The gaming processor you choose for your upcoming build is perhaps the most important component you will have to select. One thing that makes the task of choosing a processor difficult is all of the complex and confusing CPU specifications and terms.
However, with a little knowledge of CPU specifications/terms, you will have a good idea on how to choose the best gaming processor for your system.
In this article I will take a look at seven important CPU specifications and terms. Each term is important to understand and know when choosing a processor.
These aren’t every processor-related term, but they are the ones that will help you make the best decision possible. So, if you’re looking for a list of CPU specifications and terms to help you choose a processor, use this guide to help you make your selection.
1. Multi-Core Technology
Since the rule of thumb with technology is that it gets put into smaller containers as time goes on, it was safe to assume that multi-core technology was going to exist at some point. However, that doesn’t take away from the potential it brings to the table.
What is multi-core technology? To understand it, you first must realize that a single micro-processor is only able to carry out one task or calculation at a time.
Multi-core technology, then, is the ability to put multiple micro-processors (referred to as cores) on a single processing chip.
By doing so, a CPU is allowed to do two things at once, rather than having to process one thing at a time. This significantly increases a processor’s performance.
In modern gaming, most games are not designed to work with more than two cores (with some exceptions.) However, this is changing and there are already games out there that benefit from running on processors with more than two cores. In the future, four-core, six-core, and eight-core processors will be better utilized by game developers and this will ultimately lead to games that are more complex in design and fucntionality.
2. Intel vs. AMD
If you’ve been researching which components to choose for your gaming computer, then you have surely stumbled upon more than one article pitting Intel processors versus AMD processors.
The bottom line is that there are really only two options you have for a CPU if you are in the market to build a new system: Intel or AMD.
Each CPU manufacturer brings something different to the table.
Intel typically offers CPUs that provide better single core performance and efficiency. As of right now, this translates into better overall performance. However, the extra performance comes at a premium, so, you can expect to pay more for an Intel CPU than you would for an AMD CPU.
AMD, on the other hand, typically offers less-expensive CPUs that have more cores. And, while their single core performance doesn’t come close to matching up with Intel’s single core performance, AMD chips do, in fact, narrow the performance gap by fitting more cores onto their chips.
As of right now, there are not many games that are developed to utilize multiple core technology. Because of this, Intel’s single-core performance is enough to make them the leaders in gaming processors. In the future, game developers will start to utilize multiple cores better… and when that happens it may give AMD a chance to even the playing field a little bit. Although, when it does change, there’s no reason to think that Intel won’t start producing CPUs with more and more cores on them.
Ultimately, though, while there are a number of different angles in the battle between Intel and AMD for gaming-CPU supremacy, the bottom line is that both processor manufacturers present CPUs that are more than powerful enough to handle any of today’s games. So, whether your decision comes down to price, performance, or a little of both, both companies have something to offer.
3. Socket Types and Series’
With each series, we see a newer and more improved architecture that is capable of providing more performance.
Both Intel and AMD are usually working on multiple series of CPUs at the same time.
For instance, both manufacturers have their mainstream processors as well their server-oriented processors. And, newer series’ of CPUs are coming out every couple of years.
In the past, Intel has consistently produced an extreme series of processors as well. And, it looks like AMD will start doing the same with their Centurion line of FX CPUs.
Along with different series’ of processors, there are also different sockets. The CPU socket is where the processor will be installed on the motherboard.
Some series’ of CPUs can utilize the same socket. For instance, AMD’s Phenom II series of CPUs can work in Socket AM3 motherboards and AM3+ motherboards. However, their FX CPUs are only compatible with the AM3+ socket and are not compatible with the non-plus AM3 socket.
On the other hand, some series of processors use new sockets when they are upgraded to a newer architecture. For instance, Intel’s Core series of CPUs have gone through many sockets, including LGA 775, LGA 1156, LGA 1155, and most recently, LGA 1150.
Matching your CPU with a motherboard that hast the correct socket is crucial. If you get a motherboard that has a socket that isn’t compatible with your CPU, then you will have to send one or the other back because they will not work together. So, the main thing that you need to understand about CPU series’ and socket types is that you should find a processor/motherboard combination that have compatible sockets, but also a combination that features the most up-to-date series and architecture as is affordable.
