CPU specifications explained: everything you need to know

CPU specifications
CPU specifications are something you need to be familiar with whether you are buying a new CPU or just upgrading an old one. In no particular order, these are the most popular terms used in relation to CPU specifications.

Manufacturer

The first thing listed under the CPU specifications is of course the manufacturer. The two mainstreams are AMD and Intel. Intel used to dominate the market as the only premium option for high-quality CPUs and is still an excellent choice for mid- and high-end gaming setups.

However, AMD has now changed the game because it quickly gained popularity as a budget-friendly option after it first entered the market. AMD now has some very impressive CPUs, especially within the Ryzen range, which offers high core numbers and better performance at an affordable price. AMD is also a good gaming CPU.

Product range

The product line for each manufacturer contains certain models, the use of which is comparable. For example, the Ryzen 3 and Intel i3 are affordable options for casual users, while the Ryzen 5 and Intel i5 are more powerful mid-range options that are also used in mainstream laptops.

Similarly, Ryzen 7 and Intel i7 are performance-oriented models that lend themselves well to intensive software and high-end games, and Ryzen 9 and Intel i9 are elite workstation CPUs that you’re likely to be outside of hardcore gaming setups don’t bump.

Socket type

The actual CPU is installed on the CPU socket. You just need to make sure that your CPU socket and your motherboard socket are compatible. The AMD CPUs use the AM2, AM2 +, AM3 and AM4 sockets, while the Intel sockets use pin-based sockets such as LGA 775, LGA 1156, LGA 1366 and LGA 1151.

Vein

Most CPUs today are multicore CPUs, where each core is as fully functional as its counterparts. Everyone also has their own cache and communicates with the other cores if necessary. A notable mention is AMD’s Accelerated Processing Unit or APU technology, which uses the multi-core concept in a unique way. It adds a GPU core to the traditional core, which offers you sophisticated graphics that are integrated directly into your CPU. However, the common AMD CPUs do not have integrated graphics, while this is the case with Intel.

Motherboard chipsets

As already mentioned, a CPU connects to the motherboard via a socket. However, in order to actually communicate with the other components of the motherboard, the chipset is used – a system of circuits to which all components of the motherboard are connected. However, not all chipsets are created equal. Some offer specific functions. This is an important CPU specification because the type of chipset determines the number of USB ports, SATA ports, and RAM and PCIe slots.

Hyperthreading / multithreading

Hyperthreading is a unique Intel technology that can increase the multitasking efficiency of some of its CPUs. Hyperthreading means that a computer works as if it had twice the number of cores that it actually has. If a CPU has four cores but supports hyperthreading, it works like a CPU with 8 cores.

However, the resulting benefits depend on what you use the CPU for. It will do almost nothing for everyday tasks like surfing the internet, since a normal CPU is already fast enough for that. However, if you use intensive multitasking software, hyperthreading can make a big difference.

Cache

Cache is a high-speed form of memory that allows the CPU to communicate with other parts of the computer. It is temporary memory like RAM, but unlike RAM, the cache memory is built into the CPU itself – which is why it can be accessed faster. In general, more cache means better performance. However, this also depends on the type of software used.

The cache can have three levels: L1, L2 and L3 cache – referred to as Smart Cache in Intel CPUs – and modern CPUs have all three levels. Each level has more memory than the previous one, but the cache at the lower levels can work much faster.

Clock frequency

The clock rate is usually specified in GHz in the specifications of a CPU. The clock rate indicates how much data a CPU can process within one second, where one Hertz means one cycle per second – which means that a CPU core with a clock rate of 4 GHz, for example, can execute 4 billion instructions per second! So a higher clock rate obviously means better overall performance.

Almost every program benefits from a higher clock rate, which is why overclocking is such a popular technique, especially when playing. If you’re interested in this, you need to make sure that both your CPU and motherboard chipset support overclocking. Intel is the better option for this because unlocked Intel Core CPUs can be overclocked to a greater extent than their Ryzen counterparts.

Heat output

A computer’s thermal or thermal design or TDP is the maximum power in its cooling system that must be dissipated. The higher the heat output of a computer, the hotter its processor runs, of course. This heat can be dissipated using various types of heat sinks. However, the often overlooked aspect of thermal performance is worth noting how it affects a computer’s noise level. The hotter a processor runs, the higher the fan and large fans can be quite loud.

Bandwidth

CPUs are of course part of a larger platform and must be able to communicate with the rest of that platform. Circuits transfer data from the CPU to the chipsets built into the motherboard for this communication to take place, and the chipsets then pass this data outside via PCIe slots and USB ports. The speed at which this communication takes place is called bandwidth, and thus a higher bandwidth means better performance.

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