Tips for Choosing the Right CPU

Whether you’re building your own PC, buying off-the-shelf, or buying from build-to-order manufacturers, it’s a good idea to have an adequate grasp of what CPU you should by buying. While it may seem that the notion of “faster is better” is the best advice, it’s not always about raw processing speed and power. In reality, a computer’s performance is not only dependent on the CPU’s clock speed. And in this case, buying the fastest CPU might just prove to be too expensive, that you tend to scrimp on memory, storage, and other options, which could prove to be bottlenecks to performance.

Extreme tech gives ten tips on choosing the right CPU here. This is meant for those building a family PC for home use (which may sometimes extend to work use, if you do take work home with you).

We’ve alluded to this concept of system balance throughout this article, but it’s good to close with a specific plea: build a balanced system.
CPU Balance

By “balanced,” we mean “balanced for your needs.” Those needs, as we’ve seen, may differ. If you do a lot of video editing, then a midrange 3D graphics card, coupled with a beefy CPU and lots of memory, may be the right solution. If you’re really just doing web browsing, word processing, and light photo editing, your needs will be more modest—you may even be able to get by with just integrated graphics.

A balanced system will maximize the cost/benefit ratio of all the components. Specific components won’t spend a lot of time idling, waiting for other subsystems to complete their individual tasks. Your system will work harmoniously, and you’ll feel a lot better about how much you spent.

Extreme tech asks prospective buyers and/or builders to consider primarily how the computer will be used. This way, you can pattern your purchase after your own (and your family’s) usage patterns, and also the applications that you use. For instance, high-end games might require a beefy CPU, but most of these would perform better with a high-end graphics card. If you’re a heavy multitasker, more memory will help improve performance, rather than a very fast CPU (going dual core or even more also helps). If you’re a heavy Photoshop user, you might benefit more with an additional hard drive for swap files, rather than a super fast CPU.

In the end, it’s all about your goal for the system. Sometimes, you cannot rely on marketing material, such as those that say you can get by on a slower processor and a smaller amount of RAM if you’re just doing documents and web browsing (since you’re likely to be a heavy multi-tasker, too). So choosing the right CPU takes smarts to decide on that right balance.

Unlocking Bartons

cpu6bz.jpgAs I am still saving up for my next computer upgrade (still debating over the more expensive but very fast Intel Core Duo or the more budget friendly AMD M2’s), I have to content myself with my two year old and ever trusty AMD Athlon 2500+ Barton Core. The reason I bought this particular processor (and at one time I had two desktops running the same processors) was mainly because of the good reviews it received as well as the sterling commendations it got from PC enthusiasts. The main point of the accolades came from the fact that the Barton Core was very overclocking friendly. Overclocking specialists say that it is easy to overclock the Bartons and that the procedure in order to make the Barton core processors overclockable are very easy to follow.I have read many forums in so many websites that extol the virtues of the Barton core. One of the most compelling reasons I have read for recommending a Barton at that time was that for the price you pay for a Barton you can overclock it to speeds that at that time were in the domain of the higher end processors that were expensive. Good enough reason to buy, right?

This week, I just encountered this thread about the Barton mobile processor. This particular thread was discussing how to unlock the higher multipliers of the Barton mobile. It’s a fairly old thread but it clearly shows you how it easy it is to unlock Bartons. Neophyte overclockers or those who want to get into the hobby could possibly by an old Barton and play with it using the information found on the thread.

Is your CPU dying?

processor

A CPU is one of those PC components that is both the subject of immense awe (wow! It’s 3.8Ghz monster with that much cache?!) and hair-pulling frustration (why does my darn PC always restart and make that alarming beeping sound!).One of the biggest risks of buying a processor is that there is a chance that you may actually purchase a lemon. The worst thing about this though is that a CPU, once it is found to be broken, cannot be fixed. You will have no choice but to replace it. It won’t be a problem if the processor is still within its warranty period. But if it’s not then you can kiss the money you paid for it goodbye and prepare to bleed while you buy a new one.

If you do get a dead processor you basically have two choices, replace it with a processor of the same “model” or get a new system. Of course, getting a replacement for the processor is more cost effective but with the fast turnaround of technology, the processor in your motherboard may be obsolete now, which will make it nigh impossible for you to get a replacement. Because of this getting a new system is usually the option that is generally taken.

One good thing that comes out of this situation though is that when you replace your bad processor, the replacement is not only cheaper but also faster than your buster component. Because of the steadily falling prices and ever increasing speeds, this is a natural inevitability.

The not so good news though is that if your motherboard does not support the new processor then you will have no choice but to also buy a new motherboard. One way of determining if your present motherboard supports the new processor is by checking with the mobo manufacturer regarding CPU upgrade information.

The Science of Overclocking

Processor

When you buy a computer’s processor, that processor’s core speed is usually preset at a certain level. But for many PC enthusiasts, the preset core speed will not stop them from determining the upper limits of a processor’s capabilities so they overclock these processors.Overclocking is a process in which a processor’s stated speed is pushed to its upper limits is a way for PC enthusiasts to exploit and get more speed from their existing PC components, most frequently the processor. For example, an AMD AthlonXP 2500+, a processor that was quite famous for its high overclockability, has been tweaked by many enthusiasts and after overclocking its frequencies was able to make it run up to a speed that is similar to an AthlonXP 2800+. That is a decent bump in speed that does not require buying anything else.

This concept of buying a processor and then bumping up its performance to approximate the speeds of more expensive variants is the reason why overclocking is very popular. In fact, there are small groups of PC “geeks” that make it some sort of bragging rights to be able to increase the speed of a computer part (say a processor) to its most upper limit and past the previously recorded overclocked speed.

But before you do it though, be aware that overclocking, although it sounds like fun, has its own dangers. First of all, overclocking a computer part basically voids its warranty. So if something happens to the particular part then you can’t have it replaced even if it is still under warranty. Which leads me to my second warning. Overclocked computer parts run significantly hotter than when it is running at stock speeds. Overheated parts can cause crashes and even general system failures.