Let’s say you’re about to buy a new processor and suddenly you have to choose between two products that are pretty much the same on paper, but one has a feature called hyper-threading and the other doesn’t. t.
Obviously, hyper-threading is good because it costs extra, but what does it do? Most importantly, is this what you should care about? To answer these burning questions, we need to take a little insight into how processors do their job.
Even if you’re not overly interested in the intricate technical details of computer technology, you’ve probably heard of Moore’s Law before. This is not really a natural law, but the observation that the main components of integrated circuits double in density every two years or so.
This effectively meant that CPU performance would double every two years, which is an exponential rate of improvement. If the fastest car in the world were twice as fast as the one that appeared two years ago, and this trend persisted for decades, we would have cars at the speed of sci-fi starships. So this is actually one of the most revolutionary things in computer technology.
The problem is that processor performance is not only determined by the density of its components. Obviously, the clock speed is important, that is, how many complete computation cycles it can complete in a second. If you take a processor and double its clock speed, it will perform twice as well. At least in theory.
The problem is, no matter how fast this processor is, it can only do one thing at a time. What we think of as “multitasking” is actually the processor rapidly switching between thousands of different tasks. A few years ago, we started to puzzle a lot when it came to making one processor faster and faster.
So, one solution was to install more than one processor per processor so that the different jobs could be split between them. Quad-core processors are pretty much the mainstream configuration today.
Hyperthreading (HT) is Intel’s name for concurrent multithreading . Essentially, this means that one CPU core can work on two problems at the same time. This does not mean that the CPU can do twice as much work. He just can guarantee that all his capacity will be used, solving several simpler problems at once.
To your operating system, each real silicon CPU core looks like two, so they each do the job as if they were separate. Since much of what the processor does is not enough to keep it running at maximum, HT ensures that you get a payback from this chip.
Who should care about hyper threading?
This is another question that can be a little tricky, but it’s actually quite simple when you figure it out. First, let’s note one thing about hyperthreading that is almost always true. If you need to choose between two processors that can handle the same number of threads but do not have the same number of cores, choose a CPU with more physical cores.
For example, if you have a dual-core processor with hyper-threading and a quad-core processor without HT, the quad-core option would be the best choice. With that, they are close to each other in single threaded, single core performance. Why? Because a quad-core processor has more hardware physical hardware.
The real problem arises when you have two processors with the same physical specifications, but one has HT and the other does not. Now our question is really about the software you want to run. If you have software that can spawn enough threads to use HT threads, you will see significant growth if you opt for a hyper-threaded CPU. Simply because no processing power is wasted and the component runs at almost its full potential for as long as possible.
If the software you want to run doesn’t create enough threads to use HT vCores, you will see little or no difference in performance.
Traditionally, operations like 3D CPU rendering, video encoding, and photo processing create as many threads as your bad CPU can handle. In other words, many modern professional applications require a lot of threads. This is why Hyperthreading technology has been limited to professional grade processors like the i7 and above.
Regular applications like word processors and web browsers will not perform better with hyper-threading, even if they can create more threads. Simply because the needs of these applications, which are used by most people, do not pose a problem even with entry-level processors.
The big gaming question
Video games is another popular app that has been pretty indifferent to Hyperthreading. At the time of writing, in 2019, the latest video game engines are starting to get heavier on the threads. This means that HT-enabled processors will perform better with them. Older games won’t have any advantages at all, except for a few simulation games that heavily use AI or other processor-centric processes.
Does this mean your next gaming PC should have Hyperthreading? The fact is that we are now moving into the mainstream processor market, where six-, eight- and twelve-core processors are the norm. So it’s better to have as many physical cores as possible.
The simple answer
Hopefully the above explanation was clear enough, but let’s get it straight to the very end:
- If you’re doing professional work with a lot of threads, Hyperthreading matters.
- If you are a mass user, don’t worry about it!
- If you’re a gamer, bet your next build will have more cores instead of HT, but if the price is right, get HT extra.
Hyper-threading is a great technology, but it’s not worth paying everyone for. Now you should know if you are that “someone” or not!