Whether you decide to upgrade your computer’s processor, or dare to select the different components to assemble it yourself, not only will you save a few euros, but you will also have a more exhaustive knowledge of what you buy and the components that make up your PC, or at a minimum, everything you need to know to choose a processor.
To update a computer it is not always necessary to replace it with another. Sometimes, it may be enough to replace the chip with a more powerful one, although it will always be your motherboard who determines the type and model of processor it supports.
On the other hand, if you choose to select the components to assemble your own computer , you will have to take into account some factors to determine which is the ideal processor for your configuration.
But first of all, it is convenient to take into account the use that is going to be given to the computer to, in this way, determine the processing power that you will need and not invest too much money in a chip that you are not going to get all the performance out of.
Intel vs. AMD
Intel or AMD . The eternal battle between the two main manufacturers of desktop processors that has caused so many controversies throughout the Internet.
Beyond fanatical positions and staunch defenders of one or the other brand, you must consider the defects and strengths of the current generation of chips from each of the brands and choose the appropriate one for the equipment you need.
Being targets, Intel processors deliver superior performance in games, workstations, and design or computers that need processing power. In return, these chips are more expensive than those offered by AMD.
In contrast, AMD’s FM2 platform, with its A6, A8 or A10 processors, offers the ideal solution for multimedia, office equipment, or workstations with low or medium graphics requirements, thanks to its low price and good performance. its integrated graphics chip that equates to the performance of a mid-range graphics.
More cores or more frequency?
When choosing the chip for your PC you must take into account the number of cores that the processor has since you will find some with 2, 4, 6 or 8 cores.
Each core is capable of processing data independently. That is, it is as if 2, 4, 6 or 8 smaller independent processors have been encapsulated within the chip. In turn, each of those cores will be able to process one or two lines of data execution simultaneously called threads.
This virtually doubles the processor’s working capacity by, for example, a 2-core processor with 2 threads running for each core, offering performance close to one of 4 cores with a single thread for each core.
This is a factor to be taken into account when choosing the ideal processor for your PC, since you can find chips that offer only one thread per core (for example, 2-core processor with 2 threads or 4-core processor with 4 threads) or processors that offer two threads per core (2 cores with 4 threads or 4 cores with 8 threads), the performance of the latter being superior to that of the former.
The technology that allows more than one thread to be used per core is known as HyperThreading and Intel has been using it in its products for more than a decade.
Another factor to consider is the processor’s working frequency, which is expressed in Megahertz (MHz).
In equality of characteristics between two processors, the higher the frequency of work (more megahertz), the higher its performance.
In the specifications of the processors you can find that some chips offer a “Turbo” mode that increases the processor’s working frequency when it occasionally suffers a high workload. But this “Turbo” frequency is only reached on rare occasions, so, although occasionally this extra power can come in handy, it is not as decisive as the stable frequency at which it will work for most of the time.
Cache Memory: The Great Forgotten
The processor’s cache memory is one of the parameters that usually goes unnoticed when comparing chips. However, they can make a big difference in the daily performance of your computer.
This memory is SRAM ( Static Read Aleatory Memory ) and is integrated in the processor itself and very close to the cores.
Cache memory is, making a simple analogy, the waiting room for the data that has to be processed.
If this waiting room is small, there is a risk that the chip will finish its job quickly and have to wait for new data to arrive, rather than having it ready to process immediately. Therefore, the larger that cache, the more data will always be available to optimize the operation of the chip.
This cache memory is presented on several levels as different waiting rooms, which move away from the respective nuclei. The further away from the nucleus, the slower it is to access, but the larger it is.
In the technical specifications of the processors you will find the values of the cache memory expressed as L1 (level 1), L2, L3 and even L4 in the latest generation processors, with the level 1 (L1) cache having a few kilobytes, while that the level 3 can have several megabytes and even hundreds of megabytes in the case of level 4 caches.
The importance of energy consumption
Not all processors have the same power consumption. The more powerful a processor, the greater the demand for power.
This electrical consumption is not only important due to the economic cost of having a processor consuming a certain amount of watts during a whole day. It also affects the amount of heat generated by that processor, since a higher consumption usually implies an increase in the working temperature of the chip and, therefore, it will also affect the sound of the assembly since more means will be needed to keep it refrigerated.
Manufacturers indicate the maximum power generated by the processor under the parameter TDP (Thermal Design Power) and for desktop processors, it can range from 20 W or less for less powerful processors, up to 140 W for more powerful processors.
The TDP also influences the cooling system, which has to be adequate to dissipate the temperature generated by the chip, or else the processor will risk dying in its own heat.
If you plan to overclock the processor (raise the processor’s frequency to increase its performance), or think that someday you might need it, you should choose the right processor model since not all processors allow it.
For example, in Intel chips this function is blocked in most models except those that include the letter K in their denomination.
You can find the Core i7 4790 model , which does not support the modification of its working frequency, and the Core i7 4790K model, which you could modify this parameter to obtain more performance.
Models with these unlocked functions tend to be somewhat more expensive, so if you do not plan to overclock it, it is not worth paying more for them.
In general, taking into account these indications and comparing the values offered by the manufacturers in the technical sheets of the different processors, you will be able to determine which is the ideal processor for your computer.