I had a moment yesterday to see some hot Dual Core action and I can state that yes, Dual Core exists and yes, it's pretty cool and yes, it isn't horribly important to the average user at this juncture.
Dual core, at its base, offers two undiluted concurrent threads on the same hunk of silicon. This means you get two L2 caches and improved Hyper-Threading for a potential 4 concurrent threads in the Extreme Edition. To prove this point, they showed HL2 running along with a standard photo benchmark and it was interesting to watch the threads work in concert to render a 4MB image.
More after the jump.
Intel is betting on the habits of power-users to change over time. Gamers are already using VOIP, IM, and all kinds of network and memory intensive warez during the average gaming session. This will not change and the tendency, and memory footprint, of these games can only grow.
However, after seeing a number of high-end machines run the games of today, I can't say that dual-core will improve the average gamer's experience. A Pentium 4 and a Pentium D, both running at 3.2 GHz, still offer comparable real-life performance. Multi-tasking is obviously easier under Pentium D, but I'd need to see some real power out of a dual-core chip before I can make the jump.
If you are rendering video, by all means hit the dual-core pipe. We will be reviewing a dual-core Media Center PC next month, so maybe we'll have more information then. Otherwise, wait it out.