There are a lot of terms that get thrown around when discussing CPUs. Cores, processors, threads, sockets, etc. But what do all of these terms mean? What’s the difference between a core and a processor? Is there even a difference at all?
If you’re in the market for a CPU, trying to learn about computers, or just trying to scratch your IT nerd itch, these are things you’ll need to know. So, let’s take a look at what all of these terms mean and what the differences are.
What’s The Difference Between A Core And A Processor?
A core is a physical component located on the processor. It performs calculations. In modern processors, it’s common for a processor to contain between 2 and 8 cores. Each core in a processor works with the others to perform complex computing tasks.
Nowadays, if someone says the word processor, unless they specify otherwise, they’re talking about the central processing unit of the computer (the CPU). The CPU is the actual chip that you see on the motherboard of your PC. Now, most CPUs have multiple cores in them.
Each core is a physical component located on the silicon of your CPU. Each core receives data and performs calculations.
The reason that it’s so convenient to have more than one core is because it allows the CPU to take in and process a lot of data at the exact same time. If the CPU is a kitchen, each core is a chef. One good chef / core can cook a single portion of the meal pretty fast. However, four chefs can all work in tandem to make the entire meal at the same time.
Is A Processor With More Cores Better?
A processor with a high core count is not necessarily better than one with fewer cores. While having more cores can improve performance when running certain software, there are other factors to consider, such as clock speed, IPC, and CPU architecture.
Understanding CPU performance is complicated because there are so many variables to consider. For example, older gaming titles are programmed to utilize a single core. In this situation, you would get the best performance out of a fast CPU, even if it had a low core count.
On the other hand, there are use cases, like video editing, in which your editing software can utilize multiple cores simultaneously, resulting in a performance boost.
Still, there are other factors we haven’t even touched on, like clock speed. Clock speed is a measurement of how many instructions each core receives per second.
As a general rule of thumb, you get what you pay for. More expensive processors will almost always have better performance than their cheaper counterparts. Though, this still depends on what you will be using your PC for.
It may be helpful to check a benchmark guide, like this one, to see which CPUs have the best performance for your use case, such as gaming or graphics processing.
Does 4 Cores Mean 4 Processors?
Four cores means that a processor has four physical cores on its chip. These cores do the actual processing of data, so in a way yes, four cores means four processors attached to a single piece of silicon. Generally speaking, though, processor is the term used to describe the entire CPU, including its cores.
Most people wouldn’t refer to the cores in CPUs as processors. We tend to reserve the term processor for referring to the entire processing unit, which includes all of its cores.
However, it isn’t totally incorrect to call each core a “processor” since the cores are the part of the processor that does the actual processing.
Difference Between CPU Core And Thread?
A CPU core is a physical component on the actual CPU chip. A thread is a computing concept that further splits each physical core into two or more virtual cores. Modern CPUs are capable of multithreading, or handling multiple threads within a single core, or between multiple cores.
Modern CPUs split up computing tasks between multiple cores. Each core is a little, physical unit that sits on the silicon of your CPU (processor).
A thread is a virtual core. Through the magic of programming, each physical core of your CPU may handle multiple threads simultaneously. In modern machines, a single core can handle multiple threads at the same time, usually two at a time.
So, while your CPU may have two physical cores, it may provide 4 threads, meaning it can handle 4 sets of instructions at once.
Smaller regions within each physical core are dedicated to very specific kinds of calculations, and can only process one thing at a time. Threading allows for the idle parts of the core to work separately from other regions of the core.
This splitting up of each core’s computing power allows for a core to handle multiple threads concurrently and improves the CPU’s computing capacity.
Difference Between CPU Core And Socket?
The CPU socket is the part of the motherboard that fits the actual CPU chip. This will have pins if your CPU is an Intel Processor, but will have holes if your CPU is an AMD processor. CPU cores are the physical components on the CPU chip itself that perform calculations and logic.
Every motherboard has a CPU socket, which will either be compatible with Intel or AMD. If the socket has pins, then it fits an Intel processor. If it has holes, it fits an AMD processor. These processors fit right inside of the socket like a Lego.
Cores are very different from sockets, because they’re a part of the CPU themselves. The cores on a CPU are the actual processors of the CPU. They’re the things that read / write data, perform calculations, and send out signals.
A modern CPU usually has many different cores on it, allowing the CPU to multi-task extremely fast and efficiently.
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X (Best AMD Processor)
What I Like:
- 6 Cores
- 12 threads
- 4.6 GHz processor speed
This is one of the best AMD processors for the price. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s also not too expensive as far as CPUs go. Despite its lower price, it still delivers extremely well on performance, and will have more than enough power for most computers and games.
Intel Core i5-12600K (Best Intel Processor)
What I Like:
- 6 Cores
- 12 threads
- Can reach 4.9 GHz speeds with overclocking
This is probably the best bang for your buck on the CPU market. The only downside of this CPU is that it needs overclocking to reach its full potential, otherwise its CPU speed is a little slow (2.8 GHz). However, if you do not mind overclocking, then this is a really good option for an Intel processor.
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