Monday, March 7, 2011

When Multi-core Processors Really Matter

A few years back, when I bought the parts for my current computer, I had a choice to make. Did I want a quad-core processor running at a slower speed, or a dual-core running at a faster speed? Because most programs back then, and many now, weren't mult-threaded, I chose the dual-core for the faster single core speed.

I'm happy to say, it has served me well, and I've barely noticed a hiccup in any programs ever. For most of my computer's life it has never crossed my mind that I should upgrade it. In fact, I've upgraded nearly everything else, but my processor. Recently, I've been thinking that it needs an upgrade.

Encoding Hell

Over the past few months, my processor has started to show its age, but in an unexpected way. Honestly, my current processor would work perfect for most people. However, my demands on my computer have changed, and I've started editing video.

Above is a screenshot of the encoding time of a 26 minute video I edited. It took 5 hours for my computer to put the video together, and that's with me compromising; using only single pass encoding. If I used what I wanted, two pass, it would roughly double the encoding time to 10 hours. That's an incredibly long time to wait for a video to encode, and it has me wishing for shorter encoding times.

Multiply Those Cores

While a lot of programs don't scale well with more CPU cores, video encoding does. The encoding process lends itself well to multi-threading, where each video frame can be processed independently from the others. All good video encoders today use this technique, spreading frames around to be processed by all cores simultaneously.

What this means is that if I upgrade from my dual-core processor to a quad-core, this should theoretically double how many frames are processed per second while encoding. This would half the encoding time. While being twice as fast probably will not happen, I'm convinced it will take at least 2 hours off the shown 5 hour encoding time.


  1. Encoding and Rendering video are two of the things that will really use all the power a computer has to offer. If you're going to keep doing encoding it's probably time to do that upgrade too.

  2. I wish I had the money. Maybe this summer when I'm working again.


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