Single Core Vs Multi Core Performance

When defining how fast a processor is, we have two main ways and that’s by analysing single-core performance, or the multi-core performance.

In terms of raw performance, both are equally important, but each have their own individual purposes, for example, single-core performance is important for gaming, and multicore performance is important for streaming.

When picking a CPU, it’s important to consider both the single-core performance, as well as the multi-core performance to get the most out of your PC.

Why Single-Core Performance Is Important

Single-core performance is the main performance metric that has influence on the gaming performance, this is because the majority of games are coded to utilize a single-thread.

Because of this, you will see gamers focus more on clock speeds, and IPC more than core count and SMT capabilities.

The most common performance metric for single-core performance is clock speed, and it’s measured in GHz(Gigahertz).

Gigahertz basically means your processor cores will cycle 1 billion times per second, so if you have a clock speed of 5GHz, each core will cycle 5 billion times per second.

The best clock speed for gamers is between 4-5GHz, but as we said, IPC is also important when considering a processor for gaming.

IPC improvements are typically made every time a new CPU architecture is released, so newer processors have higher IPC.

So, always purchase relatively new processors when going for a gaming CPU, this will save you from buying a slow processor with a high clock speed.

R23 single core performance
Cinebench R23 single-core benchmark – Scores From:

This is evident in the benchmark scores above, the newest processors outperform the newer processors despite having similar or even lower clock speeds in some situations.

For example, the I9 11900K is faster than the 12900K by 100MHz, but still loses despite being faster. This is due to IPC improvements.

Applications That Benefit From Single-Core Performance

All applications can benefit from higher clock speeds and higher IPC as pretty much all programs consist of at least one thread.

However, there are some applications that “mostly” benefit from single-core performance that aren’t easily parallelized.

Applications that aren’t easily parallelized are those that use one or a limited number of cores. Games today can use more than one core, but they still mostly benefit from higher clock speeds.

Why Multi Core Performance Is Important

Multicore performance is different because it considers all cores present on the processor working together instead of single-core performance.

So this means having more cores typically means more performance, for example, the Ryzen 5600X has 6 cores, but the Ryzen 5900X has 12 cores; the Ryzen 5900X is faster due to having double the number of cores.

As single-core performance mostly benefits games, multi-core performance is far more useful by being important for streamers, video editors, and multitasking.

Is SMT/Simultaneous Multithreading Important For Performance?

Threads are definitely important for the multicore performance, you’ve probably seen CPUs with double the number of threads than cores.

This is because SMT allows for more efficient use of the CPU resources, this is done by taking advantage of CPU stalling which makes each core more efficient.

So, the easier way to look at threads is to view them as virtual cores, and these virtual cores can add up to 30% more performance depending on the application.

Without threads, you’re probably leaving a lot of performance on the table as it’s a must have if you do a lot of productive tasks such as video editing.

So, SMT is present on most AMD chips, and some Intel chips, it used to be that only the high end Intel chips such as the I7’s and the I9’s feature SMT/Hyperthreading.

Pros Of SMT/Simultaneous Multithreading:

  • Increased performance By up to 30%
  • Resolving Cache misses – Keeps the CPU working
  • Reduces idle time – Make the CPU more efficient
  • Reduces branch mispredictions – The second thread speeds up execution
  • Promotes switching between threads – By splitting physical cores into two virtual cores

Cons Of SMT Simultaneous Multithreading:

  • Application dependant – Some applications won’t get the full 30% performance boost
  • CPU will run hotter Due to the CPU being more active

As you can see, the pros outweigh the cons, so if you see an 8 core processor with no SMT capabilities, and an 8 core processor with SMT enabled, it’s best to go with the SMT enabled processor.

What Are The Best Multicore CPUs?

cinebench r23 multicore
Cinebench R23 Multicore Performance – Scores From:

When looking at great multi-core performing chips, you will find out that they’re dominated by HEDT(High End Desktop) CPUs, this is because they can have as many as 64 cores and 128 threads on a single chip.

But the typical consumer won’t go for a HEDT chip like a Ryzen Threadripper 3900x, or an EPYC processor because they can get extremely expensive.

The top 11 processors that dominate the R23 multicore tests are HEDT processors with the Ryzen 9 5950X coming place 12 with a score of 28,557.

But it isn’t necessary for general productivity as there are processors such as the Ryzen 9’s and the I9’s which are, in general, a more rounded processor with decent clock speeds and core counts.

Single-Core Vs Multi-Core For Laptops?

For laptops, you may be wondering what is better since laptops can be quite different from PCs, but it mostly depends on what you want to do with the laptop.

For productive based laptops, you may want to go with a laptop that supports a lot of cores and threads, this will ensure that you have the power you need when multitasking.

For power saving, you may want to go with a processor that prioritizes battery instead of performance. In this case, you will be sacrificing core count as well as clock speed.

For gaming laptops, you will find that the processors in the best gaming laptops feature high clock speeds for the best FPS possible.

There are laptop processors that are actually denoted to specific tasks, and they all have effects on how the CPU performs from a multicore and a single-core perspective.

For example, the ‘H’ and the ‘HK’ mobile processors by Intel will feature high core counts and clock speeds, perfect for users looking for a productive or a gaming laptop.

Then you have ‘G1-G7’ based Intel processors that prioritize battery life first, you will notice this because they limit the core count to only 4. Also, the clock speeds are quite conservative.


In conclusion, it mostly comes down to your needs. If you’re a gamer, just prioritize core clock speed, but don’t completely neglect core count.

If you’re a streamer, video editor, or need a CPU for productive work, then prioritize core count, this is because these types of tasks are easily parallelized.

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