What is a quad-core CPU?
For many years, computer processors, or CPU’s, had one core. This means that in order to increase the performance of the CPU, you generally had to increase the clock speed – the frequency- of the chip. This is why you saw 3GHz chips only a few years after 1GHz chips came out.
The problem with this is that in order to make them faster, you had to make the chip smaller and put more transistors on the chip itself. The trouble is that this can’t go on forever. You can shrink something down to a point, but then you can’t go any smaller.
Imagine stuffing clothes into a suitcase. If you have smaller clothes, you can fit more of them in the case. The trouble is that eventually, you are going to reach a point where the clothes you are able to put in the suitcase no longer fit you.
What was worse is that faster chips ran hotter and used more power than their older, slower predecessors use. Remember having a computer with fans that sounded like jet engines? Now imagine that was your cell phone.
Enter the multi-core CPU
CPU makers came up with a solution. They developed dual-core CPU’s which were better performing chips, even though their clock speed (frequency) was slower than some single core chips. But, since the chip essentially acted like two chips in one, it was able to split its work between both cores. Even though it was slower, it was much more efficient.
Eventually, desktops moved to quad core, six-core and even eight-core CPU’s. This kept increasing the performance by allowing the CPU to truly focus on multiple things at one. It wasn’t long before the mobile world capitalized on the increase in efficiency of quad-core CPU’s.
Why a quad-core CPU?
And that efficiency really showed during applications like streaming video, HD video playback, 3D gaming, 3D interfaces and browsing multiple web pages at the same time. On a mobile device, it’s even more important. One core can be dedicated to your Google Now search, while another manages your email, while a third is plotting the trajectory of your Angry Bird as it streaks toward the Piggy King.
Quad-core CPU’s were designed to increase the performance of the device while keeping heat and power consumption low. It allows you to have a great mobile experience for games, internet browsing, and multitasking while still maintaining great battery life.
References: For a longer read, check out these two whitepapers from NVIDIA: