The number of CPU cores that a PC needs for smooth running of day to day work is quite a popular question among PC users nowadays. If you go to buy a new PC, the vendor will, more often than not, talk for hours about the usefulness and lightning fast speed of the latest multi-core CPUs. However, the hard truth is, if you are just going to run some office applications like word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software on your PC, you are better off with just plain single-core CPUs with a lot of RAM. Going for a multi-core processor will not speed up your office applications appreciably, and is a sheer waste of resources.
However, the situation will change to quite an extent if you plan to encode videos on your PC, do some serious video editing or run a high-end multimedia software package like 3Ds-Max, or Maya Autodesk. These software packages love powerful systems. A multi-core CPU will certainly run the Maya faster, and load the high-detail graphics of the Max more efficiently, without slowing down your PC to a crawl. If you plan to go for a multi-core CPU to do video editing, go for dual core CPUs, or even better, quad cores. These are known to churn through large video files like a hot knife through butter, at whiplash speed.
Are you a gamer who loves to play the latest games on his PC with cranked up graphic details? Then you must absolutely go for a multi-core CPU. Games are known to love processing power, the more the better. Crysis, for instance, is pretty sensitive towards the number of cores that the CPU has. Even the addition of one extra core has proved to boost performance as much as 40%. F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is another title which has been observed to exhibit some sensitivity towards the number of CPU cores. Some gamers will probably argue that games depend on the graphics card you have in the system, but the truth is, even with high-end graphics cards from nVidia or ATI-Radeon, the number of CPU cores still affects the way games can perform, especially with the higher graphic details enabled.
So, here are the rules of thumb – if you plan to just use your PC for office work and surfing the internet, don’t bother getting multi-core CPUs. If you are doing video editing on your PC, go for dual or quad core CPUs. Finally, if you are into gaming, definitely go for the latest quad core CPUs, with tons of RAM. That should get your job done without much hiccups from your PC.