Basics of a PC -- The CPU

Hey guys, finally started on my promised article about the basics of the parts of a computer. However I'm not completely sure what audience I'm going for at this point. I wrote up a basic rough draft on the CPU and what you need to know. However any suggestions, criticism, clarifications, and additions would be greatly appreciated for fixing this one up, and future posts on other parts of the PC. Without further ado....

CPU--Central Processing Unit. The CPU is the main hub of a computer offering out of order processing. It is what runs, pulls up and computes just about everything that goes on within the computer. This includes pulling up a browser, accessing the songs within your media player, to many various parts of video games; Such as computing physics, running AI, to various small tasks that don’t fit the sequential ordering of the GPU. Intel and AMD are the two major players.

Need to know terms:

--Instruction Set: A very complex set of processes that go on in a computer. While it used to run on x86 with the move to 64-bit OS’s a CPU must have a x86-64 instruction set to work on such an OS(however almost all CPUs now offer this feature).

--Frequency: Often see somewhere between 1-4Ghz, used to describe the speed (or clock rate) at which it runs it’s instruction set. However it may compare, it’s speed does not equal comparative performance across chipsets (each new generation usually has a new architecture design aimed to be more efficient), or companies, as it simply signifies the speed limit at which the chipset operates.

--Overclocking is one way in which to increase the frequency of the chip to increase performance.

--System Cache: There are usually different levels of memory to store frequently used processes. Generally speaking more cache, the better.

--Cores: This designation has gotten a little more fuzzy of the past few years, but superficially the ‘core’ is a largely complete CPU, added together multiple cores make up the modern day CPU, they can be used asynchronously, or used together for multithreaded workloads. Over the past few years however both major players have added confusing terms that have started to change how one can see a core.

--AMD’s Module: Is in essence two half cores that utilize the same scheduler and part of the computing. While works well for multithreaded workloads, overall it comes up that each core of the module averages to about 3/4s of a core. In single threaded workloads it often is inefficient.

--Intel’s Hyper-Threading: Often counted as one physical core, and one virtual core. The virtual core must compete with the physical core for all of the CPUs resources. Very few applications really take advantage of Hyper-Threading, and more often than not it makes little significant impact on processes.

--Manufacturing fabrication: This if designated in nanometers, shrinking this down often makes the chip run on less energy and can make it easier to increase the frequency. While often not important on a desktop computer, this is greatly important on portable devices where less energy is useful in prolonging the battery life.