Over the next four years, Notebook PCs will increasingly adopt muscular quad-core microprocessors in a bid to bulk up their computing power amid the rising competition with media tablets and smartphones, according to a new IHS iSuppli report.

The report said that shipments of notebook PCs configured with quad-core microprocessors would nearly quadruple from 2012 to 2016. According to the estimates, the shipment of the quad-core-equipped notebook will reach 179 million units by 2016 -- 59 percent of all notebooks that year. This comes in comparison with the estimated shipment of 48 million units this year which represent 22 percent of all notebooks shipped in 2012.

“The increase in notebooks’ computational capabilities through the use of quad-core microprocessors will play a critical role in PC makers’ efforts to remain competitive amid the onslaught of media tablets and smartphones,” said Peter Lin, senior analyst for compute platforms at IHS.

“While notebooks have greater computing power than either tablets or smartphones, they have lost considerable clout as consumers flock to the flashier gadgets, especially products like the iPad from Apple. Notebook sales have suffered as a result, alarming companies throughout the PC supply chain,” Lin added.

The report stated that much of the growth in notebook quad-core microprocessors would be driven by the increasing penetration among value and mainstream notebooks—defined as those priced less than $700 and $1,200, respectively. These models are more underpenetrated in terms of quad-core adoption than the high-end notebooks, which are more powerful machines typically priced above $1,200.

Quad-core microprocessors are much faster than their dual-core counterparts, which currently prevail on the market. The effects are especially obvious in 3D-intensive gaming.

According to the report, among value notebooks, quad-core processor penetration will grow from 13 percent in 2012 to 68 percent in 2016. By then, value notebooks with older dual-core processors will amount to just 8 percent. The remaining 24 percent in 2016 will be split between models with either six-core or eight-core processors.

On the other hand, no value notebooks with six- or eight-core capability would be available before 2015. Even for the more powerful mainstream and performance models, six- or eight-core processors would start appearing only in the next two years at very small percentages, before gaining greater traction in 2015 and 2016, said the report.

For mainstream notebooks, quad-core processor penetration would climb from 28 percent in 2012 to 49 percent in 2016.

When it comes to performance notebooks, with quad-core penetration already at a high 41 percent in 2012, penetration peaks in 2014 at 71 percent, after which performance models with six-core and eight-core units also make their appearance on the market, driving down the quad-core market share.

Take a look at the chart below:

[Source: IHS iSuppli Research]

According to the report, as more notebooks become empowered with quad-core processing ability, a small portion of them will also be featuring the built-in Blu-ray optical drives.

The shipments of the notebook PCs with Blu-ray disks will amount to 49 million units by 2016, equivalent to 16 percent of all shipped notebooks by then. This can be compared to the 14 million units estimated to be shipped by the end of this year, or 6 percent of the total notebook market. All notebooks of the future will also be running 64-bit operating systems.