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CPU Names and Terminology - What Do They Mean?
Use CPU Benchmarks
There are a number of CPU names or brands; compare CPU pros and cons and understand the key CPU benchmarks. For example, processor benchmarks for fans highlights the AMD CPU fan.
In order to understand CPU names, we need to look at a few terms...
We will concentrate on desktop processors, and stay away from server CPUs here. The first thing to take into consideration is the number of cores. A core is the actual microprocessor within the CPU. CPUs used to be single cores.
Currently, most are dual (two), or quad (four) cores. This means they have 2 or 4 microprocessors inside. The naming convention (architecture) on these processors is Core 2 Duo, Phenom, or Core 2 Quad. Multi-core is the way of the future, as more and more software is written to take advantage of the processing power of multiple cores.
Next, we want to look at the speed, or clock speed of the processor. It is important when looking at speed that you compare CPU speeds from within the same family, or architecture. It won't do you any good to compare the speed of a Core 2 Duo with the speed of a Pentium 4. The higher the clock speed of the CPU, the faster it is going to perform.
Next up is the cache. This will vary from CPU to CPU, and the more the merrier. The CPU will store important instructions and data in the cache, as it is much faster to access then the system RAM. Dual and Quad core CPUs from Intel will share the level two cache between the cores, and some are starting to add a third level. Most CPUs from AMD do not share L2 cache.
Finally we have the Front Side Bus (FSB). This is what the CPU uses to communicate with the rest of the computer. As a result, it is important when looking at CPUs to make sure you are getting a good FSB speed. These will range from 166 MHz in older CPU's up to 1666 MHz in current top CPU's.
Here's How Intel CPU's Are Named
Let's look at an example. This is typical of the Intel CPU names, and a description will read like this:Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 Conroe 2.33GHz 4M shared L2 Cache LGA 775 65W
To parse that out and make some sense of it, we have the following:
Let's Look At An AMD CPU
AMD's naming convention isn't any easier to understand than Intel's. AMD also has multi-core processors. They go by types of: Single-Core, Dual-Core, Tri-Core, and Quad-Core. These will match up with the CPU names that AMD uses. Semperon is the name for the Single-Core processors. Athlon X2 is the name for the Dual-Cores, and Phenom is the Tri and Quad Cores. AMD processors normally will have 512Kb to 1Mb of cache. However, AMD does not use front side bus ratings. AMD Processors use what is called a Memory Controller. AMD's memory controller is directly on the CPU, and is what AMD uses to manage the flow of data between the CPU and the system memory.
This is typical for the AMD CPU names, and an advertisement will read as such:
AMD Phenom 9600 Agena 2.3GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache 2MB L3 Cache Socket AM2+ 95W
Here's the translation:
As you can see, CPU names, terminology, and even the brands are nowhere near as simple as they used to be. Gone are the days of clear processor benchmarks and of naming the processor with its speed alone. The processor names no longer relate to their speed.
Checkout a full list of Intel's current processors.
Checkout a full list of AMD's current procesors (including AMD CPU fan).
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