Are you buying a new computer, or perhaps building one yourself? Either way, while there are many factors that come into play when selecting your new PC or Mac, the most important (other than price) is perhaps the processor. The processor, which determines how fast the machine performs, varies from computer to computer, and in order to get the most bang for your buck here’s what you need to know.
There are two main brands of processors on the market today, Intel and AMD. Like all processors the speed is measured in GHz, or Gigahertz. Intel Brand has three categories of processors out there now, Celeron, Pentium and Core. AMD has Sempron, Athlon and Phenom. Both brands come in single core, or one processor, and multicore, which has between two and typically six cores. The more cores you have, the faster the computing speed. But faster processors produce more heat, which is why you need a proper fan/cooling system built into computer. The last thing you want to do is overheat your processor, which not only slows you down, but may cause you to end up replacing the processor sooner than you would’ve needed to.
Like all technological innovations, processors become outdated as new systems are developed. For Intel, the newer processors are the I3- I7 series. I3 are the cheaper of these three, but they are also slower than the I7. The I5 is considered the standard ‘midrange’ processor for Intel these days, performing faster than the I3 but slower and cheaper than the I7. The second generation of these three processors, referred to as Sandy Bridge perform up to 40% faster than the first generation and have an on board graphics chip, which though not of super high quality, serves the daily use of watching movies on your machine.
AMD processors aren’t as fast, but they are cheap and compatible with most AM3 motherboards, which is important when upgrading processors without losing the computer. Of the three types, AMD Athlon II are the budget processors. These come in a number of varieties indicated by X2, X3, or X4. The number indicates how many cores they have. Athlon II has enough power for basic PC tasks and is relatively cheap for a processor of this caliber. Phenom is 35% faster, and is comparible to the Intel Core I3 in performance, but the I3 still has 10% more processing speed than the Phenom. Intel I7 is 2X the speed of the Athlon, but almost twice as expensive.
In conclusion, if price is key, go with the less expensive AMD Athlon processor, multicore which is cheap and has decent enough computing speed to get by. If you have a bit more money to spend and want better performance, go with the Intel Core series.
-Rachael Maxon, ATS Student Manager