Posted on: 20 July 2015
When building a computer or requesting a custom build, you may be bombarded with many brand suggestions from skilled technicians, hobbyists and brand loyalists at all levels. Some people know what works for them, while others may despise a brand because it failed them. Many people may simply subscribe to tribe mentality and stand behind their brand for no other reason than something to be a part of. To wade through the nonsense and understand what really matters inside your custom rig, take the time to understand a bit of computer design and processor selection philosophy.
Processor Selection Is About Theory
The processor is responsible for all of the complex calculations that allow your computer to operate. Every move of the mouse, key stroke, running application or beautiful display of graphics is a set of calculations managed by algorithms.
An algorithm is a set of mathematical rules. This is the same for mathematics in general and specific computer purposes. Almost every computer component--not just the processor--has a set of algorithms that determine how data is handled.
Different computer component companies have different algorithms, and are in competition with each other to make better algorithms. It isn't just about making the best algorithm to calculate things in the fastest way; the longer or more complex the algorithm, the more storage space used on the processor.
You could have an excellent algorithm that does many great things, but if it's too big, it's just like downloading a big file. It takes time to download the instructions from one part to the other, which could defeat the purpose of being a faster calculation. There's a balance, and processor companies are in constant research to maintain that balance while discovering new levels of advancement.
Even though computers are logical machines, these algorithms are still made by humans and susceptible to flaws. Every single processor could have been developed by different teams within the same company, which has resulted in some processors being faulty or difficult with certain programs. It is possible for a modern processor to be "bad" to the point of driving away potential customers, which creates some brand strife.
Avoid Brand Loyalty And Seek The Raw Stats
In a world that allows refunds to be processed easily and replacements to be sent quickly (in theory, since shipping mistakes can happen), there's no reason not to shop around for pure performance. Search for the stats (statistics), not the just the name.
For processors, there are a few stats that matter. The clock speed is measured in Gigahertz (GHz), with higher clock numbers meaning faster calculations. There is a balance to this selection, as faster processors mean more heat generation, which means the need for better cooling fans or other cooling options. That said, as new applications are made, you may have no choice but to go to the higher speeds.
Cores are another stat to watch out for. Instead of having multiple physical processors, the core calculating component of multiple processors can be located within one device. The speed increase isn't additive; having a quad (4) core 3.0GHz processor doesn't mean you're working with 12GHz. It means that the multiple cores share the burden in a process called load balancing.
A single program won't sap the entire processing power of the system. Instead, the available speed steps down at a slower rate, allowing multiple programs to run near full speed. For example, a program on a single core processor could take 80% of the processing power. With 4 cores, that 80% can be split into 20% for each core, allowing other programs to run at decent speeds. The calculation isn't at those exact rates, and is different for every manufacturer.
Contact an IT support professional for recommendations, and shop with an open mind to hopefully find a good balance of cost and performance.Share