4. Operating Frequency (GHz)
CPU operating frequency, or clock rate, (which is measured in hertz) is somewhat of a misunderstood concept among first-time builders. A lot of first-time builders consider the operating frequency to be the end-all-be-all of determining the value of a processor. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The operating frequency of a processor is how fast it can complete a single cycle of work. The higher the frequency, the faster it can complete a single cycle of work.
However, a higher operating frequency does not equal more performance. This is because CPUs have a set number of instructions per clock cycle that they can process (Intructions Per Clock, or IPC). For example, if a processor can complete one million instructions per clock cycle and each clock cycle has a frequency of 4.0 GHz, it will still not perform as well as a CPU operating at 3.7 GHz that is completing two million instructions per clock cycle.
However, if you can get that same CPU operating at 5.0 GHz or higher, then the performance difference between it and the 3.7 GHz will become much closer. This is why overclocking is so popular among performance enthusiasts.
Ultimately, you should be looking for the CPU that brings the most cores, the highest frequency, and the most instructions per clock cycle as possible according to your budget.
We’ve already talked about the importance of cores and how they help the CPU multi-task. Hyperthreading is another Intel-specific technology that allows processors to be more efficient in certain CPU-intensive tasks.
Basically, hyperthreading allows the CPU to work on two different threads (sequences of instructions for the CPU to carry out) at the same time. Unlike core technology, hyperthreading doesn’t enable the micro-processor to do multiple things at once. Instead, it allows the processor to work on two different things simultaneously.
To better understand this, imagine working on an assembly line at a toy factory. On your assembly line, you need to install the head -piece onto an action figure’s body. The conveyor belt spits out a new headless action figure every three minutes and it takes you about 10 seconds to install the head.
That leaves about 2 minutes and 50 seconds of time where you are doing nothing but waiting for the next headless action figure to come down the belt. If the toy factory was smart, they would have you work another assembly line (which would be added behind you and you would stand in between the two assembly lines).
On this assembly line, the conveyor belt would produce a toy doll every three minutes and your task would be to install the doll’s arms. If the second assembly line was staggered so that it was producing a toy doll one minute and 30 seconds after each headless action figure was produced, then you would effectively be able to work both assembly lines without any kind of interruption.
This, in a sense, is how hyperthreading works. It doesn’t allow your CPU to do multiple things at once, but it does delegate tasks more efficiently to the point to where it can give a small performance increase in certain scenarios.
Hyperthreading isn’t fully utilized in gaming currently, but with the next generation of games coming out that could all change. So, if you’re in the market for a new gaming processor, Intel’s hyperthreading is something to consider, but it isn’t currently a must-have feature.
In terms of computer storage, there are three different types. The first kind of storage is your hard drive or solid state drive. Both of these options provide large permanent storage spaces, but in relation to the next two storage types, they are not accessed as quickly.
The second kind of storage is your memory, or RAM. Random Access Memory doesn’t offer as much storage space as your hard drive or solid state drive and the information on the RAM is only temporary, but the data and information on your RAM is not only highly relevant to what you are doing on your computer at the time of use, but it can also be retrieved a lot more quickly than data on your hard drive/solid state drive.
Finally, there is cache. Cache is on-board memory for your processor. It’s like RAM, but it offers even quicker access, since it’s located directly on your processor. While it only presents a small fraction of storage space as compared to your RAM and your hard drive, it is extremely fast and is used for the most important data relative to the tasks you are carrying out on your computer.
So, the more cache your processor has, the better overall it will perform.
7. Thermal Design Power
Thermal Design Power, or TDP, is the measure of the average maximum power a processor can dissipate while running software in watts. Essentially, it’s an indicator of the quality of cooling system you will need in order to keep your CPU at an acceptable temperature.
The lower the TDP of a processor, the less cooling it will need in order to operate at acceptable temperature levels. The higher the TDP of a CPU and the more cooling you will need.
Know Your CPU Specifications and Terms and Choose the Right Processor for Your Gaming Computer
There are a number of different buying factors involved when choosing a CPU. By knowing and understanding the different CPU specifications out there you will be better informed to make a decision on your gaming computer’s processor.
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