There are a lot of options out here when it comes to upgrading a desktop or laptop computer. There are a lot of aspects to consider: mac or PC? Then, if you decide to go with a Windows based machine, which type of central processing unit is best? Read our helpful blog about microprocessor chips and expand your knowledge today; we’re here to help!
The Leaders in Microprocessor Chips
The two biggest names are Intel and AMD. These two companies have been at the forefront of micro-processing technology since the late 1960s.
These days, AMD chips tend to be cheaper than Intel chips at the lower end of the spectrum starting at around $40, whereas AMD’s dual-core Sempron, Athlon, or dual-core A-Series cost around $30. For the average person who wants to do office work, stream movies and music, and surf the internet –and often wants to do all three simultaneously- low-end dual-core processor made by either company is sufficient.
However, for serious gaming or production work, you need a much more complex processor, and that’s why CPUs can cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
If you scroll down, you’ll see that we’ve detailed the majority of microprocessor chips made by both companies. First, though, a few basics for those readers who aren’t familiar with some of the basic terminology and concepts.
The Basics of Microprocessor Chips
Single-core, dual-core and beyond!
The C.P.U or Central Processing Unit is the most crucial component of a computer, as it’s what processes instructions and performs operations. It’s also commonly referred to as a processor or micro-processor, and these terms are interchangeable.
A single sequence of programmable instructions is called thread, and if a processor can handle one thread at a time then it’s a single-core central processing unit. If a microprocessor can process two threads at the same time, then it is a dual-core processor, four threads and it’s a quad-core and so on.
Advanced Micro Devices released the first dual-processor with 64-bit architecture in 2005, the AMD Athlon 64 X2. The competition followed in 2006 with their first dual-core processor.
Cache is a sort of Random Access Memory or RAM, only it’s usually embedded right on the microprocessor. You can think of it as extreme short term memory, as this is where the instructions or threads that are used repeatedly in the execution of a process are stored for easy retrieval.
Depending on the CPU architecture, there are different levels of cache with the three most common being L1, L2 and L3, which correspond to Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 respectively.
Hyperthreading technology consists in scheduling tasks in a highly efficient way, to the point that it effectively simulates dual-core activity.
It makes it possible to perform multi-threaded tasks: You can be running Spotify, surfing the internet, and working on a word document all at the same time. As you will see shortly, many processors not only have multiple cores, but multiple threads for each.
Microprocessor Chips Continued…
It used to be the case that if you wanted more processing power, you needed more processors. However, with the advent of multi-core technology in the mid 2000s, this is no longer the case and multiple CPUs are basically obsolete. The only notable exception is in some gaming circles where users who really know what they’re doing still build computers with socket boards that can accommodate multiple CPUs.
The Different Models of Processors
Here is a rundown of the processors manufactured by both brands that are currently available, with their basic characteristics including performance, and the profile of the user each is intended for (gamers, A/V professionals etc).
Before we do this, however, let’s go over the different letters that Intel uses in their model numbers to differentiate certain models from the standard versions.
U: Low consumption processors used predominantly in laptops.
T or S: Reduced level of performance in exchange for significantly reduced power draw.
K or X: The processor has an unlocked clock multiplier.
Common Intel Processors
With the above out of the way, let’s have a look at the most common Intel processors.
Affordable general-purpose processors with two cores and two threads that can handle office work, multimedia and web surfing. Also suitable for games that don’t explicitly require more than a dual core processor.
Pentium processors are nearly identical to Celeron, only they have better clock speed and better performance. The newer Pentium G –which is based on the Kaby Lake microprocessor architecture- is a dual core processor with four threads, making it a good choice for more serious gaming on a budget.
Dual core with four threads, which along with its high IPC (instructions per cycle) makes it a highly efficient. Perfect for both play and work.
This series has a great price/performance ratio. This is a quad-core with four threads, while the “U” models are dual-core.
Quad-core, 8 thread processors with a performance that’s about the same as the
Core-i5, although it will obviously fair better in cases where more threads are required. Again, if there’s a “U” in the model number, it’s dual-core with four threads.
Common AMD Processors
Good performance over the range of most tasks, and there are both dual and quad-core versions. The quad-core Athlon is good for gaming, although it’s not as good as the newest versions of the Pentium.
Whether it’s a dual or quad-core version of this chip, an APU always has a powerful, integrated GPU or graphics processing unit.
A quad-core processor with a fast clock speed, making for a high level of performance overall. It’s also a good option for upgrading a desktop gaming computer that’s based on an AM3+ socket.
As a six-core processor this is a step up from the previous AMD models. It also has a high clock speed, and it’s also a favorite among AM3+ users.
Along with the FX 9000, this is AMD’s mid-range level processor. However, the FX 8300 is preferable to the FX 9000, as the later has a notoriously high thermal design point. and thus, needs a powerful cooling system. The FX 8300 is an octa-core chip with a clock rate that exceeds 4 Ghz.
The Ryzen series is AMD’s high-end range of microprocessors which feature a new architecture. Manufactured in a 14-nanometer process, the Ryzen range from quad-core, four thread models to octa-core with 16 threads.
All of the same characteristics as the Ryzen, but with improved security features for institutional use.
The same architecture as the Ryzen series, but the core-to-thread ratio is 16 to 32! The threadripper also supports quad channel memory and a greater number of PCIE lanes. This is a chip for users that use various heavy-duty applications –often simultaneously- where there are multiple threads of instructions that need to be processed quickly and accurately.
Which Processor is More Powerful?
Despite the fact that we can’t precisely define what the term “power” means in relation to microprocessors, if we average out the results of multiple studies you’ll come to the conclusion that at every price point, the Intel CPU will be about 10% more powerful than its AMD counterpart.
It depends on what you’re doing: for better gaming performance, a high-end, Intel processor with a lower core count is better than AMD’s series of Threadripper microprocessors. In contrast, for professional Audio/Video production, complex multi-tasking and other resource intensive multi-threaded tasks, an AMD Threadripper is the ideal choice (and there are some great deals on past versions of the Threadripper).
AMD processors tend to heat up more easily, and the AMD FX processors are notoriously bad in this regard. However, this problem appears to have been corrected with the latest iterations of the various Ryzen processors.
The Final Word on Microprocessor Chips
At the end of the day, for most people who want to do office work, watch movies, play the occasional video game or mess around with multimedia software, a low-end, dual-core processor from either company is good enough. Serious video editors and music producers may want to look into the AMD threadripper.
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