Processor confusion: Which chip is for you?
By Jay Dougherty Dec 5, 2006, 11:45 GMT
Washington - Go shopping for a desktop or notebook computer today, and you're likely to be confused by the multitude of processors available. Gone are the days when your choice was between an Intel Pentium 4 and a competing model from AMD. Now you're faced with a range of chips with 'duo,' 'solo,' X2, and 'D' in their names - and clock speeds, once a reliable indicator of how fast a processor was in relation to other processors - are hard to decipher.
Never fear. A shorthand course in the processors available today will make at least this part of the computer buying experience a bit easier.
--- Intel Core 2 Duo
This is Intel's hottest new processor for mainstream desktop and notebook computers. The chip features a native dual-core design, meaning that you essentially get two processors in one chip. Unlike earlier implementations of the 'dual core' concept, however, the Core 2 Duo is not two processors cores stuck together. Rather, the design natively incorporates the brains of two processors using a new manufacturing process. The chips come with onboard cache memory - which speeds operations - of from 2 to 4 megabytes (MB). Core 2 Duo chips are well-suited to power users and anyone who routinely multitasks processor-intensive applications, including burning DVDs and working with graphics-intensive games or applications.
--- Intel Core Solo
Intel's Core Solo chips have but one core rather than two. In other words, they're like the chips of old. They're 32-bit processors that are intended to be used widely in laptop computers, which have an emphasis on cool operation and low cost. The emphasis with this chip is as much on low power consumption as performance, although performance is not shabby when compared with processors of even last year. Clock speeds range from 1.06 gigahertz (GHz) to 1.83 GHz, although gigahertz ratings are played down. There's an ultra low-powered version of the chip as well, intended for notebooks designed to run for many hours on a single battery charge.
--- Intel Pentium D
Pentium D processors represent the first Intel chips that implemented the 'dual core' concept. The chips include two full processing cores, tend to run hot, and are likely to be replaced quickly in the market by the newer Core 2 chips.
--- Intel Xeon (EMT64T)
Xeon has traditionally been Intel's high-end processor intended for server computer that must meet high load demands. Xeon processors are frequently run in configurations that feature more than one processor per computer. The Xeon EMT64T chips are the first natively dual-core Xeon design. They boast a new memory architecture, require 80 watts of power per processor, and have 4 megabytes of cache memory on the chip. These chips are still designed and intended for the server market. Low power consumption is not a consideration.
--- Intel Dual-Core Itanium 2
Like the Xeon, the Dual-Core Itanium 2 is a high-end chip designed for server computers, but it does not run traditional 32-bit applications. Instead, it's designed for cutting-edge 64-bit computing environments. Some versions of Windows are available in 64-bit implementations. The processors come with huge amounts of onboard cache - from 6 MB to 24 MB. Power consumption is high as well, however, at 104 watts per chip.
--- AMD Sempron
This is the low-end of AMD's processor line. Older Semprons were 32-bit compatible only, but newer ones are both 32-bit and 64-bit compatible. The Sempron has less cache memory - which can have a big effect on performance - than the higher-end Athlon 64 chip, but it runs cooler.
--- AMD Opteron
This was the first processor to bring 64-bit processing to the mainstream. These chips are now offered in speeds ranging from 1.86 GHz to 2.6 GHz. Dual-core versions of this chip were released in mid 2005.
--- AMD Athlon 64 X2
The 'X2' in AMD parlance stands for a dual-core design. The Athlon 64 X2 is AMD's first dual-core chip designed for desktop computers. Available in speeds ranging from 2 GHz to 2.6 GHz, the chip has two types of onboard cache RAM. Not built for low power consumption, the chip consumes anywhere from 35 to 89 watts, depending upon the specific model.
--- AMD Turion 64 X2
The Turion 64 X2 is AMD's dual-core chip designed for notebook computers. A 64-bit processor, it's capable of running 64-bit versions of applications, including the iterations of 64-bit Windows, as well as conventional 32-bit programs. It's a power miser and comes in models ranging from 1.6 GHz to 2.2 GHz.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur