How to Compare Computer Processors (CPUs)
Tech Talker explains what to look for when buying a processor or CPU for your computer.
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Clock Speed and Number of Cores
Next are the two numbers that you’ll be confronted with when you’re comparing processors and that’s clock speed and the number of cores. Clock speed is pretty simple to understand - it’s how many calculations a processor can crunch in a single second. This is generally measured in gigahertz, abbreviated GHz. For example, if a processor says 3GHz, that means it can perform 3 billion calculations per second.
Cores on the other hand are how many individual processors are combined onto one board. So if a processor says it has 4 cores, then that means that there are 4 processors combined onto one processor. Having multiple cores on a computer will allow multiple tasks to be carried out at once more efficiently.
Think of it like this, you have 4 engineers in a room solving math problems. They can each solve a problem at the same speed. So if you give them 100 problems, each will solve 25 problems and it would be done 4 times faster than if you had one engineer.
Many large modern applications are programmed specifically to take advantage of multiple cores,
However, if you had one big problem that couldn’t be split up, one engineer would be working on it while the other 3 just sat around.
In this example, each engineer is a processor core. Each problem is work a processor does when you’re running your computer. So if you use your computer for a bunch of different things at once, then a multicore processor is for you. However, if you’re going to be using your computer for big projects like video editing, a faster clock speed might be a better fit.
Hopefully you’re still with me, because I’m about to throw a wrench into everything I just told you. Many large modern applications such as Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and AutoCAD are programmed specifically to take advantage of multiple cores, This is called multi-threading, or hyper-threading. Before this innovation, these applications would only make use of one core while the others remained idle. This new type of coding allows the programs to use all available cores at once to distribute the work.
Before you decide what processor you want to buy I recommend using Google to search the name of the main programs you use followed by the words “multi –threading.” This should give you a quick answer as to whether or not your frequently used software can take advantage of multiple cores.
Lastly, almost all processors out on the market today are 64-bit. If you have the option between a 32-bit processor and a 64-bit processor, pick the 64-bit one since 32-bit is all but obsolete. Check out my episode on the difference between 64-bit and 32-bit for more information.