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Inspired by this question:

How do I calculate clock speed in multi-core processors?

The answers in the above question do a fair job of explaining why a lower-speed multi-core processor won't necessarily perform at the same level as a higher-speed single-core processor.

Example: 4*2=8, but a quad-core 2 GHz processor isn't necessarily as fast as a single-core 8 GHz processor.

However, I'm having a hard time putting the information in those answers to practical use in my mind. Particularly, I want to know how it should be used to judge whether a given CPU is appropriate for an application with specific requirements.

Example scenarios:

  • An application has a minimum CPU requirement of 2.4 GHz dual-core.
  • Another application has a minimum CPU requirement of 1.8 GHz single-core.

For either of the above scenarios: Would a higher-speed processor with fewer cores, or a lower-speed processor with more cores, be equally sufficient? If so, how can we determine the appropriate processor speeds required for a given number of cores?

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Note that clock speed does not equal processing speed. E.g. a Pentium mobile 740 (1.73 GHz) is about as fast as a pentium 4 at 3 GHz. Comparing anything but the same model of CPUs in this way is comparing apples with pears. –  Hennes Nov 1 '12 at 22:51
    
The simple answer is that there is that you can't judge it. Clock speed is a nearly meaningless indicator of real performance. What is often stated as a minimum is usually not a hard minimum, just a minimum somebody picked out of a hat. It is often easier to just get a demo of the software and test it. –  Zoredache Nov 1 '12 at 23:24

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