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CPU: The Heart of Your System Build
A CPU (short for central processing unit) forms the core of your gaming PC and workstation, and makes up the electronic circuitry that implements any instructions sent by a computer program. A CPU does this by conducting the basic operations-arithmetic, control, input/output (I/O), and logical-as outlined in the instructions. The more your system demands, the more your CPU needs to perform in order to process all the complex information required to run your applications and manage your components smoothly.
Learn more about your system’s CPU-and discover the great range of processors available in our online store-with Overclockers UK, the leading marketplace for PC enthusiasts in the UK. And once you’re happy with your choice of CPU, why not check out our great range of CPU accessories, including CPU coolers, heatsinks, fans, thermal assembly paste, and much more.
Different CPUs for Different Processing Needs
Intel and AMD are the two major producers of CPUs currently available. Generally speaking, CPUs come under three categories:
Low power CPU: A low power CPU doesn’t possess the processing capabilities to handle much more than light requests. For example, the demands of word processing or surfing the internet. As such, overclockers tend not to use this kind of CPU for gaming, video editing, or operating multiple applications at once. A low power CPU is favoured, however, for its low power consumption and low heat output compared to more powerful processor units. This makes them ideal for use in smaller systems such as tablet devices or netbooks, as they usually require a long battery life and do not offer the space to house a CPU heatsink.
Desktop CPU: Desktop CPUs comprise the biggest selection of CPUs on the market. Within this category, you can find a huge range of processing power and performance to meet your requirements. Desktop CPUs are mostly used in mid-level to high-end laptops, desktop computers and tablet devices which offer more speed and power than their slower counterparts. As such, they can produce a much higher heat output, and boast multiple processor cores and perform at a much higher speed. This means that, generally, desktop CPUs demand a form of active cooling, such as a heatsink or fan, for example.
Server CPU: A server CPU is the preferred choice for users who need consistency and reliability as opposed to performance. This kind of CPU has to pass a stringent and demanding stress test during the production process in order for the manufacturer to guarantee that it will be able to perform as expected in any situation. A server CPU is intended to process more data more often than a desktop CPU; as a result it is able to correct memory errors that could impact the system stability. The increased amount of data that is transferred via a server CPU leads to a very high heat output-meaning cooling is of paramount importance for overclockers or anyone else working with this kind of CPU.
Recognising and Enhancing Performance in a CPU
A central processing unit’s performance or speed is measured according to several attributes, with two of the most important being: the clock rate (usually recorded in hertz), and the instructions per clock (IPC). These two attributes form the instructions per second (IPS) that a CPU is able to process. A computer’s processing speed is improved with multi-core processors-this refers to connecting two or more processors into a single integrated circuit. A dual core processor should, in theory, provide twice as much power as a single core processor, however, the actual performance gain is only around 50%. This is down to the less than perfect nature of the software algorithms and implementation. Adding more cores in a processor improves the workload that a CPU can manage. Once this addition has been carried out, a processor will be able to manage multiple asynchronous events, interrupts, and so on, that can have an adverse effect on a CPU when it is under pressure. Occasionally, the additional cores will take care of the same task being handled by a neighbouring core if an individual core cannot process the amount of information being sent.
Computer central processing units are usually overclocked by tweaking the CPU multiplier; a processor and other components are also able to be overclocked by improving the base speed of the bus clock. There are a few systems where it is possible to carry out additional tweaking of other clocks, for example, a system clock, that affect the speed of the bus clock. Again, this speed is multiplied by the processor to enable small adjustments of the final processor speed.
If you’re looking to upgrade your CPU via overclocking, here are two things to keep in mind:
Cooling: Every time you raise your chip voltage you also increase your power consumption, this significantly increases the amount of heat output from your system. Even if you already have a strong cooling system installed, you will likely need to improve it each time your heat output goes up, otherwise you run the risk of overheating your hardware and other components and causing them to breakdown or become damaged. Common methods of cooling your workstation and overclocked CPU include:
- Water cooling systems which redirect waste heat to a radiator
- Thermoelectric cooling devices-these are particularly good for TDP processors manufactured by Intel and AMD at the turn of the 21st century
- Phase transition, which adopts the cooling system used in refrigerators
- Liquid nitrogen, liquid helium and dry ice; however these are only used in extreme situations and not in common, everyday use.
CPU locking by manufacturers: This refers to the act of permanently setting the clock multiplier of a CPU. Early editions of AMD CPU models are unlocked, but locked in more recent editions. Virtually all CPUs manufactured by Intel are locked, and the latest models are highly resistant to unlocking. This move was intended to deter overclockers from working with Intel processors.
Whatever CPU upgrade you’re looking to create for yourself, explore the fantastic range of components and accessories on offer at Overclockers UK-you’ll find great products, tips, and a thriving, helpful community to ensure you build the workstation you want.