Processing Power: How important is it?
The processor is a vital component in every PC and laptop – if you don't have one, your device just won't work.
It pays to give some thought to the processor you choose, too, because a poor chip will hinder every single aspect of your machine, while a high-quality chip could take your gaming, work and daily computing to the next level.
We've got a guide to the nuts and bolts of these crucial components, but that's not all. We've chosen our favourites from Intel's new Kaby Lake range to suit every budget and a whole range of computing tasks, from gaming to graphic design, and we've also explained how the Overclockers UK touch can result in faster, safer and better PCs.
Processors work by interpreting instructions from the operating system, accessing programmes, moving data between different components and managing memory – they co-ordinate the rest of the machine, and so anything that improves their decision-making is vital.
It's useful to know exactly how processors work on an electronic level, but that knowledge won't necessarily inform a buying decision. For that, you'll have to understand the key concepts behind every processor on the market.
Clock speed is crucial. This term refers to the number of electronic pulses per second that a processor can handle, and it’s measured in GHz – or billions of pulses per second. The higher this number, the most pulses can be completed, which means tasks are finished faster.
Look for a high clock speed when buying, and be aware of the boosting features included on modern processors. It's called Turbo Boost on Intel chips and Turbo Core on AMD silicon, and it functions the same way: a processor will dynamically overclock its cores if there's thermal headroom in order to provide a temporary performance boost. Chips can deliver small boosts across multiple cores or higher boosts on single cores, but the levels will be different from chip to chip.
The Core Issue:
Clock speed is important, but so are cores. Every processor is divided into these smaller processing units, with each capable of handling one computing tasks at a time. Cheaper processors will have two cores, for instance, while mid-range and pricier mainstream parts will have four. Some of Intel and AMD's top workstation chips have eight, or even ten.
As a rule of thumb, it's better to have more cores, especially if you're going to be running multiple applications. If that's the case, check that your chip supports Hyper-Threading – a concept where each core can actually run two concurrent tasks. AMD and Intel's top chips have this, and it means a four-core processor can handle eight instructions at once.
That said, people building general-purpose desktops or gaming PCs usually don’t need more than four cores – anything beyond this will be a waste.
The Current Market:
The processor market is dominated by one name right now: Kaby Lake. This is Intel's latest range of chips, and it develops last year's Skylake architecture in several important ways.
Kaby Lake is the first time we've seen a chip in the third phase of Intel's new processing roadmap. The new system goes Process, Architecture, Optimisation, which means that Kaby Lake takes last year's Skylake silicon and makes it even better.
The Kaby Lake range uses an enhanced version of the 14nm process which delivers more efficient transistors across the whole design, so the new chips deliver prolonged performance while producing less heat and electricity. There's a new media engine for handling 4K video with more aplomb, and clock speed changes are now faster – so Intel's CPUs have more granular control over speeds and task handling.
The Kaby Lake range covers a huge selection of prices, and we've picked out some of our favourites here.
One of the most exciting Kaby Lake chips is also one of the cheapest: the £169.99 Core i3-7350K. This part might be from a lower-end range, but it still has two cores clocked to 4.2GHz – and, crucially, it has that K suffix. That means the chip has an unlocked multiplier, which means it can be overclocked. That's a departure from Intel's previous form with low-end chips, and it makes the Core i3-7350K a tempting choice for budget gaming rigs.
There's a lot to like in the Core i5 range, too. The new £239.99 Core i5-7600K is a barnstorming mid-range chip with a fearsome specification: four cores with a 3.8GHz stock speed, and a Turbo peak of 4.2GHz. It’s also unlocked, so it can be overclocked – perhaps to 5GHz and beyond.
That Core i3 chip is a top-notch and affordable overclocker, and the Core i5 part is the perfect mid-range CPU – but there’s only one chip to buy if you’re building a high-end machine. The Core i7-7700K may cost a cool £359.99, but it justifies its price with an unlocked multiplier, 4.2GHz stock speed and quad-core Hyper-Threaded design. It’s a beast, and perfect for games and multi-tasking.
Kaby Lake’s Impact:
Kaby Lake is an evolution of existing Intel technology rather than something revolutionary and new, so it’s no surprise that the accompanying technology follows suit.
The new CPUs also mean a load of new chipsets and motherboards. The top chipset from the new range is Z270, and it introduces a couple of headline concepts that’ll improve your PC’s performance. For starters, there are 24 PCI-Express 3.0 lanes now – four more than Z170 included. That means more bandwidth for graphics and NVMe storage.
The Z270 chipset includes support for Intel’s forthcoming Optane memory, and there’s support for faster DDR4 too.
In other areas, Z270 maintains its support for a huge number of USB ports, SATA connectors and SATA Express sockets, and Z270 remains the only new chipset to support overclocking, and the best option for multi-GPU rigs.
Elsewhere there are other new chipsets, like H270 and B250. These are absolutely fine for normal gaming and consumer rigs, although they’re no good for high-end overclocked machines or multi-GPU systems.
The chipset changes mean we’re already seeing better motherboards hit the market. Most high-end and mid-range ATX boards are arriving with two M.2 connectors included, and some have future-proofed U.2 sockets. More USB 3 ports and fewer USB 2 sockets are now commonplace, and there’s even more RGB lighting on show.
The Overclockers UK Touch:
Kaby Lake processors are impressive – and Overclockers UK makes these new chips even better. We’re the only company in the world that’s selling binned versions of Intel’s new Core i7-7700K.
It’s a complex process that guarantees incredible performance. We pick the fastest chips from our entire batch, and then de-lid the processor to remove Intel’s thermal paste and replace it with a high-quality Liquid Metal version.
That means there’s a huge amount of headroom in each of these chips, and that means we can sell each one with a guaranteed overclock to 5GHz or more – and with a full one-year warranty.
It’s an incredible deal if you want to achieve world-class CPU performance without the risk and hassle of de-lidding and tweaking your own chip, and this version of the Core i7-7700K costs a tempting £449.99 – so click here if you’re interested.
We also have a huge range of pre-overclocked bundles – another ideal option to remove the headaches and hassle of building and tweaking your own rigs.
These Kaby Lake packs all use the Core i5-7600K or Core i7-7700K with chips overclocked at our facility to 4.5GHz or 5GHz, and they’re all sold as a set – so you get a top-notch motherboard, a stunning cooler and premium memory, too.
Our bundles start at £483.94 and range all the way up to £1,436.82, which means there’s a huge amount of choice – from mid-range rigs with air-cooling right up to huge water-cooled rigs. They’re all covered by our extensive warranty, and have all been tested to ensure that the components work together.
Intel’s latest range of processors doesn’t change the world, but Kaby Lake gets plenty right: it gives a healthy performance boost in games and applications, it’s impressively efficient, and the new range has more scope for overclocking than an Intel series has had for years.
We’ve got the entire set of CPUs in stock at Overclockers UK, but that’s not all – our selection of binned CPUs and overclocked bundles can get the job done, whether you’re looking to break benchmarking records or build a new rig with the minimum of hassle.
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