PCDIY Glossary Part 2: CPU Terms

January 8, 2016 | By tuan.mai@nzxt.com | PCDIY

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Welcome to Part 2 of our PCDIY Glossary. In Part 1, we discussed some general definitions for the components inside of your PC. Today we’ll go deeper into one specific component, CPUs. Purchasing a new CPU can be very confusing if you aren’t familiar with the terminology because there’s a lot to cover.

Here’s our simplified definitions for a few terms you may come across:

Intel / AMD

When it comes to CPUs for your PC, everything boils down to two major competitors: Intel and AMD. Intel is the company responsible for the most popular “Core I-series” processors while AMD is the company responsible for the “FX-series” processors.

APU

An APU is an “Accelerated Processing Unit”. This was a term created by AMD to describe their processors that are designed to perform the functions of both a CPU and a GPU on a single chip. Thanks to the integrated GPU, users that build a system with an APU do not have to purchase a separate graphics card unless they want additional performance for gaming. Most Intel CPUs also feature an integrated GPU and function in a similar manner but are not called “APUs”.

CPU Cores

A CPU core is a processing unit in your CPU that takes in information and performs specific actions. Just about everything you do on a computer has to go through a processor core. Most modern CPUs come with multiple CPU cores ranging from two cores up to eight cores. Generally speaking, the more cores a CPU has the better it is at processing information simultaneously. This means a Quad-Core processor should multitask better than a Dual-Core processor assuming the cores have similar performance speeds.

Clock Speed

Traditionally measured in MHz (megahertz) or GHz (gigahertz), clock speed is the measurement unit for the speed of a processor. Simply put, the higher the clock speed on a processor, the faster it can process information and execute commands. Clock speed and CPU cores are both important factors to consider when purchasing a CPU.

Overclocking

Overclocking refers to the act of manually increasing the clock speed on a processor. Although processors are designed to function at a specific clock speed from the factory, many users are actually able to achieve much higher performance speeds with careful tuning and ample CPU cooling. Overclocking is achieved by modifying values in the motherboard BIOS.

Hyper-Threading

Intel’s “Hyper-Threading” is a proprietary technology that allows Intel processors to utilize their resources more efficiently. It allows multiple threads to run on each processor core, effectively increasing multitasking ability and overall performance. This technology is what allows a Dual-Core Intel processor to compete effectively with an AMD processor that has more cores.

Microarchitectures

A microarchitecture is a specific group of CPUs. Intel and AMD use microarchitecture code names to categorize their CPUs into special groups based on integrated technologies and generational gaps. Some of the more recent code names include: Skylake, Broadwell, Haswell, Bulldozer and Piledriver.

Thanks for reading part 2 of our PCDIY glossary!

Please be sure to let us know if we missed any CPU terms you’d love some simple explanation of. Otherwise, check back soon for our next glossary piece on motherboard terms which will also help expand your knowledge on CPUs.

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