Table for Two?
Dual versus Single CPU
The debate between single and dual CPUs will be resolved by next year. Everyone will need two cores in the future, and the question will change to who needs four CPU cores (through a pair of Dual Core CPUs).
Weíll soon see desktop dual-core CPUs from AMD and by the end of the year, games will begin to take advantage of those multiple cores. When this happens, not only will games run faster on regular gaming desktop motherboards, but youíll be able to enjoy the nearly 100% performance boost from parallel applications such as digital photography programs, and enjoy the faster day-to-day response from having a free CPU always ready to respond to user input and clicks. After all, no matter how intellectual and academic you want to be about Windows XP bloat and how silly it is to need 2 CPUs for maximum responsiveness for surfing the web, it doesnít change the fact that faster hardware still makes Windows XP run faster. You can lobby Microsoft to design more efficient operating systems or simply be more pragmatic and solve the problem with faster hardware.
Dual-core for games today
Todayís games arenít multithreaded. So, when designing a gaming system only one CPU core is needed. Therefore, the fastest individual core is going to be whatís important for having the fastest frame rates and the fastest benchmarks. In real-life, when youíre playing a game, your CPU still needs to spend time managing memory, the swap file, all while keeping your real-time anti-virus file scanner and firewall active. Everyone claims to run a clean system, but how many of us have been dropped out of a LAN game because we received an instant message? How many of you have a torrent downloading in the background while you game? Dual core CPUs would help there.
The other issue is the ability to multitask while gaming. With Dual Core CPUs, itís possible to encode a DVD while playing a single-threaded game at competitive frame rates (youíd expect a small drop in performance from less memory bandwidth being available). The obvious question is how many gamers actually encode MPEG-2 while playing games on a day to day basis? Itís an easy answer: none. This brings up an interesting question though. Is this something that is not done because thereís no demand? Or is it something that weíve convinced ourselves that we donít want or need, because itís impossible?
Hereís the analogy: How many of us in California will catch a flight to Japan to spend a day shopping and enjoying fresh sushi and then fly back home in the evening? None. Itís too expensive and you waste too much time on the plane anyway. Now, fast forward 20 years and imagine that all that scramjet technology really pans out, and so weíre looking at a short 2 hour flight, and then imagine that itís doable at Southwest or JetBlue budget pricing where you can do it for $69 round-trip. It changes things doesnít it?
Want another analogy? How much free HDD space do you have? Isnít it odd that no matter how big or small your HDD is, it quickly fills up to say 90% of capacity? When you have more HDD space available, you will find ways to use it. Likewise, when you have more CPU cores and power, you will find ways to use it.
Iím a believer of dual core CPUs be it Intel or AMD, but the point when the number of multi-threaded games being released will likely exceed the number of single-threaded games being released wonít happen until Summer 2006. So, for the fastest benchmarks in games today, our ultimate gaming system needs the fastest single core CPU.