Choosing a Processor
 

 

 
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Choosing a processor
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Choosing a processor

The processor is the brain of your computer and like everything else in the computer world you get what you pay for. The greater the number of GHz the faster the PC and the more expensive the processor will be. The processor is also known as the CPU or Central Processing Unit. This is a guide to what the jargon means and also which model to buy.

Gigahertz vs Megahertz

AMD vs Intel

Processor Rating

Which model should I buy?

Should I buy a microprocessor/motherboard combo?

Cooling

Gigahertz vs Megahertz

1 Gigahertz(GHz) = 1000 Megahertz = 1000000Hertz

and one hertz is the equivalent of processing a single piece of information.

Ten years ago computers had processors running at 10Megahertz. Now we have computers running at faster than 3 GHz ie 300 times faster.

AMD vs Intel

There are two main competitors in the processor market. AMD and Intel. AMD makes the Athlon and Duron processors, while Intel makes the Celeron and Pentium series of processors. Both these chips can run the same operating systems same software, same peripherals although they will require different motherboards and possibly different memory. It is not very easy to compare the performance of the two either. A 2 GHz Athlon processor from AMD will not run at the same speed as a 2 GHz processor from Intel. In fact the latest AMD models run at 2.2GHz and the latest Intel P4s run at 3.2GHz and give a similar performance. One thing that may help guide you though is AMDs model naming convention. For example the Athlon XP 2000+ will be roughly equivalent to the 2000MHz (2 GHz) Pentium 4. The AMD Athlon XP 1700+ is roughly equivalent to the 1.7Ghz Pentium 4. In both these cases the AMD is we believe slightly faster. It also tends to be slightly cheaper.

1.7GHz Pentium 4

 

 

AMD Athlon XP2800

  Intel has a massive share of the market with AMD having quite a small share, most businesses tend to opt for Intel, .but here at the Build a Computer Guide we would happily recommend AMD to anyone.

Processor Rating

Intel intend to introduce a new processor rating system from mid 2004. This will probably involve giving a processor rating in the form: name<eg Pentium M>, model no.<eg 300> and other info on other performance related data like clock speeds, bus speeds and cache size etc. This Intel processor rating we believe will most likely not make performance comparisons with AMDs processor rating any easier.

 
 

Which model should I buy?

The problem with the microprocessor market is that is is one of the fastest evolving technologies in the world. The 2 year old processor I have in my machine is unlikely to be able to cope with the latest games. So in theory you should buy the latest processor to avoid having to upgrade for as long as possible. However, the latest processor is likely to be far more expensive than one that has been on the market for 6-12 months. eg The latest 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor is more than twice the price of the slightly older 2.8GHz Pentium 4 devices. My recommendation would be to go for the 8-12 month old processor. It's only going to be obsolete 8-12 months before the top of the range model and will save you a couple of hundred dollars.

Your motherboard will dictate which processor you can buy. Remember, you are limited in several ways by your motherboard. It will determine, whether the CPU will be AMD,Intel or another manufacturer. It will also determine the maximum speed of your processor and the maximum system bus speed or Frontside bus (FSB) speed as it is also known.

What is the maximum processor your motherboard will support? Check your motherboard documentation, if you do not have any motherboard documentation, all is not lost. Firstly have a look for your motherboard manufacturer and model normally written on the upper side of the motherboard. Common manufacturers are ABIT, ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte, although there are several dozen motherboard makers. Most online shops like TigerDirect will give you the full breakdown for current models. For older or obsolete models have a look on Google for your particular manufacturer/model, you are almost certain to find the data sheet for it on the internet. In here you will find the details on what the maximum supported model is and the maximum FSB speed.

 
 

Cooling

The faster the processor the more power it consumes and the more heat it generates. Processors now run with a fan attached to the top in order to dissipate the heat. More on cooling here. Some processors come with a fan in the box, some do not, check before you buy something that you may not need. See also the cooling section

 
     
     

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