A Guide to Today’s Processors
Computer technology is changing so rapidly, that in many cases, the computer you purchased six months ago is quite “old” today. In an industry that moves at blazing speeds, we like to release processor updates from time to time. This article is geared mainly towards those who are not computer gurus and don’t follow the industry everyday. If you are looking to upgrade in the near future and do not know what processors are available to you, this article will be of assistance. You’ll read about the current processors on the market, what their specifications are, how they perform, pros / cons, prices, speeds, and all other kinds of technical and practical data. This guide is divided into three sections so that each processor can be effectively covered: desktop chips, server chips, and laptop chips.
We will not be comparing one processor to another, as there are obviously infinite details to which processor is best at what. Each processor serves a purpose, and that purpose will be pointed out. Another thing we will not go into is which benchmarks what because, quite frankly, benchmark tools vary on everything, not just the processor. Also, all prices are subject to change, and probably will change week to week. When we mention “average price”, this represents the most likely range you will see. The true price range of a particular chip is somewhat larger, due to top of the line and bottom of the line outliers. We do supplement the discussions with a mention the full price range of the processor in the “cons” section of each. Here are some common definitions of terms used to describe the processors in this article so you can be familiar with them when they come up.
64 bit vs. 32 bit: Most processors and software currently on the market use a 32 bit instruction set. This means that the processor can handle up to 32 bits of information per cycle. A newer 64 bit technology is emerging fast, and has promise for the future. Essentially, 64 bit processors can handle twice as much data at a time than 32 bit processors can.
GHz: Number of cycles per second measured in billions.
MHz: Number of cycles per second measured in millions.
Front Side Bus (FSB): This is the speed at which the processor communicates with the memory on the motherboard. The faster the FSB, the better your performance will be.
Memory Cache: A very fast static RAM that stores frequently accessed data. This type of memory is generally stored on the processor, so it is very easy and quick to get to. It saves a lot of time compared to accessing data on the much slower dynamic RAM on the motherboard.