The processor is the computer’s brain, or calculator. Capable of managing hundreds of formulas, queries, and calculations at the same time, or almost so… in other words, pausing for a while to consider what is expected.
What do you want from your computer? Simply an office automation tool? A media center to view photos, videos or TV? Or a games console with hyper realistic graphics… this use will depend on your processor requirement.
Intel or AMD?
The two brands in the processor market are waging a merciless war against each other and have their aficionados. Today overall, the most reasonable agree that, in terms of quality, they are equal even if Intel has the largest share of the market. After that, the choice is a personal question: gamers easily turn to AMDs, its Phenom IIs are efficient and affordable… Intel, on the other hand, is the benchmark for high-end Core i7 processors, as well as for laptops with its Atom with very low power consumption.
Number of cores
The current trend is multi-core: the new generation Nehalem from Intel offers Dual Core with Hyperthreading, either 4 simultaneous threads, or Quad Core with Hyperthreading, or up to 8 simultaneous threads.
But be careful, two cores on the same processor, it is not always twice as much power, because it depends on the applications.
Mono cores still exist for low cost laptops, Netbooks. Not very powerful but energy efficient, they are sufficient for simple office automation.
Nowadays, “dual cores” are the most typical on laptop computers since they provide an excellent power/consumption balance. If the setup is proper, you can edit photos while running an antivirus scan without significantly slowing down the computer.
The “quad cores” are the most powerful, and became widespread on desktop PCs in 2010: recommended for machines dedicated to heavy applications and requiring power. Some games don’t use quad-core technology yet, but they should be rarer this year.
The frequency is expressed in GigaHertz (GHz), it means the number of operations that the processor does in one second. 3GHz: 3 billion operations per second. Clearly, it influences the operating speed of the processor.
Currently, processors run between 1.5 and 3 GHz. Some reach 3.5 GHz.
Be careful, we can only compare the frequency of 2 processors designed on the same architecture! Because for example, a Core i5 750 at 2.66GHz is more powerful than a Quad Core Q9650 at 3GHz…
The frequency remains the essential criterion for gamers, but it is not the only benchmark for the performance of a processor. As we have seen, there is the number of hearts. But we must also pay attention to the cache memory, the one that the processor uses to store information that it often uses. It is much faster to access than RAM memories but has less capacity. There are currently up to three.
Finally, you will have to pay attention to the socket of your motherboard, which must be the same as that of the processor you plan to buy. It is he who is used to interface the two components. They are classified according to their manufacturers (AMD or Intel).
At Intel, sockets are named with 3 or 4 digits (indicating the number of pins): sockets 775 (from 2004 to 2010), 1366 and 1156 (from 2009).
Since 2006, AMD has chosen a simpler name, AM2, then declined in AM2 + and AM3.
But the socket is not always a sufficient condition to guarantee the compatibility of the new processor.
Today, most of the market is split between Intel socket 1156 and AMD socket AM3. The older generations have a socket 775 or AM2 / AM2 +: only choose them if they are at an attractive price, because their evolution will be limited…