing your electric bills. Plus it also plays a crucial role in deciding what kind of cooling system you’ll need. Generally, stronger CPUs have higher TDPs because they have to handle high-intensity work.
With that said, I hope it’s clear that a 6-core CPU would have a higher TDP than a Quad-core processor. However, the architecture of your processor can also affect its TDP.
Take, for example, the standard Quad-core Core i5 7th generation processor by Intel boasts a TDP of 91 but if we talk the cheaper options like Core i5 7400T only consume up to 35 watts. The same goes for AMD, their cheapest models like Ryzen 3 Quad-core processor have a TDP of 12 – 25 watts while the high-end models consume 35 to 65 watts of energy.
If we talk about the latest models, the Coffe Lake-S eighth and ninth generation from Intel have a TDP of about 65 to 95 watts. And the Comet Lake-S model can eat up to 125 watts of power. The latest counterparts from AMD have quite similar power consumption rates as Intel.
When you max out while exercising, your body produces a lot of heat, right? The same is the case with your CPU. When you’re searching for a processor, you must know how much heat it produces.
Generally, CPUs with higher core counts produce more heat than the ones with fewer cores – only if all the cores are at work. So a 6-core CPU will get hotter than a quad-core processor. But it isn’t that big of a problem as we have multiple cooling systems to keep the temperatures in control.
Ever heard about IPC? Well, it stands for instructions per cycle or we could say how many tasks a CPU completes in one full cycle. If you’re looking for a CPU, you can’t ignore this factor as it is quite important in determining a CPU’s speed.
You won’t find it on the spec sheet of the processor, so you’ll have to dig into the benchmarks. And remember, the higher the IPC, the better!
But how to know if a CPU has a higher IPC or not? It’s simple! The more recent the chip is, the better IPC it will have. This means you can even find a 4-core processor with a higher IPC than a 6-core processor. It all depends on how advanced is the architecture.
The company decides which Integrated Graphics are featured in a PC. This means that you don’t need to buy a separate graphics card unless you want to.
Mostly all the quad-core processors have Integrated Graphics which offer some decent functionalities. On the other hand, a 6-core processor tends to have better graphic cards but still, they’re not as good as external GPUs.
4 core vs. 6 core: Which one is better?
When you’re deciding between a 4-core and a 6-core processor, you must know how well they perform in gaming, office work, and other editing tasks. So let’s discover which one comes out victorious.
A quad-core processor is a great option for day-to-day use but is it powerful enough to support gaming? Well, yes and no! See if you’re a casual gamer who wants to enjoy light gaming and don’t want to break your bank, a 4-core processor is a great match for you.
However, I would suggest going for an 8-thread one as the multithreading process can make a huge difference in performance. They might be a little expensive than 4-thread ones but it’s worth it.
Contrarily, if you want to take your gaming to another level, you should consider buying a 6-core CPU. You’ll feel a significant performance boost when you move from a 4-core to a 6-core processor.
Some people think that intensive gaming only depends on the GPU but this isn’t true. You need a powerful CPU with a high core count for playing high-resolution games. This is because no GPU is powerful enough to overcome the bottleneck created by an inadequate CPU.
You can find a 6-core both with or without multi-threading, so make sure whether you need multi-threading before making the purchase. Most of the games don’t need multithreading with a 6-core processor. So if you’re buying it for gaming, you won’t need multithreading.
A 6-core processor can perform way better than a 4-core for office-related tasks. With a 6-core processor, you can run multiple applications simultaneously without worrying about stuttering or lag.
A 4-core processor would be suitable, only if you intend to perform the most basic apps like Word or Excel, and multitasking isn’t your cup of tea. However, if you go with a 6-core CPU, you can handle more programs at the same time, ultimately enhancing your work efficiency.
Image editing and graphics designing
Are you a graphics designer and editor? Well, if your work is only confined to images then you won’t have much benefit of having more cores. Both 4-core and 6-core CPUs would do pretty much the same job for you. Here’s why;
Most of the image editing software only supports limited multithreading, so having a high-core CPU won’t make a difference. However, there are some software which work well with multithreading. For this reason, I’d recommend you check the specifications of your latest editing software while you’re buying the CPU.
However, as an image editor, your main focus should be on getting a CPU with more clock speed rather than the cores. It matters more!
For all the video editors, there’s a twist in the story. You might be able to work on small video files with a 4-core CPU. But if you crank it up to more intensive video editing, you shouldn’t even think about less than 6 cores.
No matter, if you have a robust GPU to dial down the load of your work. You’re still going to need a powerful CPU to spread out the tasks. Video editing software like Adobe Premium needs significant processing power, hence you’d need more cores. Only a 6-core processor can help you finish your video editing assignments more quickly and efficiently.
As a video editor, you’d know how much CPU power it takes to encode and decode a video, right? So if your CPU isn’t up to par, it’ll hinder your GPU to work at its full potential.
Modeling and Rendering
As for 3D modeling and GPU rendering, a 4-core processor has enough clock speed. But if work involves a lot of CPU rendering then it would be better to opt for a 6-core processor.
Like the video editing applications, all of the 3D modeling and rendering software consume loads of processing power. But most software offloads the majority of the work on your GPU and uses only one core at a time. So should focus more on clock speed rather than core density.
Whether you should go for a 6-core or a 4-core processor depends on the type of software that you’re using. If it involves a lot of GPU rendering then you wouldn’t need high core CPU, but make sure it’s powerful enough to work with your GPU. If your software relies more on CPU rendering, then a 6-core CPU would be the right choice.
Do you need a CPU for day-to-day use? Well, a 4-core would be more than enough for you. I wouldn’t suggest spending the extra cash on something you don’t even need unless you want to future-proof your system.
Scrolling through your feed, browsing on the internet, or binge-watching your favorite TV shows don’t demand high processing power. So a 4-core CPU would be enough for your everyday use.
I understand how important it is to choose the perfect CPU because you don’t get to do it every other day. I hope that my guide can help your way through this confusing decision.
Whether you should go for a 4-core or a 6-core processor depends on your computing needs. If you need a CPU for light office work, casual gaming, or day-to-day use then a 4-core CPU is a good buy.
However, for more intensive tasks like multitasking, video editing, and competitive gaming which require tons of processing power, you should stick with the 6-core processor.
What core count would I go with? Well, I’d choose the higher core count because not only that it boost the performance but also it’s a great way to future-proof your system. So if you have a few extra bucks lying on the table, go for the 6-core processor!
Muhammad Allayhan, a gaming and PC hardware virtuoso, breathes life into pixelated worlds. A legendary overclocker, he unlocks hidden power in gaming rigs. Navigating from 8-bit realms to today’s masterpieces, Muhammad’s words immerse readers in an ever-evolving digital odyssey. Join him as he reveals the secrets of gaming’s cutting edge.