Chapter 2 : Processor (CPU) by ulrikov
Let's get on with our first component, which I'm guessing everyone has an idea about - The Processor (or the "CPU"). In this section, I will try to address the most basic concerns regarding this component and I will try to post some FAQ's along the way. I will not try to screw your mind with technical language, so I'll just keep this section as simple as possible.
What is the Processor?
As mentioned before, this is basically the "Brain of the Computer". Every data processing goes through the CPU. So, what does that mean? Think of this component as the grinder in a lumber factory... every log goes through it to be cut. The wooden log is the data and the mechanical saw or grinder resembles our Processor.
Let's go to the next part. With all the new models of processors around, I'm pretty sure you've heard much of technical terms (yes, I know I wanted to keep this simple but you need to know this)...I will try to simplify some basic terms that would really help our discussion on the CPU.
Once in your life, you've probably entered a computer or laptop store and approached by a sales rep advertising this certain computer. That sales rep would probably even say "Sir, this comes with the latest Dual Core technology...", "Ma'am, this is good since this is Hyper-Threading..." So what are these exactly?
Single Core? Dual Core? Hyper-threading?
I took the liberty of quoting a forum poster for his thoughts on this.
"The following scenario may not be the most accurate technical representation, but should give you an idea:
Single Core CPU (w/out Hyper-threading)
Imagine you ask someone to do the groceries for you and also asked that person to pick up some pizza at Shakey's. That person would have to do the groceries first, come back to you before he'll do the next task which is to buy the pizza. He isn't smart enough, so he has to do the 2 tasks you asked one-at-a-time.... making him slower.
Single Core CPU (with Hyper-threading)
With hyper-threading, that person is smart enough to do your groceries and also buy the pizza on his way home. He can multi-task better making the 2 jobs done at the same time.... so things are done faster.
Dual Core CPU
This time around, instead of just one person to do multiple tasks, you now actually have 2 people that can do it for you. So one person does that groceries, while the other guy gets the pizza. You're not relying or dependent on one person so 2 things are done more efficiently.
Dual Core CPU (with Hyper-threading)
The person that did the groceries can also pay the bills for you all in one go , while the other person that's ordering the pizza... well you can also ask him to rent a video on his way home."
For more cores or so (say X cores, where X = is any number above 2), just imagine that you'd have X amount of people doing those tasks for you. Well, you get the idea.
This time around you probably have a decent idea of those basic terms. They're a bit simple but definitely hits the main idea. Let's go further into more detail. The processor has different features like all other components. I'm not going to give you the importance of each since it will be boring and you'll probably have a hard time understanding it. I'll just give you the most mentioned attributes, aside from the ones mentioned previously.
Important CPU Attributes
This is one of the gauges for determining how fast a CPU is and is generally measured in Ghz (e.g. 2.8 Ghz). This is probably one of the things that most "Mediocre-Pros" misunderstand. Usually, MPs (Mediocre-Pros) compare Processor A's clock speed (Intel CPU) to Processor B's (AMD CPU) relative clock speed. This is not exactly applicable. You can compare CPU clock rates, ONLY IF they belong to the same CPU family. That means you CANNOT use this as a gauge to compare brand X with brand Y.
This is the temporary data storage of the processor. This is where our processor puts data temporarily for it to have easy access when needed later on. Think of it as a handy man's tool bag. The handy man carries it around and puts his most used tools inside. He reaches for these tools when he needs it again. That's how the cache works. The newbie rule of "the bigger the number on this attribute, the better" applies on this one. And oh, it's pronounced as "cash".
Different generations of CPUs consequently have different types of architecture. What does this mean? Simple. They have different internal designs. Thus, this is one of the determining factors on efficiency of the processor in later runs. This also determines their socket.
As mentioned, this is relative to the processor architecture. But importantly, the socket is the factor in relation to compatibility. Ultimately, this determines what motherboard you're going to need. For example, Intel Core2Duo processor has socket LGA 775. This processor therefore goes unto LGA 775 supported motherboards and will not fit on other socket-supported motherboards.
The Famous Ones
Now that we're done with the common things you should know on the processor. Let's go hit the different companies that make up the most commonly used processors today. Currently, the two giants that are in constant battle for the processor market are Intel and AMD. Here in the Philippines, I believe Intel spends more on advertising, hence the easier name recall of most newbies on the word "Pentium". Meanwhile AMD is only known to enthusiasts and some Mediocre-Pros.
Each type of CPU has their own purpose and pricing. Obviously, the better the CPU is, the higher its cost also. But not everything requires the Best CPU. This is why Intel and AMD have a number of CPU models to cater to different needs of computer consumers. I've categorized them into three sections - Ultimate, Gamer, and Basic. Each category has its own intended usage. Although the Ultimate types are applicable to all programs and use, it's price is relatively not practical for the user if this goes on mere basic usage.
Ultimate - 3D Rendering, Animation and Heavy Applications; Heavy Multi-Tasking; Latest Games
Gamer/Entry-Level - Everyday Usage; Most Games (Online and Offline)
Basic - Internet Browsing and other Simple Applications (non-3D works); Lesser Power Consumption
Below is a diagram of the different CPU models and their respective category. The different CPU models are based on the currently available in the market. I will try to update this section as long as I can.
Now, I know what you're going to ask next. Which of these two brands is better? Right now, Intel dominates the processor battlefield with its 2nd Generation i7 CPU. But this comes with a very high price and not everyone can afford to get the high-end i5, i7 processors. This is where AMD comes in. AMD offers a much better option in terms of pricing. Furthermore, AMD offers the CPU with 6 cores (Phenom II x6). For a decent price, you get the performance which is slightly better than the Intel counterpart in the same price range.
Here's a wrap up on the two CPU companies.
+ Has the fastest CPUs
+ High Efficiency (Power Consumption)
- Sockets changed faster
- High Price
+ Good Price-Performance Ratio
+ Better multimedia output (due to more cores)
- Heats up faster
- Power Consumption less efficient than Intel
How to Know which CPU is Better?
In this world of computers, there is a thing called Benchmarks. Some individuals or companies put certain components into a series of tests to determine which is faster and more efficient. And the results are illustrated in these benchmarks.
There are different websites which solely concentrate in dealing with Benchmarking. In here, I'd recommend you check Tom's Hardware CPU charts to see which CPU is better on a certain aspect based on a specific program. Click the link below to check it out.
(This is a bit complicated, you can skip this part and go directly below)
Now, I know at lot of people have heard about this. The processor is generally overclocked by some Enthusiasts to offer a boost in clock rate and relatively higher speeds. I'm not going to throw the whole basket in this topic, I've allocated a single chapter to discuss this alone. Be sure to read all about it.
This is a unique feature of AMD processors. What does this do? It's simple - if you pair a certain AMD Processor model with the right motherboard (with ACC feature), you can unlock extra cores just by flicking a switch in the BIOS. But this is not a 100% guarantee. This is purely based on chance.
NEXT PAGE: Motherboard
1. Computer Anatomy
6. Hard Disk Drive
7. Power Supply