Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How to Choose a CPU

Learning how to choose the CPU (also known as processor) is the first thing you should do when you embark on the journey of building your own gaming computer. Being the brain of the computer system, the CPU plays an important role in the whole computer system. What it does is to perform data calculation and make sure the data are processed in the fastest time possible.



Factors to consider when choosing the processor

1) Speed/Core frequency
The speed of the CPU is referring to the operating frequency (also known as clock speed) of the CPU. It determines how fast the processor can perform data calculation.
Clock speed is measured in terms of Hertz (Hz), and it is usually in the Megahertz or Gigahertz range. One hertz is one cycle per second. A megahertz means that the CPU can process one million instructions in one second (or one million cycles per second). That is considered quite fast in a few years back. In today technology, CPU processes by thousands of millions of clock cycles per second, which is in the gigahertz range. You don’t see MHz CPU around anymore.
Theoretically, a 500 MHz CPU is six times slower than a 3 GHz CPU. Equally, a 3.6 GHz CPU is faster than a 3 GHz or a 3.4 GHz CPU. Generally, the higher the frequency of the CPU, the faster the speed of the computer as it can now processes more data per second.

2) No of Cores
In the past, if you want to get a faster computer, you have to get a faster CPU. Today, this is only partially true. The reason being, CPU speed can’t increase forever. There is limitation as to how fast the transistors can run and when it reaches a plateau, you won’t be able to increase the speed anymore.

To tackle this problem, CPU manufacturers (in this case, Intel and AMD) adopted a multi-core technology, which literally means putting multiple cores in a CPU chip. While increasing the CPU speed resulted in faster data calculation, putting more cores in a chip resulted in more work done at the same time.

At the moment, dual core CPU is the most prevalent multi-core processor in the market while quad-core just joined the family not too long ago. (my guess is that octo-cores or 16-cores CPU will soon be available in the next few years).

3) Price
Unless you are loaded with money, the price of the processor does play an important part when it comes to choosing a CPU. Depending on your budget, you can always find a model at the price range that you can afford. The price of the CPU is almost proportional to its speed, which means the faster, the more expensive it gets. The good thing is, the price of a CPU drops very fast. When a new model of CPU is launched, the previous top model will always experience a price drop to the more affordable range. Unless you have absolute need for the top speed, you can always grab a bargain by getting the second or third fastest processor in the market.

4) Brand
There are basically only two main players in the CPU market: Intel and AMD. You may have heard on one occasion that Intel is better and on another occasion that AMD is better. Regardless of what you have heard, the truth is: both are as good.

Both companies produce top notch CPU and choosing one brand over another is purely based on individual preferences. In terms of power consumption and performance, Intel Core2Duo has a slight advantage, but when it comes to prices, AMD offers the best performance per dollar value.

Conclusion
Choosing a CPU is not a difficult task. As long as you are willing to put in the little effort to learn how to choose a CPU, you should be able to find the one that is most suitable for you. Hope this guide has given you an insight to the world of CPU.

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