Choosing the Best Processor For You

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Every digital computer in existence has had at least one Central Processing Unit or CPU, and selecting the right one for your new computer is crucial.

So Why the CPU?

So to start off you may be wondering why we’re talking specifically about the CPU as opposed to any other piece of hardware like the graphics card or the monitor or the battery.

When you buy a computer the CPU is 80% of what your actually buying. All other components simply store or output information displayed from that little chip tucked away somewhere in the middle of your motherboard.

In fact when you shop for a new computer most of the information your going to see right on the tag is almost always going to be about the processor or memory.

Of course in order to shop for a well built, long lasting computer, you don’t need to know everything about the CPU chip (nobody does), but you should at least have a basic knowledge of what all the components do in order to make the best purchasing decision.

So How Does the CPU Work?

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The CPU is essentially the brain of your computer. It processes user input, stores data, and sends instructions to the output devices on that system. Hardware such as a keyboard, mouse, or touch screen are examples of input devices, while Monitors, speakers, and printers, for example, are output devices.

To put it simply when you interact with an input device you are sending data to the CPU to be stored for immediate or later use. The CPU then sends the resulting information to the output devices registered so that it can interact with the user.

Without the CPU, programs on your computer would not run and the computer would not be able to interact with the user. Your computer would essentially be good for nothing because no information would pass through any of the hardware.

Now there are already a ton of articles online explaining how a computer processor works. If your curious about their architecture I would invite you to simply Google CPU and you will find tons of articles happy to explain their specs to you, but for the sake of convenience I will quickly go over the basics.

Cores

The words CPU and Core are often used interchangeably. Technically a core is a CPU but when referring to them in the plural sense most technicians will use the word core or cores. When computers first came out they came with only one core or CPU, but as technology developed engineers found ways to make computers that can run multiple cores at the same time.

When someone uses the word CPU they usually refer to your computer’s collective processing power, or all the cores it contains. When a computer has more than one core it gains the ability to perform multiple instructions per cycle (will be explained shortly).

Given that a computer can perform multiple instructions with multiple cores the speed of the computer will depend on how many cores it has. The more cores it has the more it can handle more instructions in a single cycle. Which bring me to the next topic, clock speed.

Clock Speed

A CPU completes instructions in a unit of measurement engineers refer to as cycles. Billions of transistors open and close per cycle completing one instruction. As said, each core allows a computer to complete one instruction per cycle. The more cores a computer has the more instructions it can do per cycle.

CPU speed is measured in gigahertz. Gigahertz represents how many billions of cycles it can execute in one second. A simple example being, if a computer has a chip with a clock speed of three gigahertz then it can perform three billion cycles per second.

The amount of gigahertz a computer has is known as the frequency. The frequency represents how fast the computer chip can process information. Base frequency represents it’s regular operating point while the max frequency is how fast it can run with the given technology.

Memory

Another thing you’ll commonly see on the box of a new computer is how much memory it can hold. I mentioned before that the CPU stores memory as well as input and output. This memory is allocated to two different sections on your motherboard, one for temporary storage and the other for permanent storage.

Computer memory comes in two different forms, hard drive and Random Access Memory or RAM. Basically the Ram stores temporary memory such as when you open a browser. When you restart you laptop this memory is then wiped. This memory is stored on ram cards on your motherboard typically labeled as DDR3, DDR4, or the more recent DDR5.

The hard drive is what stores long term memory such as installed programs or system files for the RAM to fetch when called. The CPU and the memory cards exchange information via a memory bus, and the CPU then processes instructions given by the ram from user input.

Who Buys Intel Chips?

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When you scour the internet for research about Intel or AMD chips you’ll find a lot of different statistics and varying opinions. It can sometimes be hard to nail down the exact differences between the two because technology is constantly changing, but as far as overall performance goes Intel definitely takes the win.

People who want a good, balanced, performance based laptop that emphasizes on speed will almost always go straight to Intel. They are also known to have a better price to quality ratio, and since they usually have a higher core and thread count they are generally better at multitasking.

The only downsides to Intel chips is that they do consume a lot of power and are more prone to overheat. AMD chips on the other hand are more efficient when it comes to processing power but Intel chips are generally faster. This chip is perfect for those who regularly multitask and need results fast.

Who Buys AMD Chips?

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I mentioned before that technology is constantly changing but as of right now gamers are the main audience for these chips. The high end AMD laptops typically come with X3D chips which generate the best gaming performance on the market yet.

Not to mention with it’s power efficiency and better cooling controls it allows you to run graphic intensive and power intensive applications without having to worry about the system overheating. Of course all of this comes at a cost since AMD processors tend to be more expensive and unlike intel are a little slower.

What’s ironic is that AMD processors actually used to be what people bought to save money but after making many strides with gaming performance this has changed dramatically. Also at the cost of energy efficiency AMD chips aren’t as good at multitasking as Intel, but can still keep up a pretty good pace.

Selecting the Right One for You

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Technology is constantly changing, and it is likely that in the next few years some of these stats may change. However, what you read just now is the current trend. If your curious about how these trends may change your welcome to checkout the Intel and AMD products page to view all the specs more in-depth.

Also thank you for taking the time to read through my article! I hope you enjoyed it and learned something. If you want to know more about the specifics of how Intel or AMD chips can be read then check out my other articles on Deciphering Intel Chips and Deciphering AMD chips. See you soon!