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Buying Guide - CPUs

What does CPU stand for?

CPUCalled the brain of the computer, a CPU is short for central processing unit and comprises of millions of transistors that make the computer parts function together as a system. Thin layers of these transistors on the CPU block electricity at a given voltage and allow it to pass at other voltages, enabling it to move from a non-conducting to a conducting state. All calculations, which are the basis of the working of a computer, take place within the CPU. In terms of computing power, the CPU is the most important element of a desktoplaptop or tablet.

A CPU is basically a multipurpose, programmable device which takes data in the digital form as the input, and processes it using instructions preset in the processor to produce the desired output. With processors becoming more and more compact, modern microprocessors are being used in a variety of electronic gadgets ranging from cars to smartphones.

The CPU manages the control units that determine the path of data, monitors the cache and registers for effective management of information via clock distribution management. The CPU is usually designed according to the capabilities expected of the system. A CPU is comprised of three parts: the arithmetic logic unit, which performs all arithmetic and logical operations; the control unit, which collates instructions from memory, decodes and executes them calling upon the ALU when necessary; and the registers, responsible for the storage units where chunks of data are stored for faster access.

Too hot to handle?

The processing power of computers is greatly enhanced with the use of a multi-core processor, which essentially refers to two or more individual processors (called cores in this sense) integrated together. Ideally, a dual core processor would be nearly twice as powerful as a single core processor. In practice, however, the performance gain is far less - only about 50% more due to imperfect software algorithms and implementation.

The clock rate determines the speed and performance of the CPU. A crystal oscillator controls the speed of the CPU operations. Therefore, replacing the crystal with another crystal that oscillates at twice the frequency will also make the CPU operate at twice the speed. However, this means that there will also be roughly twice the amount of heat generated that you’ll have to dissipate with a cooling fan.

Know before you buy

The search for the appropriate architecture that can make the CPUs tick faster and use less energy per clock cycle is always on. Continual innovation has resulted in the production of cooler CPUs that run at higher clock rates such as quad core and six core processors. The search is also on for newer designs that allow CPUs to run at the same or at lower clock rate as the older CPUs, but get more instructions completed per clock cycle. The clock rate of a processor can help you compare computer chips of the same processor family and generation, but not outside.

There are quite a few manufacturers and brands of CPUs in the market, but the most popular and high-performing CPUs come from the stables of Intel, AMD, and Dell. So, depending on your needs and requirements, select the right CPU that will provide you with the desired output.