Buying Guide to Processors

These days more and more people are building their own computers, either because they’re tired of being charged extra for a company to do it for them, because they don’t want to pay for things they’ll never use but come with a PC anyway, or they simply can’t find the parts they want all in a single PC on any website.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Whatever the case, selecting the right parts for a custom PC is an essential step; in this article, I will delve into the different processors available on the market today.

Before I begin, please keep in mind that while there are indeed other options out there, I will discuss only Intel and AMD solutions, as they are the more practical ones.

What to look for in a processor:

> Obviously, how fast is it?

> How much power does it consume?Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ (I’ll go into why that’s important later, if you don’t believe me.)

> Is it single-core or dual-core?

> Is it the right socket for your motherboard?

> How much performance do you get out of it for the amount you are paying?Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ If it doesn’t look like it’s worth it, are you willing to pay the premium, or should you go down to a lower model?

Is Energy Efficiency Necessary?

You may be asking yourself whether it’s worth it to take power usage into account.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ The more power a computer takes, the more you pay in your electric bills.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ But that’s not all: more power also means the processor generates more heat, heat which must be dissipated from the processor and out of the case.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Not only is the room now hotter than it was before, but the more heat you produce the louder your fans have to be to remove the heat from the case.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ All of this results in hotter, louder, and more expensive computing.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Not only that, but if you like to overclock your CPU, you’ll have more trouble doing so if it gets too hot running at its design speed.

Intel or AMD?

Currently, it is fairly clear that AMD solutions are favorable to Intel solutions, for several reasons.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ If you’re a gamer, AMD’s Athlon 64 processors are known to perform better in games than Intel processors do.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ More importantly, AMD processors consume less power, which can save you a lot of unnecessary problems.

On the other hand, Intel processors have recently been priced a lot more competitively, making CPUs that were once not worth the money a little more appealing.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ And, if you’re an overclocker, Intel processors overclock much better than AMD processors.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ The Pentium D 805, for example, can often run 800 MHz or more over its designated 2.66 GHz speed, using the included heatsink and fan.

Single- or Dual-Core?

Dual-core processors are a relatively new enhancement to the CPU market.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Basically, buying a dual-core processor is like buying two processors; each one runs at the designated speed, and each performs its own tasks independent of the other.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ An important thing to remember, though, is that the two cores can’t be combined to do one task; usually, they can only complete two separate operations at the same time, unless a program is designed to work with multiple-threads, in which case a dual-core processor will effectively double your computing power.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ As more and more applications are developing this ability, it may be a worthy investment to spend the extra money to get a dual-core processor.

How Much Money Should I Spend?

Obviously, the budget is up to you: how much you spend on a processor depends entirely on how much money you are willing to pay.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ But unless you are someone who wants to have one of the best computers on the planet, you probably want to shy away from the overpriced Intel Extreme Edition and AMD Athlon 64 FX processors.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ These models target individuals who will go to any lengths to have the best in computing equipment; if this describes you, go for an FX-60 or FX-62, AMD’s two dual-core FX models (would you really spend all that money just to have one core?).

Otherwise, I would recommend getting a dual-core processor if it is in your price range.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ The Pentium D 805 (Intel’s lowest dual-core design) is a really great buy, and it doesn’t get much better than that for the price.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Other than the 805, try and buy a CPU in the 900 series, which is Intel’s newer design which offers better power consumption rates in some applications.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ If you don’t want to spend that much, Intel’s single-core line is called the Pentium 4.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ If you prefer AMD, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ is the lowest dual-core design; if you want to spend less than that, you’ll have to go with a single-core.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ In the single-core market, Athlon 64 is AMD’s standard line of CPUs, and Sempron 64 is their budget line, which will run a little slower at the same model number.

To summarize, the processor you buy all depends on the type of computer user you are.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ If you play a lot of games, AMD is probably the better choice, but if you overclock your CPU you might go with Intel.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Dual-core really helps multitaskers, but it’s starting to work with single applications too.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ If you can afford it, go with a dual-core processor; if it doesn’t help you now, it might later on, and it certainly beats having to upgrade again after a short time.

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