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6 cores is probably more than you need, as most of the time almost all of them will be idle, waiting for a resource in use or data from a slow ( compared to the core) cache or memory. Dual core is a big step up, but after that you hit diminishing returns, the biggest improvement was hyperthreading, allowing use of idle states to do some work.
It all depends on how efficient one's system is at distributing the processor load to the different cores.
I think you are right Geezer. Unless the software is written to take advantage of 4 cores, they won't all get used. Though I have a 4 core machine at work and I run Linux with a virtual machine running Windows and it seems very fast, so maybe the operating systems have some method of partitioning some tasks. Or maybe it's just fast anyway. Specialist simulation tools do make use of the multiple cores and run very fast compared with the Sun systems we used to use or a single core PC. As I said before, you use extra licences to get this advantage so the software is definitely in control.