Last of the red-hot dual cores

Quad technology waits in the wings, but dual-core systems still have a lot to offer

It’s amazing to see the rapid progress of technology. Less than two years ago, dual-core processors were the Next Big Thing, and everyone was impressed with their capabilities. Now the technology is being superseded by the next Next Big Thing — the quad-core processor.

Even though recent drops in the prices of quad-core processors have made them a more feasible option, there is still a place for dual cores with relatively high clock speeds. If your users’ daily operations don’t involve running many programs simultaneously or running programs that take advantage of all four cores, you can still find bargains in the dual-core arena. In fact, in those situations, a high-speed dual-core would perform better than a quad-core with a slower clock speed.

We asked for the latest and greatest in dual-core processors for a roundup review, and six companies rose to the challenge. Ace Computers, Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Super Micro Computer submitted smoking-hot systems. We put them through their paces with our PassMark Software’s performance benchmark program. Then we opened each of them and had a look at how much room they had for upgrades before original components would need to be replaced. While we were in there, we noted how easy or difficult it was to get to those components and whether you needed tools to remove them.

We also examined other features, such as extra ports beyond the basics — USB, sound and local-area network connections — and any additional components or software. Finally, we compared the price to how the computer fared in the other categories.

The golden age of the dual-core processor might be over, but there are still bargains to be had.

How we tested

The PassMark PerformanceTest Version 6.1 evaluates CPUs’ ability to find prime numbers and perform other math tasks, in addition to compression and encryption. The 2-D graphics tests covered lines and shapes and included a font and text evaluation, while the 3-D graphics test displayed 3-D movements of varying complexities. To test the memory, we performed various read and write tasks in different conditions. We also conducted read and write tests for the hard drive and a read test for the optical drive.

The PassMark Rating is the weighted average of all the other scores, with the CPU results having the most weight, followed by memory. The values are relative, so a computer with a score twice as high in an area is considered to be twice as fast.

For more information, visit PassMark Software at www.passmark.com.


About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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