What is a dual-core processor?

Features Richard Goodwin 14:23, 6 Jan 2011

We take a look at the up-and-coming dual-core processor paradigm that’s about to take the mobile world by storm

A lot of smartphones in 2011 will be dual-core-powered, such as the Motorola Atrix and the LG Optimus 2X. But what is a dual-core processor and, most importantly, what does it do and how? We take a look.

What is it?
All smartphones have processors, also known as CPUs. Processors act very much like our brains do in that they allow data to be processed and moved so that the device can perform tasks, such as loading up an application or running a game – everything the phone does is computed by the CPU (and also potentially the GPU in the example of games but we will ignore that for now).

The processor itself is a chipset. Examples of popular mobile processors are Qualcomm’s Snapdragon QSD8250 and Samsung’s Hummingbird chipsets – both of which range around 1GHz in processing speed.

The difference between the above, however, and the new line of dual-core processors is that dual-core processors have two processors (including their caches and cache controllers) located on one integrated chip – i.e. two processors on one die, hence the word "dual".

What does it do?
In PC terms, dual-core processors provide two complete execution cores instead of one, and each has an independent interface to the frontside bus, which is the electrical pathway that connects the smartphone’s hardware components to the processor.

Having a dual-core processor onboard a smartphone (or tablet) means that its operating system has the freedom to manage intensive tasks in parallel, which mean, yes you've guessed it, better multitasking ability.

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