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How to Compare processors, speed and Specifications

January 7th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

A large number of customers have a common question about what makes up the performance of a processors. The question was relatively easy 8 or 10 years ago. when, all you needed was the operating frequency of the Intel or the AMD processor and the one with faster clock frequency was in general better. With the advent of the newer architectures in the processor and entry of the dual core and multi core processors, the scenario has become complicated. To further add to the complexity we have varying degree of cache memory, cache architecture and communication speed with chipset. Some of them support turbo boost and others do not. Let us get ourselves acquainted with few parameters that will help us understand the nuts and bolts of a processor.

Single Core, Dual Core or a multi core

This is the first and most Important parameter you will look for. A family of processor may come in single core , dual core or even more than two cores. A dual core processor “of the same family”, will, in general, be faster than the single core processor by an order of 1.5 times. A quad core running at same frequency will be faster than two core processor. To further complicate the things there may be triple core, hex core processors available.

In general, more cores for a given family is better than less core.

Clock frequency

This will be the second most important parameter you will be looking for. Given the same family, as the clock frequency increases, the performance increases.

Cache Memory

This is possibly the third most important parameter you will look for. A higher cache memory is better. A copy of the memory that is used large number of times is stored in the Cache memory. The processor looks for the program or the data in the cache memory. If the program or the data is not available in the Cache memory it looks in to the RAM. Cache is faster than RAM, speeding up the overall performance.

Turbo Function

Newer processors come with Turbo function. In turbo function, the frequency of the processor is temporarily increased to cater for the increase in the demand of the processing power. Real life computing involves fast computing power for a small duration of time ( like operating a new application, running a program). Turbo function best matches the real live computing requirement.

In case of Intel core i series, the core 5 and Core i7 come with turbo boost while core i3 do not come with turbo boost.

Integrated Memory Controller

Earlier processors ( Example – Intel dual core and core 2 duo) used to communicate with a chip called North Bridge, which in turn used to communicate with the Memory. This scheme increased the time for processor to memory communication. The newer processors come with ability to communicate with memory directly making them faster.

Integrated Graphics

Most recent processors come with graphics section in built into the processor die. A decent performing Integrated graphics will have an added advantage. The Intel core ix processors have the Integrated Graphics. The performance will get a sincere boost with the next generation Intel Sandy Bridge processors and AMD’s Zacate and Ontario processors


The terms above will help you get a “feel” of the processor. This will help you make a rough idea where the processor will land in terms of performance. But to really compare two processors neck to neck, you will need benchmark results. Check the existing benchmark results and compare it – this is the only way to tell with certainty if processor A is better than processor B.

Did I miss anything – your time to comment.

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