In lesson 7 we’ll cover both Intel and AMD CPU Processors, what features and specs to look for when shopping, and how much you can expect to pay.
The processor or CPU is the brains of the computer and does the majority of the PC’s work.
There are currently 2 major CPU makers, Intel and AMD.
Efficiency Per Clock Cycle
CPU Code Names
For example a Core i5 3450S Ivy Bridge running at 2.8GHz will perform better than a Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield running at 2.8GHz.
The Core i5, code name Ivy Bridge has an improved design with a faster connection to the rest of the system and more cache compared to the Core 2 Quad, code name Yorkfield.
i5: Quickpath 5GT’s. 4 x 256KB L2, 6MB L3
C2Q: Front Side Bus 1333MHz. 128KB L1, 6MB L2
Stepping and Revisions
For Intel. Celeron, Pentium and Core i3 CPUs make up the low end of performance. Core i5 are the mid-range. Core i7 are the high-end CPUs.
For AMD. Sempron, A4 and Athlon II CPUs are considered low end. Phenom II x2, A6 and A8 in the mid range and Phenom II x4, x6 and it’s FX line at the high end.
CPU’s start out at around 30 dollars at the low end and go for as high as 1500 dollars for an extremely high end processor.
What you’re paying for, is performance. The more powerful the CPU, the faster your computer will be. A good rule is to buy the most powerful processor you can afford. It will provide the best experience using the system and will extend the usable life of your computer.
That being said, buying the fastest processor available can be overly expensive. Look to buy a CPU a step or two below the cutting edge. So if the fastest processor is 1000 dollars, you can buy the next slowest CPU for 700 or two steps down a CPU for 400 dollars and save some cash to buy a faster video card, more memory or a bigger hard drive.
There are cpu’s well over 1000 dollars but these are really for bragging rights. You will pay a lot more for just a little bit more performance.
Cooling the CPU
The CPU also needs to be cooled. This is done using a metal heat sink attached to the top of the CPU that radiates the heat away from the processor with the help of a fan. If you buy the CPU in a retail box it will come with a heat sink and fan. With the exception of Intel Socket 2011 CPUs which do not come with a heatsink and fan.
If you buy a CPU without the heat sink and fan, also known as a OEM CPU, be sure to buy a cooler that is made for your CPU and that it is capable of cooling the model of the CPU you choose.
If you decide to go with a 3rd party cooler there are a few features to look for. One is the use of a heat pipe to help in cooling. Heat pipes are basically a tube half filled with liquid that carry heat away from the CPU so it can be dissipate.
Use of copper in the cooler can help dissipate the heat further. Most coolers are aluminum and do a good job, but adding copper, which is a better conductor of heat, can help get rid of the heat a little quicker which is better for the CPU and also means the fan on the cooler doesn’t have to run as fast which will make is quieter and extend it’s lifetime.
Like the computers RAM, the CPU can also often be overclocked to get some extra performance. As with overclocking RAM, to overclock the CPU you need to change settings in the motherboards BIOS. This will also increase the heat from the CPU and therefor you will need a better, 3rd party, CPU cooler. Whether of not your CPU can be overclocked and by how much depends on how much extra speed and heat it can take.
For more information on overclocking see the overclocking video lessons available on the website.
We recommend spending at least $150 on a CPU and the more you spend the happier you’ll be with the performance.
When you go to Buy
- Whether you choose an Intel or AMD processor, make sure the motherboard you buy supports the CPU.
- Buy the fastest processor you can afford.
- Consider the design of the CPU including the number of CPU cores, cache size and operating frequency when choosing your CPU
- If you buy the heat sink and fan separate from the CPU, make sure it’s made for your CPU and is rated to cool the model of the processor you choose.
In the installation lessons we’ll go over how to install both Intel and AMD made CPU’s onto their motherboards and show how to attach the heat sink and cooling fan to the CPU’s.
Both Intel and AMD CPU Processors are generally very reliable and will last for many years. That said, it’s best to buy a processor with at least a 3 year warranty.
To buy a processor with a 3 year warranty buy a CPU in a retail box. This will also include a cooler and fan.