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I am planning to buy a netbook with an atom N550 processor.

Looking at the spec's. The atom has 2 cores and 4 threads.

So does this mean that each core has 2 threads?

So does this mean I would have 6 cores. As as each thread is like a virtual core?

Many thanks for any advice,

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It has 2 physical cores, and each core can run 2 threads. So either the CPU can run with 2 full-strength cores, or 4 partial-strength cores. The mode to run in is BIOS-selectable, but note that some Windows SKUs (among other operating systems) can only handle a certain maximum number of cores.

As for my personal opinion, I don't see a point to HyperThreading on a multi-core machine; it's useful on a single-core machine since one thread can be handling the UI and the other can be handling processing, but this advantage is lost on a multi-core CPU.

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I had an Acer Aspire One D255 with one of these CPUs on trial for four days. In system info it comes up like two CPUs, in performance monitors it comes up like 4 CPUs. In torture testing I couldn't manage to saturate all four, only two. The netbook I had felt less snappy than other netbooks with an Atom N455 and I was not impressed. In the end I opted for a HP Mini Note with the same N550 processor and I'm happy with its performance for what it is.

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That's to be expected. The HT cores can only be used if real cores have enough time to give them. –  AndrejaKo Jan 10 '11 at 1:31
    
@AndrejaKo: Now that I've had this machine for a few months I can say that I have indeed seen the CPU meter with close to 100% on more than two virtual / hyper cores at once. I don't know how they calculate the meters though. –  hippietrail May 9 '11 at 3:56
    
Thank you for sharing that piece of interesting information! –  AndrejaKo May 9 '11 at 11:31
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