In this technological age, having a computer at home is essential. The Covid-19 Pandemic has shown it that way. Since quarantine was decreed, in almost all parts of the world, daily tasks have begun to be carried out from home, with the help of technological tools. Something that, until recently, would have been unthinkable.
For example, now young students would have to download special applications and programs that would allow them to attend virtual classes, the same has happened in the case of those who have a formal job, now telecommute.
If you want to distract your mind and occupy your time doing another type of group activity, such as yoga, dancing, karaoke, etc., you also need to use technology. In fact, for health reasons, it must be done this way, even if you want to participate in a party, it must be done virtually.
Going to the doctor, buying groceries for the week, chatting with friends, having a romantic date, playing games, processing a legal document, making a request, everything, or almost everything, must be done electronically.
In short, we can say that having a computer at home today is more than a luxury; it is a necessity because it makes it easier to carry out many activities and guarantees comfort. If you have one, you have been able to realize its advantages. But, if not, you may be looking to acquire it. Now, the question arises how to choose the right one?
Since technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, there is a lot of variety to choose from, but how do you know which one is the best? What features should you look for in a processor? What is important to note? Through this article you will be able to know the most significant aspects of a processor. For this reason, you cannot stop reading it. That way you won’t choose blindly. You will be betting to win.
A processor is also known by the name of CPU or micro and, in a nutshell, we could say that it is the brain of the computer, since it processes everything that happens inside it and executes all existing actions. On the other hand, it should be noted that this component is also part of the hardware of other devices.
It is made up of a layer of silicon that is placed on the connector called a socket, specifically on the motherboard or motherboard, inside the desktop computer case. It is covered by an encapsulation of which there are 3 types: PGA, LGA and BGA.
The processor is the most important component of a PC, and it is also usually the most expensive. However, without the rest of the components it would be nullified, it could not serve or act. It would just be a piece of metal.
Among its main functions is the management of the operating system, the execution of all the applications, the coordination of the rest of the devices that make up the team, among others.
Likewise, the board is responsible for connecting the rest of the devices to each other, such as RAM, graphics card, hard drive, etc. To do this, it uses a set of circuits and chips that are on it.
A processor is made up of the following parts: cores, cache memory, a memory controller, the graphics card and other auxiliary elements. Now, what is the way a processor works?
We could say that the entire system is governed by a clock, which is responsible for synchronizing all the functional blocks of the PC. Its operation can be divided into the following stages:
- An instruction is read from memory: These instructions, as a whole, can number over a thousand and continue to grow. More are added for the purpose of improving the processing speed of certain specific applications.
- Data is sought: it should be noted that some of the instructions received require data in order to successfully carry out their calculations. However, this data may not be located within the processor and therefore must be searched for in system memory.
- The operation is carried out: when all the data is at hand, the next step will be to execute the operation. To do this, it may be necessary for several blocks to work with each other, as is the case with the arithmetic logic unit or the floating point unit.
- Jump to a new instruction: Sometimes this is not the one that is next in memory. Some of these instructions can even change the flow of the program and allow jumps to be generated or actions to be repeated.
In order to increase the speed, a technique is carried out that includes the execution of instructions out of order to optimize the use of the functional blocks.
Another of the great improvements is the branch predictor, which tries to determine if an operation will produce a separation in the code or not. In this way, the instructions of a certain branch can be fulfilled, even before knowing if there will be a jump to it.
All these techniques and improvements seek to optimize the processor’s ability to execute a greater number of instructions in the same amount of time. That is, make it much more efficient.
Now that you know what a processor is, what its component parts are and what function it performs within a computer, you need to know what you should take into account when choosing one. Let’s see it right now.
What do you need
Regardless of whether you want to upgrade your computer’s processor or if you want to select its various components to assemble it yourself, the result will always be the same that is, cost savings and the acquisition of a deeper knowledge about the components. That makes up your computer, including its processor.
In order to select a good processor, you need to take into account the following aspects:
- The frequency: this is nothing more than the speed at which the processor operates, which is measured in gigahertz or megahertz. In turn, this is what will determine how fast the processor will perform all operations. Which means that the higher the frequencies, the higher the speed.
- Today, processors leave the factories with the ability to increase or decrease frequencies, taking into account aspects such as temperature and the type of operations it has to perform. In this way, this component is responsible for indicating what its minimum frequency is and what its maximum is.
- The cores: we could say that these are the sub processors that are inside the processor. Currently, they have 32 and up to 168 cores. In the case of a computer for home use, with a traditional user, it is normal for this component to have 4 and up to 8 cores.
- Each core is responsible for fulfilling an operation. Which means that the more cores the processor has, the more operations you can perform simultaneously? Therefore, the recommendation is that you acquire one that has at least 8 cores.
- The threads: some users consider that they are very similar to the cores, while others think that it is difficult to determine what the difference between the two is. However, we could say that the threads are independent instructions that the component can perform at the same time.
- Typically, newer processors contain twice as many threads as there are cores. These are in charge of processing the operations, while the threads manage the flow so that the performance of the CPU is better.
- In view of this, each core has the ability to carry out two threads. This represents better multitasking and better performance with software that makes better use of threads, as in the case of video editors.
- In other words, cores exist in a visible and tangible way inside a processor. But, the threads are found in a more virtual way, through software.
- Thermal Design Power or TDP: This is the ability of a cooling system to support and dissipate the heat produced by the processor. Typically, this specification is measured in watts.
- The larger the thermal design power, the higher the performance of the processor, as it will be able to expel all the accumulated heat and serve as an appropriate power supply.
- Cache memory: its objective is to achieve faster access to instructions and data that are between the processor and RAM memory. In order to carry out this task, every processor has three types of cache memory.
- The L1 is the main one and, although it is the smallest, it has the highest speed. The L2 is considered as the secondary cache. In this case, it has more cache but less speed and serves to have faster access to the data that was previously used.
Finally, L3 is the support for L2 and is integrated into the board. However, compared to the previous two, it is very slow.
Although this aspect is important, it is something that the common user should not pay much attention to, since it is difficult to evaluate its performance and there are several factors that intervene in the proper functioning of these memories.
In addition to these characteristics, you also need to take into account the IPC, that is, the instructions per clock, which can be found by reading user reviews of this component, as well as the motherboard socket, which must be compatible with PC.
Now, what other recommendations should you consider when choosing a new processor for your computer?
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Before deciding what kind of processor to buy, it is important that you take into account the use that you will give it and the budget that you have for its acquisition. Because, if you do not calculate the costs, you may be making unrealistic expectations.
Regarding this point in particular, consider the fact that you will also need enough money to purchase other components, such as the SSD, graphics card, RAM, among others.
Although, as we have pointed out before, the CPU is the most important part of a computer, it does not make sense to buy a component with outstanding features, if you have a slow hard drive or a poorly performing GPU. Especially if you are a gamer user.
Although it is true that it is recommended and important to read all the specifications of the processor before choosing one, which includes the clock frequency, the cache memory, the number of cores and threads, etc., it is also important that you request information and recommendations by people who have already acquired it . This will be an objective opinion that you can trust.
In a few words, it will be your needs that will determine the type of processor you should buy, since it is not the same to have a PC to study, to work as a designer or programmer, or to have it just to play.
If you take into consideration the criteria that we have mentioned, you can be sure that you will be making the best decision when selecting the type of processor that you are going to buy or, if you dare, to assemble it yourself. In addition, you will guarantee the optimal functioning of your processor, regardless of what you are going to use it for, whether to study or play.
Tanner AbrahamData Scientist and Software Engineer with a focus on experimental projects in new budding technologies that incorporate machine learning and quantum computing into web applications.
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