PC Architecture. Chapter 16. Choosing a CPU. A book by Michael B. Karbo

Copyright Michael Karbo and ELI Aps., Denmark, Europe.

  • Next chapter.
  • Previous chapter.

    Chapter 16. Choosing a CPU

    If you happen to need to choose a CPU for your new PC, what should you choose? Let me give you a bit of food for thought.











    INTEL Celeron 2.66 GHZ/533 256KB




    INTEL P4 520 2.8 GHZ/800 1 MB




    INTEL P4 530 3.0 GHZ/800 1 MB




    INTEL P4 540 3.2 GHZ/800 1 MB




    INTEL P4 550 3.2 GHZ/800 1 MB




    INTEL P4 560 3.2 GHZ/800 1 MB




    AMD Sempron 3100+ (1,8 GHZ)




    AMD ATHLON 64 3000+ (2,0 GHz)




    AMD ATHLON 64 3400+ (2,4 GHz)




    AMD ATHLON 64 FX-53 (2,4 GHz)







    Figur. 117. Pricelist from October 2004 (without VAT).

    How long does a CPU last?

    The individual components have different lifetimes. The way development has gone up until the present, CPUs and motherboards have been the components that have become obsolete the most quickly. CPUs and motherboards also go together you normally change them both at the same time.

    You have by now read all of my review of new processor technology; new and faster models are constantly being developed. The question is, then, how important is it to have the latest technology? You have to decide that for yourself. But if you know that your PC has to last for many years, you probably should go for the fastest CPU on the market.

    For the rest of us, who regularly upgrade and replace our PCs insides, it is important to find the most economic processor. There is usually a price jump in the processor series, such that the very latest models are disproportionately expensive.

    By the time you read this, prices will have fallen in relation to those shown in Fig. 117. There will no doubt also be significantly faster CPUs to choose between. But the trend will most likely be the same: The latest models are a lot more expensive than the other ones. You have to find the model that gives the most power in proportion to the price.

    Also, the amount of RAM is just as important as the speed of the processor. RAM prices fluctuate unbelievably, in just a year the price can double or halve. So its a good idea to buy your RAM when the prices are low.

    CPU-intensive operations

    Back in the 1990s it was quite important to get the latest and fastest CPU, because CPUs were not fast enough for things like image processing. For example, if you try to work with fairly large images in Photoshop, on a PC with a 233 MHz processor, you will probably quickly decide to give up the project.

    But whether you have 2400 or 3200 MHz thats not as critical, especially if you have enough RAM and are working with normal tasks. A processor running at 3200 MHz is roughly 33% faster than a 2400 MHz model, but it doesnt always make that much difference to your daily work.

    Here are some tasks, which might require more CPU power:

  • Video editing.

  • DVD ripping (often illegal).

  • Photo editing, especially with high resolution images and 48 bit color depth.

  • Production of PDF-files in high quality.

  • Speech recognition.

    Video (including DVD) contains huge amounts of data. The CPU and RAM therefore have to work very hard when you edit video footage. At the time of writing, it is legal to copy DVD films for personal use, but that may change. Legal or not its certainly possible. The actual ripping can take 10-20 minutes, during which the CPU slowly chews through the over 4 GB of data there are on a DVD. A 5 GHz CPU would obviously be able to reduce the time taken considerably.

    Finally, speech recognition software is considered to be very CPU-intensive. This is probably only going to be a problem in the distant future. Some people imagine future versions of Windows and Office programs will have built-in speech recognition, which will place quite new demands on CPUs. However, it is far from certain that speech recognition will ever be introduced into PCs. There appear to be big problems in getting it to work well.

  • Next chapter.
  • Previous chapter.