The basis of any processor is the hardware addition and subtraction of numbers presented in binary form. The most general understanding consists of an arithmetic-logical device, which is the operation, and several control schemes and memorizing elements. Thanks to developers’ efforts to continuously improve processors and improve their performance, the real structure of the CPU is much more complex. If RISC architecture is not taken into account, manufacturers are on using specialized information processing units. Examples include SSE family instructions for parallelizing the computing process or expanding the AVX command system to support high-resolution video coding.
From the average user’s point of view, the processor is a large chip designed to control the computer. Unfortunately, their different generations are incompatible with each other on several indicators, so choosing the next CPU requires taking into account a few points.
How to Choose a Right CPU
The main criterion of choice, of course, is the platform. In a broad sense, it is the hardware implementation of the entire computing system. In a narrow sense – a set of processors with a certain internal microarchitecture and corresponding to its set of system logic, crucified on the motherboard. Of Intel’s current platforms, two are worth their attention:
- LGA1150 for the revamped Haswell family;
- LGA2011 for Ivy Bridge-E architecture.
The life cycle of the previous generation Ivy Bridge and the LGA1155 microarchitecture platform is coming to an end. However, it may still be considered in the case of an upgrade of the existing system. The updated version of LGA2011-v3 on Haswell-E is promising, but still quite expensive, not least due to the transition to the memory of the new type of DDR4.
AMD’s situation is generally the same:
- Leaving the scene of the Richland and Trinity family under the FM2 socket;
- Vishera range for AM3;
- Kaveri microarchitecture processors under the FM2 connector.
New developments are announced, but expect them in the general sale is not earlier than 2016.
The next thing you pay attention to when choosing a processor is the number of cores. The criterion is quite ambiguous, as, in different conditions, the CPU’s performance will be determined not only by their number but also by the working frequency and the nature of the applications being performed. Not to mention the fact that eight AMD cores are usually inferior to Intel’s four “stones” because in most cases the overall internal memory space is divided into pairs. It is also worth considering that the Turbo Boost mode feature, which provides automatic speed increase within certain limits, is the turn of the cores when it rises above some thresholds. Hence, the “staff” number is not always productive. It follows from those tasks, which will prevail on the computer:
- For budget gaming systems and most office PCs, two-core Intel or 4-core AMD processors will suffice;
- Powerful non-regular media processing stations and the bulk of gaming machines will require 4-core Core i5 processors;
- High-end gaming systems make sense to build based on four to six-core Core i7 processors;
- Specialized workstations for professional 3D modelling, high-definition video editing and other resource-intensive tasks need the most productive multi-thread solutions. 8-core flagship processors of both companies will be appropriate here.
When selecting CPU for systems with predominantly single-thread load (which generates most games), their clock frequency is put in second place in importance. Not least, AMD’s lag in the high-performance gaming processor segment is due to the more modest limits of this indicator, and comparable values are achieved only due to a significant increase in power consumption. If you plan to accelerate manually, you will have to look for reviews of different models and analyze their respective potential. Otherwise, the benchmark may be the processor’s maximum work rate when Turbo Boost is turned on. It should be noted that additional acceleration is not always possible, and even the most promising chips, its potential is quite modest. Also, we should not forget that to accelerate the function Turbo Boost must support and motherboard.
OTHER PROCESSOR CHARACTERISTICS
- Integrated graphics allow you to do without a discrete graphics card when assembling the system. This is mainly true for office machines and entertainment centres. The older series of built-in HD Graphics, GT and Radeon HD accelerators can be considered the initial and lower mid-end level of the game segment cards. Still, the demanding gamer will not satisfy their capabilities. The idea of hybrid processors (APU), whose graphics subsystem can perform some non-graphics calculations, cannot be overlooked. From this point of view, attitudes towards integrated solutions are changing somewhat.
- The unlocked multiplier is theoretically the main lever to accelerate the CPU. By increasing BIOS, individual models can significantly increase the clock speed relative to the nominal value. In any case, this position was on the first round of overclocking. Intel then began blocking the possibility of such a hardware-level crackdown. At the moment, this functionality of the processor is presented by it as a bonus and a sign of overclocker status. In reality, given the size of the base frequency and the multiplier’s nominal value, its change within the small limits of a special increase in performance does not give, and the money is worth. AMD is more loyal to attempts at an ultra-state acceleration of the processor, but the overall effect is comparable.
- The heating package is the indicator that divides processors into very voracious (and it is not Intel) and energy-efficient. TDP direct competitors differ almost at times and require powerful cooling systems and power supplies for AMD products. No wonder many models of this company are delivered without regular coolers.
- The PCI-Express version used is important if the bus is supposed to be heavily used, such as running a pair of graphics cards in x16 mode or another set of devices with such an interface requiring a large total number of communication lines. For home gaming systems with one accelerator and the vast majority of workstations and office machines, this option is non-critical.
- Level 3 cache volume and support for Hyper Threading technology. The L3 buffer size directly affects the overall processor performance of both companies (more is better). Hyperflow technology is an exceptional feature of Intel and allows you to divide the instructions processed within one kernel into two threads and perform them in parallel. The operating system perceives such a processor as having doubled the number of cores.
In fact, there is no special confrontation between manufacturers now. AMD has completely ceded the high-performance processor segment to Intel and the upper mid-end category, focusing on hybrid APU solutions, and the situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Competition between the two corporations persists only in the multi-core CPU group, focused on resource-intensive applications and multi-flow computing.
Any blunders are frustrating. It is especially annoying when you count on significant savings, and you get additional expenses and unnecessary troubles. In such a situation, it is easy to find yourself due to an error with the platform, for example, when upgraded or when selecting a kit from the processor and the motherboard. The most attention needs to update the outdated system – the “mother” chipper may not support the chosen CPU, even if there is formal compatibility on the processor connector.
When choosing a processor, you should not focus solely on the magic of numbers in the characteristics. A model with a seemingly impressive number of cores in modern games will yield to a 2-core, but with a higher par frequency and the ability to noticeably accelerate by regular means or manually. Conversely, the advantage of video coding is the ability to parallel the process, not the processor’s speed. Be sure to consider the nature of the applications you expect to work with on the system you’re collecting most of the time.
Don’t expect a significant performance boost by targeting a processor with an unlocked base frequency multiplier. Nowadays, it is more of a marketing move than a real overlocker product. At the very least, you will have to equip the system with a cumbersome cooling system and a reliable power supply with a large power supply. In many cases, it is more appropriate to allocate additional acceleration costs to increase the processor’s budget and choose a faster model from the regular series.