CHAPTER 5 CPUs
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CPU clock speeds hit a practical limit of roughly 4 GHz around the years 2002 2003, motivating the CPU makers to find new ways to get more processing power for CPUs Although Intel and AMD had different opinions about 64-bit CPUs, both decided at virtually the same time to combine two CPUs into a single chip, creating a dual-core architecture (Figure 57) Dual core isn t just two CPUs on the same chip A dual-core CPU has two execution units two sets of pipelines but the two sets of pipelines share caches (how they share caches differs between Intel and AMD) and RAM Both AMD and Intel also produce multicore CPUs of four or eight cores on a single chip Now that s firepower!
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What makes a dual-core CPU better than a hyper-threaded CPU The hyperthreaded Pentium 4 shares a single ALU but splits out the FPU for multiple threads If two processes both need the ALU, then the hyper-threading doesn t do much A dual-core CPU has two distinct processors and could handle multiple processes more efficiently
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The inside of a laptop PC is a cramped, hot environment, where no selfrespecting CPU should ever need to operate Since the mid-1980s, CPU manufacturers have endeavored to make specialized versions of their processors to function in the rugged world of laptops These are called mobile processors Over the years, a number of CPU laptop solutions have appeared Virtually every CPU made by Intel or AMD has come in a mobile version You can usually tell a mobile version by the word mobile or the letter M in its name Here are a few examples:
Mobile Intel Pentium III Intel Pentium M Mobile AMD Athlon 64 AMD Turion 64 (All Turions are mobile processors but don t use mobile or M in their name AMD usually adds mobile technology as part of the Turion description) Intel Core Duo (a dual-core CPU)
A mobile processor uses less power than an equivalent desktop model This provides two advantages First, it enables the battery in the laptop to last longer Second, it makes the CPU run cooler, and the cooler the CPU, the fewer cooling devices you need Almost every mobile processor today runs at a lower voltage than the desktop version of the same CPU As a result, most mobile CPUs also run at lower speeds it takes juice if you want the speed! Mobile CPUs usually top out at about 75 percent of the speed of the same CPU s desktop version
Modern CPUs have the capability to reduce their processing cycles and lower their clock speeds when they reach a certain temperature; this feature is called throttling This is incredibly important with mobile processors because the heat dissipation method for portable PCs is wimpy compared with that of desktop PCs It s also essential when you have a catastrophic fan failure either through
CHAPTER 5 CPUs
animal hair gunking up the works or technician error when installing a fan Rather than overheating and destroying the CPU and most likely the motherboard (the way it worked in the old days), modern CPUs simply throttle down to the point where they can survive You ll recognize serious throttling by the amazingly slow response times when trying to do anything on the PC
Recommending a CPU
The CPU that s right for a specific situation depends entirely on the computing needs of your client For a workstation that does primarily documents, e-mail, and the Web, any modern processor will do In fact, slapping in the latest dual-core, 64-bit CPU isn t going to provide much of a different experience at all from its single-core, 32-bit little brother running the same low-end applications Save your clients some money and recommend a lower-end CPU in such a situation Where you see the great benefits of high-end processors is in 3-D modeling programs, high-end photograph and video editing, and 3-D games Plus you provide a bit of future-proofing for the client, so he or she can upgrade software but not have to worry about hardware for a few years Aside from raw computing power providing a little burst, though, few applications take full advantage of multicore CPUs, so ask your clients what kind of applications they use and then do some research online at the application-makers Web sites If the applications kick into overdrive on multicore CPUs, then recommend them