This article sponsored by AMD, the manufacturer of top-quality PC processors and
graphics, including the new Phenom™ X4
quad-core processor, which offers incredible
speed and energy efficiency for the PC.
What to know about
By Marc Saltzman
IT CAN BE TOUGH to keep up with all the techno-babble these days—
mega-pixel this, gigahertz that, terabyte the other—so it’s no surprise that many
people are confused about the biggest thing to happen to computers in a long
while: quad-core processors.
Wait! Before you roll your eyes and flip the page, hold on. This is pretty
If a computer were a car, its engine would be the processor (also referred
to as the central processing unit, or CPU). Whenever something needs to be
computed—whether it’s a simple task such as opening a document or more
complex functions such as rendering animation—the instructions are sent to
the CPU to be processed. Generally speaking, the faster the processor, the
faster your PC experience will be, which is a good thing.
Now imagine you have four engines under the hood of your car instead
of one. This is a good way of understanding quad-core processors. With four
independent cores on a single die (chip), your computer can do some amazing things.
As alluded to above, one advantage is incredible speed and smooth performance, especially for demanding applications such as home movie editing,
computer gaming or compressing DVDs into portable video files. Think of
it like this: Quad-core is like pushing gallons of water down four individual
hoses at once, instead of waiting for the water to make its way through just
one hose, which would obviously take longer.
Quad-core processors also make multitasking a breeze for those who
like to open and use multiple programs simultaneously. Watch teenagers using
a computer these days and you’ll likely see them listening to music, surfing
the Web, downloading files, chatting via instant messenger and writing
documents—all at once! Businesspeople are pros at multitasking as well,
with spreadsheets, Web browsers, mail managers and more open all at once.
Despite this newfound power and speed, quad-core processors have been
engineered to be more energy efficient. This is good for the environment—
and your utility bill—because it can cut down on power consumption.
The time is ripe to take a hard look at quad-core. Considering that video is
moving to high definition, audio is going multichannel (six speakers instead
of two) and fast wireless connectivity is becoming commonplace, you may
want a seriously fast processor to handle it all.
Best of all, you’re preparing for the future by picking up a quad-core PC,
because quad-core’s capabilities will grow. A
Marc Saltzman is one of the leading technology experts in the United States and Canada.
Along with his regular tech column for The Costco Connection, Saltzman writes weekly
syndicated columns for Gannett News Service, CNN.com, USAToday.com and Can West
Media. He also hosts two radio shows focusing on technology and has written 13
books, including White Collar Slacker’s Handbook: Tech Tricks to Fool Your Boss (Que