Questions on processors

Discussion of all forms of processors, from AMD to Intel to VIA.

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Questions on processors

Postposted on Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:15 am

Hello all,

i wanted to post a few questions on here about CPUs.

1. what is processor stepping?

2. what is the big difference between core 2 duo/quad and the new i7 line?

3. are there better technologies in i7?

4. what about 45nm and 65 nm and 22nm? what so great about getting a smaller .... is it die or chip? but what so great about making whatever it is smaller?

5.what is the anatomy of a chip? what makes the thing better or faster? what are dies chips and cores?

I know the basic answers to all these questions but I don't understand the benefits of them and I am very confused right now so please help?!

Thanks!!!
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Re: Questions on processors

Postposted on Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:15 am

inscrieredirectoare wrote:Hello all,

i wanted to post a few questions on here about CPUs.

1. what is processor stepping?

It indicates different minor revisions of a CPU design.

inscrieredirectoare wrote:2. what is the big difference between core 2 duo/quad and the new i7 line?

From the end user's perspective i7 provides better performance and/or lower power consumption.

inscrieredirectoare wrote:3. are there better technologies in i7?

Yes. With each major revision new technologies and/or additional processor instructions are typically introduced. The new technologies improve raw performance, and the new instructions give developers more efficient ways of writing certain types of code.

inscrieredirectoare wrote:4. what about 45nm and 65 nm and 22nm? what so great about getting a smaller .... is it die or chip? but what so great about making whatever it is smaller?

The nm (nanometer) spec refers to the process size of the smallest "features" (think "wires") on the chip. Chips based on smaller process size can usually run faster or use less power while providing similar performance to chips based on larger process size.

"Die" and "chip" are generally synonymous; they refer to the piece of silicon that is inside the CPU package. The overall size of the chips in modern CPUs actually hasn't changed much over the years; as the process size shrinks, designers add more components (additional cores, more cache, etc.) to the chip to improve performance.

inscrieredirectoare wrote:5.what is the anatomy of a chip? what makes the thing better or faster? what are dies chips and cores?

What makes a chip better/faster is a very complicated question, too involved to answer in detail in a forum post. But it is a combination of clever design, good manufacturing, a solid platform to build the systems on (i.e. good motherboard chipsets), and convincing developers to use new instructions when there's a new major revision of the CPU.

For most modern CPUs the main limiting factor ends up being heat - the faster the chip runs, the more power it uses, and the more heat it produces. 125W to 150W seems to be about the limit of what a desktop system can deal with without resorting to extreme measures (e.g. really large/heavy heatsinks or liquid cooling).

"Die" and "chip" I explained above.

A "core" is a section of the CPU that can execute a single task. The number of cores determines the number of things you can have running simultaneously without bogging any of them down. So on a 2-core CPU, if you have 3 programs running at the same time things will start to slow down, but on a 3- or more core CPU they will all run at full speed. This is really a gross over-simplification as there are many other factors that come into play (contention for I/O resources or memory bandwidth, multi-threaded apps that use more than one core, etc.), but that should give you a general idea.

inscrieredirectoare wrote:I know the basic answers to all these questions but I don't understand the benefits of them and I am very confused right now so please help?!

You could start browsing the CPU articles on Wikipedia for starters... and ask more questions in this thread when things don't make sense.
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Re: Questions on processors

Postposted on Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:28 am

What JBI said:)
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Re: Questions on processors

Postposted on Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:21 am

Many of the differences between current and older chips depend on what you want to do with them, too.

Certain features (like Quicksync) only apply to specific tasks, whilst other features (like Turbo-boost) apply to a multitude of tasks.

I can appreciate that you are curious to know more about the underlying technology, but sometimes the theoretical features that would make a certain processor "ideal" end up being outweighed by simpler factors such as price/performance, or poor software support for those features.

If you tell us what you want to be doing (eg gaming, virtual machines, video editing, media centre) the TR gerbils can usually do a tidy job of recommending a best fit (and in this case, WHY they think it's the best fit for you)
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Re: Questions on processors

Postposted on Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:56 am

For difference in performance when used for gaming, check this out:
http://techreport.com/review/23246/insi ... today-cpus
http://en.inpai.com.cn/doc/enshowcont.a ... ageid=8147

Some CPUs, though not the best, are just good enough and you don't need to invest more. But as said it depends for what applications you will use them. If it's not for gaming the performance/price changes again.

If your questions are more educational than practical (i.e. for a CPU upgrade) then wikipedia or other specialized sites should be more helpfull in providing the right answers. Frankly i never delve too deep into the technical stuff as an average consumer.
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Re: Questions on processors

Postposted on Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:41 am

JBI definitely has the best post to cover all or most of your questions, but I'll try to add a little bit...

inscrieredirectoare wrote:2. what is the big difference between core 2 duo/quad and the new i7 line?
3. are there better technologies in i7?
This seems a bit older, but the primary difference you will see from the Core 2 era is the addition of the memory controller on the chip (and other stuff, but that was the biggest change going to Core i7 gen1). Basically, talking to various devices on the computer (system) requires special chips or on-chip devices. In the Core 2 line, the CPU had to talk to the memory controller in order to get data to and from the memory. This limited memory performance to the speed at which you could transfer to and from the controller. The first Core i7 CPUs had the memory controller right there on the chip, allowing the CPU to talk directly to the memory, greatly improving memory performance and even allowing for faster RAM clock speeds.

4. what about 45nm and 65 nm and 22nm? what so great about getting a smaller .... is it die or chip? but what so great about making whatever it is smaller?
JBI did explain this, but those sizes also influence transistor size. Bigger transistors generate more heat because more electricity flows through them. Clocking the chip at a higher speed also results in more flowing electricity and therefore more heat. So shrinking the process means that you can achieve higher speeds. And, of course, electricity actually has to flow in order for the CPU to work, so shrinking distances also improves speed because electricity doesn't have to travel as far.
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