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The most critical function I need is virtualization with VMWare.

I am wondering if a dual-core Core i5-520m or a quad-core Core i7-720m processor will get superior virtualization performance.

  • To what extent do virtual machines benefit from a quad-core processor?
  • Will the lower clock speed (2.4-2.93 GHz vs. 1.6-2.8 GHz) be made up for by having additional cores?
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Your original question was off-topic per the SuperUser FAQ, which explicitly states that SuperUser is not for buying recommendations. However, I think your question is a good one and am curious myself, so rather than voting to close it, I edited it to be more general about the performance differences between a quad and dual core processor in virtualization, rather than just an individual buying recommendation. This should keep it from being closed as off-topic, while still getting you the information you need. :) –  nhinkle Sep 15 '10 at 4:54
    
thank you, that's what I meant. –  Leg10n Sep 15 '10 at 5:03

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Do you plan to run more than one virtual machine at a time? If not, it's likely you'll be better of with the Dual-core, higher clocked CPU.

For a very pertinent comparison see the article Comparing Intel Dual Core and Quad Core using VMark

Edit: as DMA pointed out, what is best will depend on your usage requirements. If you tend to run several processor intensive things concurrently (or an intensive, multithreaded process), the extra cores may be better. When considering 'concurrent' this includes processes running inside the VM and outside.

If most of the time the CPu is getting hit by just gcc inside your VM, and whatever else you happen to be running in your host OS, I'd say a dual core would probably suffice - especially if there are cost considerations.

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Surely it also depends what other software is running on the host? If the host will be running several heavy load programs, then even with only 1 VM then a quad-core with a slightly lower speed will probably still help overall. –  DMA57361 Sep 15 '10 at 7:47
    
More than no. of core what matters more for the performance of VMs is the amount of physical memory available (i.e. RAM) –  Ganesh R. Sep 15 '10 at 8:00
    
That link was pretty helpful, I'll be running just one VM at the same time, perhaps two for a couple of minutes, the host will be running gcc compiler most of the time, and the system will have 4Gb of physical memory –  Leg10n Sep 15 '10 at 14:10
    
@DMA: Good, point - I'd erroneously assumed the VM would be setup with access only a single core, but VMWare workkstation supports up to 8 cores per VM. Of course just as when you're running on bare metal, extra core's don't help you if you're running only one single threaded process. So yeas if the OP is doing a lot of things concurrently, extra cores may be better. –  imoatama Sep 15 '10 at 14:27

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