Breaking It Down: Processors

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Hey, Uzers. My name is Mike. This is a new segment I like to call “Breaking It Down”, in which I will cover a wide range of computer hardware, and maybe even some things like consoles. Today we will be looking at processors. More specifically, we will be looking at two different companies that produce processors and which one you should buy if you were thinking about building or buying a computer.

The two main companies that produce processors are Intel and AMD. They’re both great, especially if you’re a general consumer who is just looking for something that can browse the internet and/or play a few games here and there, in which case you can really go with either brand. AMD is usually picked by people who put their computers under a heavy stress load, specifically editing. They tend to be a bit cheaper then Intels and come at a higher clock speed than most Intels as well. Intels are a great all-around processor. If you were thinking about gaming, or a building computer specifically for gaming, then Intel is normally the preferred brand.

Source: examiner.com

There are three main components that separate CPUs in performance and price. Those components are the number of cores, cache available, and stock clock speed. Cores are extremely difficult to understand if you’re not a computer techie. I don’t really understand them all that much, either. All you really need to know is that (generally) the more cores a CPU has, the better it is. A core is a single unit that performs a task. Therefore, the more cores there are, the more efficient those tasks become. Intel also has a technology called hyper threading, which basically makes the computer think it has 8 cores instead of 4, or 4 instead of 2. Going with a 4 core CPU is normally a good choice, unless you plan to do some serious editing or multitasking. In that case, buy an 8-core AMD CPU or an Intel CPU with 4 cores and hyper threading (i7). Cache is used for temporary storage. It acts just like RAM. It makes it easier and faster for the CPU to process the data stored on the on-board cache, rather then on the RAM. The amount of cache you have can impact performance, especially during heavy loads of multitasking. Clock speeds (frequency) determine how fast a CPU can perform its job. However, clock speeds are very deceiving. First off, they can change through a technology called over clocking or turbo boost, which is an Intel technology. Clock speeds also might not be the same if the two chips have different architecture, even though they both have a 3.2 GHz clock speed. Generally, you can disregard a lot of clock speeds, but it’s a good benchmark to compare CPUs.

In the computer building scene, your computer is broken down into three sections. It’s either a gaming PC, editing PC, or all around beast. Being able to perform both editing and gaming at peak performance is very costly. Editing machines are normally the better all-around computers. If you buy a satisfactory graphics card, and you have something like a AMD FX-8350, you’ll never have a problem editing and you’ll be able to play most games at ultra settings. With AMD CPUs, you really get a bang for your buck. They’re normally a bit cheaper then Intels (depending on the model) and they multitask more efficiently due to some of them having more cores, cache, and higher base clock speeds. You’ll only notice a difference in performance with the cheaper CPUs, though. Once you start getting to the range of $250, it’s pretty much overkill. I wouldn’t recommend buying a costly CPU if you don’t already know what you’re doing (ex: If you’re a professional editor, buy the most expensive processor you can find).

Intels are great CPUs as well. They’re broken up into 3 core groups and then broken down even further. First there are the i3, i5, and i7 groups. Normally you will see i5s in most laptops or PCs in a Best Buy or Target, but you will come across i7s and i3s as well. If you couldn’t tell, the i3s are the cheaper version, the i5s are the middle ground, and the i7s are the big boys. i7s and i3s are the only Intel CPUs that offer hyper threading. So an i7, which all have 4 cores, will match the 8 cores in the upper tier AMD processors. Intel has really been pushing for having very strong on-board graphics so the buyer doesn’t need a graphics card. They have also been pushing for low voltage output so the user doesn’t consume too much energy.

Source: slashgear.com
Source: slashgear.com

In all honesty, both AMD and Intel do their jobs greatly. I would have to give AMD the edge when it comes to having the more cost-efficient CPUs, but Intel has some very good, cheap CPUs as well. If you’re really struggling on which one to pick, just go off of these guidelines. If you’re editing, you’ll generally want an AMD CPU (unless you can afford the Intel extreme edition, which is roughly just over $1,000). If you’re more into gaming, or building a gaming specific build, then I’d say Intel is your best bet (unless you’re getting a graphics card). I know it seems like AMD CPUs just have more general use. While they do sometimes, that doesn’t make it better then Intel. In fact, I prefer Intel over AMD. However, I would say they are about equal in value. It really just comes down to trying one out and, if you’re unhappy with its performance, then try the other brand.

As always, Uzers, this has been Mike. Leave any questions or comments down below and I’ll be sure to get back to you A.S.A.P.

Featured image courtesy of hardwareprofessor.com.