A computer processor is just like a car engine in that there are different sizes and specifications which deliver more or less power. If you are a hard-core gamer or perform video editing, then a processor with plenty of power is essential. If you're just a casual Internet surfer, then an entry-level processor will be sufficient for your needs.
For the home computer user, there are essentially two manufacturers of processors: AMD and Intel. There are a plethora of different processors, and likelihood there will be one to suit your needs.
Understanding the processor
The processor is essentially the brains of a computer. If you ask a computer to calculate what 2+2 is, it is the processor job to calculate the answer. The faster the processor, the faster it learns that the answer is 4. Translated into practical use, this means that a faster processor will run programs faster and execute commands faster.
Traditionally it has been the processor that takes care of the calculations, while the video card is responsible for displaying images on the screen. With most modern processors these features are usually fused together, so the processor can make calculations, and create graphic images you see on the screen.
AMD has split its processors range in computers into two categories: E-Series and A Series. Processors in E-series are generally installed on base model computers, and are best suited for single use, such as web browsing and word processing. The advantage of the E-Series from AMD is that these processors use little power, and therefore provides a better battery life. The A series is divided into four categories: A4, A6, A8 and A10.
A4 Series is a dual-core processor that is designed for computers in budget class. The main difference from the AMD E-series is that you can experience better support for media management, such as streaming HD video from Youtube. A6-series supports Tubro Core, something A4 series do not have have. This allows the processor to work harder when it encounters tougher tasks. A8 series has four cores, and therefore provides a jump in performance from the A6 series. It also handles graphics better. Thus the processor is well suited for everything from office tasks to video gameplay. A10 series provides the most versatile performance, and can handle pretty much everything the home computer user can throw at it.
Intel just like AMD, has divided up their processors in different series: Celeron, Pentium, i3, i5, i7 and i9. The Intel Celeron is the most basic processor while i9 is the most powerful.
Celeron is Intel's most basic processor. In pure processing terms, this is very similar to AMD's A4 and A6 processor. But as we shall see later, it is not always just pure processing power that apply's. Pentium is slightly more powerful than the Celeron, and is ideal for office software, watching movies in HD and browsing the net. i3 takes a step up from the Pentium and you should notice that programs run faster and smoother. The i5, just like AMD's A6-series supports Turbo Boost. This means that when your computer encounters more demanding tasks such as gaming, video editing and so on, it can increased the processor speed for added performance. i7 is Intel's top model. With an i7 processor you can get up to 4 or even 6 cores on the processor, unlike Intel's other processors which usually have 2 or 4 max. That is why it is easy to see a big performance improvement, just as you would get with AMD's A8 series. This extra performance is ideal for the demanding PC user, who plays the latest videogames and runs many demanding applications simultaneously.
General differences between Intel and AMD
The graph on the left shows some of the processor models that Intel and AMD have. At first glance it might seem that Intel has the most to offer, but this depends entirely on usage. As mentioned in the introduction the vast majority of modern processors also have built-in video chips. With an AMD A10 processor you can expect between 30 to 60% better performance in games compared to an Intel i7 proesssor. An example of this is the popular game Diablo 3. The AMD A10 Processor had 48% better graphics performance compared to the Intel i7 processor. However, in the last couple of years Intel has improved their integrated graphics chip on their processor range, which is now much closer to that of AMD's top models. It is important to note that a laptop with a dedicated video card will perform much better when it comes to graphics, than a computer that only has an integrated graphics unit.
Which processors should I choose?
It depends on what you use your computer for. If you need raw computing power, an Intel i7 processor is the way to go. This may be the cases if you run many applications simultaneously, do a lot of video editing, play the latest games or simply want a computer that will remain powerful enough for years to come. The average user will have more than enough computing power with a Intel i5 or AMD A10. If you consider yourself a regular Internet user and work with office software only, then a low-end processor will be absolutely fine for your needs.
Hopefully you now know a little more about how the different processors, and what you should choose to cover your needs. While Intel offers more computing power, AMD have a more comprehensive package because they perform better on graphical tasks.
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