Do I re­ally need... Me­gatask­ing?

Computer Active (UK) - - Reviews -

What does it do?

Me­gatask­ing was one of the buz­zwordsds at Tai­wan’s Com­pu­tex tech trade show in May. It means mul­ti­task­ing, but t more so, made pos­si­ble by pro­ces­sors with more than the two, four or eight cores we’re used to. AMD showed off 16-core ver­sions of its Ryzen chips, while In­tel went one bet­ter with its 18-core X-se­ries i9 (pic­tured).

Why would I want it?

For now, it’s all aimed at cre­ative jobs like video edit­ing, 3D an­i­ma­tion and com­puter-aided de­sign (CAD). In these fields, soft­ware is con­stantly work­ing on mul­ti­ple streams of cal­cu­la­tions be­hind the scenes to update ev­ery­thing in re­sponse to the user. What’s in­ter­est­ing is that ev­ery­day com­put­ing tasks are get­ting more like that.

When you ask Mi­crosoft’s Cor­tana or Ama­zon’s Alexa a ques­tion, for ex­am­ple, it has to process your speech and con­sult mul­ti­ple data sources. When you use a pro­gram to ap­ply a fun ef­fect to a video clip, com­plex maths makes it look right. When you flick be­tween browser tabs or apps on your phone, that’s mul­ti­task­ing. The X-se­ries of­fers up to a ter­aflop of pro­cess­ing power, mean­ing it can per­form a tril­lion (one mil­lion mil­lion) cal­cu­la­tions per sec­ond.

What’s the catch?

Price. At the mo­ment, that ter­aflop chip will cost about £2,000 – and that’s just the pro­ces­sor, not the PC pow­ered by it. But new tech al­ways starts at the top and then fil­ters down into ev­ery­day prod­ucts.

So can I do with­out it?

To­day, yes. Tomorrow, not only will it let you edit your 4K home videos smoothly, but ad­vanced multi-core pro­cess­ing power will help com­put­ers get much eas­ier to use.

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