The computer helper: Processors for Vista
By Jay Dougherty Feb 12, 2007, 8:54 GMT
Washington - With Windows Vista widely available, computer upgrades are on more people's minds. And the first question that usually arises when computer users go shopping for upgrades is, 'which processor should I get?' Today, the choices are plentiful - and, thanks the transition away from single-core processors to dual- core chips, often confusing. Here are some answers to help.
Q: I'm looking at a new computer to run Windows Vista. I thought that Intel's Pentium D processors were dual core. What's the difference between those and the newer Core Duo chips?
A: The Pentium D chip succeeded Intel's venerable Pentium 4 line. Pentium D was the first dual-core design for desktop computers. It's still available and is the most cost-effective choice is you want to go for a dual core system and your current computer will accept the upgrade. The Pentium D chip uses a 'socket 775' connection to the motherboard, and only more recent Pentium 4 chips used this socket. Few manufacturers are building systems around the Pentium D any longer because the chip is on its way out.
The Core 2 Duo is a newer desktop implementation of the technology that went into Pentium D. The Core 2 Duo chips are more energy- efficient and generate less heat. They also perform better than Pentium D processors. They're more expensive, as you might expect, but there are a range of Core 2 Duo processors available to meet just about any budget. This is the processor you're likely to find in cutting-edge desktop computers today.
There's some understandable confusion surrounding the difference between the Intel Core Duo and Core 2 Duo chips. Core Duo chips are designed for notebook computers, while Core 2 Duo chips are for desktops. Both, as the names imply, are dual-core designs. Each uses a different connection to the motherboard, however, so they are not interchangeable.
Q: Which is faster, a Pentium 4 running at 3.2 GHz or a Core Duo at 2.6?
A: Intel has de-emphasised gigahertz ratings in its advertising for a good reason. While each core of today's dual-core chips runs at a slower clock speed (gigahertz) than the Pentium 4 chips of yesterday, which ran up to 3.4 and 3.6 gigahertz, the dual core chips outperform older Pentium 4 chips of any kind by a handy margin.
In fact, most users report a noticeable improvement in system performance from even the lowest-level dual core chip when compared to even the fastest of the single core processors.
Q: Are AMD dual-core processors better or worse than Intel's?
A: These two chip makers are always trying to outdo one another. That's good for consumers - but also a bit confusing if you're out to get the most processor power for your money.
Currently, Intel's Core Duo and Core 2 Duo chips outdo any comparable dual-core notebook or desktop processors from AMD. The AMD Athlon 64 X2 is the processor most comparable to Intel's offerings, and in virtually every head-to-head competition, Intel's processors have outdone AMD's.
But where AMD may have an advantage is in price. The Athlon 64 X2 chips are priced lower than Intel's chips, and these lower costs are typically reflected in overall lower system cost. What's more, although Intel's chips outdo AMD's in benchmarks, the real-world performance differences may be much less meaningful to folks who simply need to surf the Internet, work on office projects, and play the occasional computer game. Chips from both companies will suffice.
Q: Do I need a dual-core chip to Windows Vista?
A: No. Just about any Pentium 4 chip of recent vintage will run Vista just fine. More important than the processor will be whether your graphics card has at least 64 megabytes (MB) of RAM and whether your PC has at least a gigabyte of system memory. Concentrate on these upgrades before you look at getting a new processor or even a new PC.
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