Trying to understand how the processor works, and the specifications that come with the processor can be extremely confusing. So it’s a common occurrence for the question of whether cores are better than threads, they do have their differences but they aren’t too different from each other, threads and cores work very closely with each other.
In this post, we’re going to go over exactly what a CPU core is, what hyperthreading is, its benefits, and physical cores vs virtual cores. By the end of this post, you should at least have a general understanding of the differences between these two concepts, and hopefully, understand what applications benefit from having more cores and threads.
Answer: In this case, CPU threads are a series of programmed instructions which give the illusion that a single core is split into two cores. Each core usually comes with 2 threads or virtual cores, and you’ll usually see this is a processor having 6c12t (6 cores, 12 threads). Cores with only a single thread for example 6cores 6 threads will perform less efficiently than a CPU with 6 cores, 12 threads.
What Are Cores?
Most processors or CPUs come with more than one core, and they’re commonly referred to as Dual-Core, Quad-Core, and even Octa-Core, there are even processors that come with 32 cores, but they’re pretty expensive. But what exactly are cores? Cores are physical constructs located on the CPU chip, and they usually contain billions of transistors. A CPU core is responsible for executing operations or getting work done, the more cores typically the faster the CPU will be.
Back in the day, CPUs were pretty weak usually containing one core, also known as a single-core processor, but now the common processor has 6-8 cores, and the high-performing processors can come with 32 cores. These processors are referred to as HEDT processors and AMD’s Threadripper and Intel’s Sapphire Rapids fall in this category.
More cores won’t always translate into more performance because it’s usually dependent on the application you’re using. For example, old school games which run on old game engines usually leverage a single core, so the performance is more tied to the CPUs clock speed. Streaming on the other hand is more multicore intensive meaning it will use as many cores as possible, so more cores is better for streaming?
What Is Hyperthreading?
Hyperthreading is a method of simultaneous multithreading proprietary to Intel and its main goal is to achieve increased efficiency by improving upon parallel computing. It does this by allowing a core to be split up into two threads, and threads are basically virtual cores. Hyperthreading allows a single core to perform two different tasks at the same time (parallel computing), so if you have an 8 Core Intel processor, it essentially has 16 threads.
Hyperthreading can be extremely beneficial in tasks that require multicore performance, for example, streaming or video editing. This is due to the increased efficiency of each core, and you may even experience a 15-30% increase in performance in certain tasks. Performance gains depend heavily on what application is running for example you may experience a loss in performance when gaming with hyperthreading enabled.
It may seem like there’s double the number of cores if you look on task manager, but that’s not the case. The performance isn’t actually doubled but rather it maximizes the efficiency of each core, basically, it allows you to get the most out of what you’ve paid for depending on what applications you use. Hyperthreading may also cause the CPU to run hotter, this is because sections of the CPU core that would usually be idle are now performing work.
Physical Cores Vs Virtual Cores
Just like in the name, Physical cores are physical sections located on the CPU chip, and virtual cores are logical constructs usually referred to as threads. Physical cores and virtual cores work in different ways, for example, a CPU core is split into two threads doesn’t increase the performance by double, but instead, increases the efficiency of the core.
More physical cores are better than having more threads because more cores will significantly increase the performance of the processor from a multitasking perspective compared to having more threads. Virtual cores take advantage of CPU stalls, when a CPU is in a stalled state, hyperthreading allows the processor to work on a second thread, which means the CPU core is being more efficient.
So virtual cores are an aspect of a physical core, you cannot have a virtual core without a physical core. In the case of hyperthreading, a virtual core comes into existence when a single-core processor is able to process two different tasks at the same time. When two instructions are being run on a single core, then that essentially makes for two virtual cores because the system is utilizing time when the core would otherwise be idle.
Hyperthreading is Intet’s way of increasing the performance of a single core. It does this by allowing multiple threads to be run on a single core, this essentially increases the efficiency of the entire processor. Multithreading refers to the processor’s ability to provide multiple threads to execute at the same time, this essentially means the processor will use all its cores at the same time.
Is Hyperthreading Good For Gaming?
With Hyperthreading enabled, you’ll generally experience slightly higher frame rates depending on the game, if the game is old and cannot utilize multiple threads, then hyperthreading on won’t make a difference. If the game is relatively new then hyperthreading can be a benefit. Generally, we’d recommend keeping hyperthreading on because on average it’ll increase performance across the board if you’re not a strict gamer.
The downside to hyperthreading is that it can increase CPU thermals which can be a downside when gaming, especially if you notice no FPS increases. If you have adequate cooling, then this won’t be a big issue, but to some individuals, a hot CPU can throttle resulting in overall less performance.
But in general, games benefit more from single-core performance, this means more GHz is better for gaming, so if you’re looking for more FPS, then overclocking is a better option. Most of the time, games will exhibit no performance differences with hyperthreading on vs off, and some games may even experience an FPS decrease, so it’s mostly application-dependent.
Is Hyperthreading Good For Streaming?
Streaming on the other hand will benefit massively from hyperthreading, this is because streaming depending on the encoder is a multithreaded application. So more cores and more threads will massively increase your streaming performance if you use a software encoder, if you’re using a hardware encoder then the CPU will be completely out of the equation.
This is why Ryzen is the popular choice among streamers, this is because Ryzen is generally better for multi-core performance whereas Intel is better for single-core performance. A really good Ryzen processor would be the Ryzen 9 5900x with 12 cores and 24 threads. Intel CPUs are still a great option for hyperthreading and you can find Intel processors that’ll compete with the Ryzen 9 5900x in streaming. Such processor would be the I9 12900K which also has 12 cores and 24 threads, and also a higher core clock speed.
We would recommend a 6 core 12 thread processor for streaming, this is because it’ll handle the stream encoding as well as the game you’re playing pretty well. Anything less and you may encounter frequent stuttering and instability issues, this is why we recommend Ryzen because they provide more cores and threads on average.
In conclusion, threads will always outperform cores when it comes to running multi-core applications, physical cores always translate into more performance. On the other hand, threads are heavily application dependent and so it only sometimes translates into more performance, but if everything goes well, you can experience up to 30% more performance.
Applications that rarely benefit from more threads are gaming, this is because gaming heavily relies on single-core performance so higher clock speed is better. But if you’re a streamer or a video editor, then more cores and threads will be a big benefit to your performance.