What Is The Best CPU (Computer Processor) ?

Posted on January 20, 2010. Filed under: What Is The Best CPU (Computer Processor)? |

Before you can know which PC you should purchase, you need to figure out what processor you want.

Everything else will depend upon this decision. The role of the CPU is to direct all of the activities of the computer.

Intel and AMD processors are the most popular for PCs.

It is important to note that your CPU (processor) has to match up with a specific motherboard.  This motherboard must have the specific slot or socket that is compatible with your chosen CPU. The motherboard and CPU together determine the overall performance of your computer and what kind and quality of graphics and memory cards you can utilize.

Let’s figure out what kind of processor you have right now. Once you know what you have you can better determine what you want or need in a new PC or upgrade. Click on Start and then Right-click on Computer or My Computer and select Properties. The General Tab will tell you what kind of processor you have.  To get more information click on Start> Help and Support and find System Information in Windows Vista or System Information>Tools>Advanced System Info in Windows XP. You can get even more information by typing in msinfo32.exe in the run command.

To find out more information you can download CPUZ: http://www.cpuid.com/cpuz.php

CPUZ is a small utility which gives information about your CPU (Processor), Cache, Mainboard, Memory, SPD etc.

When looking at processors you are going to see a lot of numbers in the description. Here is how to interpret a processors description (example)

Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz LGA775 FSB800 HT L2-2MB

This means:

Model: Intel Pentium 4
Clock Speed: 3.2GHz (=3200MHz)
Requirements: Motherboard with an LGA 775 slot
Frontside Bus: 800 Mhz
Other Spec: HyperThreading technology
L2-Cache: 2MB (=2048 kB)
While a 3.2 GHz is a very fast clock speed, this processor might not be as fast as a processor with a 4 megabyte L2 cache, a 1066 Mhz front side bus and two cores, even if that processor runs at a slower clock speed.

Now lets learn about some CPU features before you actually look at the different processors-

1. Hyperthreading or Intel’s Hyper-threading Technology (HTT) will make the operating system think it has two processors because it allows multiple instructions operating on separate data at the same time. So the operating system can schedule two processes at the same time. If one process stalls the other process won’t be affected.

2. Multicore architecture makes the operating system and other software applications think there are many processors. Dual- Core and Quad-Core processors commonly have this feature. This allows for multiple activities to go on at the same time with relative ease.

3. Throttling reduces the operating frequency to let the computer cool off a bit and conserves the battery- it occurs when the CPU is in less demand or when the computer is being powered by a battery. It is common in mobile devices.

4. Microcode and multimedia extensions- an example of this is the Multimedia Extensions (MMX) microcode that is incorporated into most modern CPUs from Intel and others. It instructs the computer in multimedia processing, freeing up the processor to handle other things. This feature is basically a set of instructions that makes up various programs to help the processor perform better.

5. Cache is part of every processor and is important because it affects its speed. It is a very fast memory chip that holds data that is most likely to be requested next by the CPU. The cache on the CPU is called L1  and is smaller than the L2 which is located on the motherboard.  For the most part, the bigger your cache size, the better (faster).

6. Speed – this is the MHz or GHz that everyone brags about their processor, ” My Processor has 1 million GHz speed!”. The truth is that there can be a discrepancy between the advertised frequency and what you really get.  CPU speed is not a reliable indicator of CPU performance. There are many other factors involved, such as the size of your cache and how much and what kind of memory (RAM) you have . The FSB (Front Side Bus) speed is a better indicator then the advertised clock speed- the faster the data speed of the FSB, the better the performance of the CPU.

Now that we have gone over the basics you should look over some processors to contrast and compare.

I recommend: http://www.newegg.com/Store/SubCategory.aspx?SubCategory=343&name=Processors-Desktops

(Here are some descriptions of various Intel processors. Source: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/How_To_Assemble_A_Desktop_PC/Printable_version)

Intel Desktop CPUs:

Intel Celeron (Single and Dual core) The Celeron series is a range of CPUs for budget computers and typicallyfeature just one core.

Intel Pentium (Single and Dual core) The Pentium series was part of Intel’s most popular CPUs. Earlier Intels all featured just one core, although the newer Pentiums feature dual-core support, such as the Pentium D and the Pentium Dual-Core processors Intel Core 2 Duo (Dual core) An extremely popular brand of Intel chips, the Core 2 Duo processors all support dual-core technology while fitting in to Intel’s most common socket type, LGA 775 (Land Grid Array 775). Many new desktop computers will tend to use this CPU or another processor in the Core 2 series.

Intel Core 2 Quad (Quad core) The Core 2 Quad range of processors feature 4 processing cores and have been made for both gaming (although gamers should be aware of the lack of multi-core support for games released before 2006) and professional 3D graphics design, video editing, etc. Keep in mind that the hardware level the Core 2 Quad processors implement may cause bottlenecking, but usually most Core 2 Quad users would not have to worry about that.

Intel Core 2 Extreme (Dual and Quad core) This range of CPUs tends to be directed at enthusiasts and are basically improved versions of Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors.

Intel Xeon (Single, Dual, Quad, and Hexa core)- The Xeon brand was a brand of Intel x86 processors for workstations,servers, and embedded systems.

Intel Core i7 (Quad core) Intel’s newest line of consumer microprocessors, these CPUs are all have 4 cores and feature higher amounts of cache and Intel’s new “Turbo Boost” technology, which allows all cores to automatically clock themselves to appropriate frequencies in intervals of 133 MHz without stressing the processor and risking overheating. The drawbacks? it’s not compatible with Intel’s de facto socket standard of LGA 775. Rather, it utilizes a newer socket – LGA 1366. It also is only compatible with DDR3 memory and does not use a FSB (Front Side Bus), but rather uses an Intel QuickPath interface.

Newegg.com is the most popular computer store for building computers from scratch, but you can simply use it as a resource for information. Good luck!

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