The CPU

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The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is the brain of your computer. The CPU is most likely the most important component of your computer, because it is mainly responsible for how well your system will perform. When you look at your motherboard, you can briefly point out which chip is the CPU because it will usually have a huge heat sink and fan mounted right on top of it.

There are many manufacturers of CPU’s, such as Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Motorola, but the two main manufacturers for computers are Intel and AMD. One of the big questions you would ask yourself is, “Which one should I choose”? The answer to this question could be answered when you decide on what the main purpose of your system will be. Will you be doing a lot of gaming? Multimedia editing? Virtualization support? Or maybe you just want it for surfing the worldwide web and typing up documents on Microsoft Office. Both Intel and AMD have their advantages for such uses, but of course, they also have their disadvantages.

I have been using AMD processors for quite some time, and I have never had a problem with them. I choose AMD because you can get a pretty fast and reliable processor even when you are on a budget. This is especially true when you are looking for entry-level and mid-range CPU’s. Since I was never a hard-core power user, I opted for the mid-range CPU’s and have never had any regrets.

If you are sticking to a budget, then I would say AMD is your better option. Right now I have the AMD FX-6300. In my opinion, this CPU will give you the best bang for the buck! It uses the AM3+ socket and has a base clock speed of 3.5 Ghz with turbo-boost up to 4.1 Ghz. As far as temperature ratings go, let me first say that I don’t push my system that hard at all. Right now I have the following open: seven Google Chrome windows, Speccy (System Info checker), and Microsoft Word. As well as a few things running in the background like Advanced System Care, and some Nvidia graphics performance software. With all that, Speccy states my CPU temperature is between 20C-30C. When I play Day of Defeat (I’m a big DoD fan), I reach temperatures of around 50C-55C.

When looking for a CPU, you want to be sure to look at the following, and take a few things in to consideration:

First, you should definitely try to stick to the latest technology. Technology is advancing quicker than we could have ever thought. And that CPU that, even though is only a couple years old and is much cheaper, could be obsolete within the next months. Plus, you will never get the best performance when using older technology. Using the current technology will give you better performance, hands down.

Pay attention to the three levels of cache memory. There are three levels of cache, with the third level being the biggest (as well as the slowest). The more cache all around, the quicker your system will be at accessing more programs. You will see current third level caches with as much as 6-8MB, as of this writing.

Cores – the more the better! There was a time when dual-core processors were all fine and dandy for what most users needed. And if you were pushing your system with a quad-core then you were set! Also, the greater your base clock was, the faster your system was. That time seems to have come and gone quickly. Although a fast base clock is still very important, a good amount of CPU cores is paramount. This way, your CPU will be able to handle many, many more instructions at a given time, increasing performance greatly. These days you will find processors with 6 cores, and even some with 8 cores.

If you plan on overclocking then make sure that you get a CPU that is capable. I don’t overclock – never have, and don’t see the point of me ever needing to. Overclocking is when you intentionally mean to push your CPU past the recommended manufacturer benchmarks in order to improve performance. This can be quite dangerous and can damage your CPU if done for extended periods of time because it puts a lot of stress on the CPU. If you wish to experiment on this route, please, be very careful.

And lastly – power consumption. I think consumers overlook this, or don’t seem to put too much thought in to it. Because, well, what is a few extra watts anyway, right?!  Well, a few isn’t such a big deal, but when you are comparing two processors for example, one of them could need 25% LESS power than the other, which is huge! And when you have less power, you also have? Less heat! This helps prevent overheating, and is just very nice all-around. So be sure to look at the TDP, or Thermal Design Power. These numbers can vary dramatically, between 60-125W. Obviously, the lower the TDP, the better.

So, back to the main question, which brand should you choose? AMD or Intel?

I love AMD, I really do. Unfortunately, they do not compete with Intel’s high-end line of CPU’s. Then again, they don’t need to. AMD has the mid-range CPU market cornered, and they are powerful! Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see AMD compete more with Intel in the high-end. And with their new Zen processor, I think that this might be sooner than later.

So if you are looking for a high-end gaming CPU to play the latest high-end games, then Intel would be your go-to-man. But if you are anything like me, then I would check out what AMD has to offer. You might be surprised.

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