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Multitasking Benchmarks

Part 2: How Many CPU Cores Do You Need?

This is the new test we've added to see just how much multiple CPU cores can help when running more than one application. We'll be testing the same World in Conflict benchmark seen on the previous page, but this time we'll run the AVG antivirus scanner in the background. This is something that probably happens to a lot of folks on a daily basis.

Let's have a look at the results:

This is why I schedule my virus scans to run at 4:00 AM in the morning, folks. And it also demonstrates why someone who isn't a power user might still want to consider a CPU with more than three cores.

Nothing illustrates this better than the difference between the quad- and triple-core results. Without an application running in the background, they both pull nearly-identical frame rates. However, when AVG is running a virus scan, the triple-core CPU takes a massive hit, with frame rates as low as 34 FPS compared to the quad-core's 82 FPS.

While the minimum numbers don't look too terribly bad as far as playability goes, the effect was definitely pronounced in the game benchmark where obvious stutters could be seen as we utilized fewer and fewer CPU cores.

One interesting result is that, when multiple applications are running, the single-core CPU achieved a similar result compared to the dual-core CPU. Presumably, with a single-core CPU, the operating system is prioritizing the application that has focus and allocates a smaller percentage of CPU cycles to the background application.

In any case, there are two lessons to be learned here: first, try to avoid a virus scan during your gaming sessions. Second, multiple CPU cores definitely offer a marked performance advantage if you're a heavy multitasker--an increasingly prevalent usage model in today's world of getting more done in less time. Whether virus scanning, media encoding, or downloading from the Internet, more CPU cores are a good idea.

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