Way back in the day, back when I was but a child on the Mincey Plantation, televisions had tubes. No, not the big tube we watched television shows on, but tubes; warm, glowing, humming, tubes. And the more tubes, the better.
I remember my father pulling out a few tubes from behind the TV and taking them down to the local television store to test, sometimes swapping them out for ever more new tubes. It’s funny, but more expensive TVs back then had more tubes, yet the tubes themselves had little to do with picture quality or reception and quickly died when transistors took over the market.
Transistors still rule and chip giant Intel stuffs a few billion in to each PC CPU these days. Most of what we Mac users are accustomed to are the dual-core CPUs in the low end devices, and quad-core in more expensive Macs. If you’ve got the money you can get a 12-core Mac Pro.
Word on the streets is that Intel is ready to push six-core desktop CPUs and Apple is a prime target, and we may be lucky enough to see some of the high-end Skylake-X CPUs with up to 10 cores in the next year or so.
More cores means faster Macs, right?
Not quite, but in a way multi-core CPUs are like televisions and radios of yesteryear that bristled with more tubes. They’re nice, but for most of us they don’t do much more than we get done already with a couple of cores.
Apple’s own A-series CPUs, based on ARM technology, comes with dual cores and runs rings around eight-core mobile CPUs so the number of cores does not necessarily mean better performance. Because Apple designs and controls the whole hardware and software widget, the company can get more performance out of fewer cores and that keeps the iPhone competitive with the bullet point chasers.
A six or ten-core Mac sure sounds nice, right?
The problem with all those cores is that most of the time they go unused unless you’re into Final Cut Pro or Photoshop or have a specific application that can take advantage of all that horsepower. Otherwise, you’re cruising down One Infinite Way doing about 18-mph in a 65-mph zone.
The Mincey Plantation bristles with Macs of all colors and sizes and cores. Even the newest, an i7 quad-core Retina 5k iMac seldom sees even two cores get much use. Why not? No one in the family is a heavy duty multi-core requirement user. That’s likely the case with most Mac users who spend their time in iTunes, Photos, Safari, Mail, Calendar, or Pages, Numbers, or Keynote.
Those are the basic apps on every Mac and they just don’t need to horsepower to do what we’ve been doing for a decade or two– browsing, email, writing, collecting photos and music– and that’s not likely to change. Even Garageband and iMovie don’t need all the cores today’s Macs come with, so doubling or tripling the number of cores available won’t make me type or read any faster.
If Apple could figure out a way to merge Mac and iPad into a useful, lightweight, but powerful device I could see Intel Inside becoming a phrase of the past in Cupertino. ARM inside?