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I have been wondering about this for a long while now and was hoping someone here could answer it pretty easily. If I was looking for the most powerful CPU what should I really be looking at? There are so many different parameters of a CPU and I am wanting to know what each thing does and what really matters. Basically this: What is the deal with cores? If I take using optimized applications out of the mix would it theoretically better to get quad core 1.0GHz CPU or a 1 core 4 GHz CPU? Also, what is the difference between maybe an Sandy Bridge CPU versus an Ivy Bridge CPU? If they both were had the same clock speed and number of cores would the Ivy Bridge perform better? Does an older Xeon with an equal clock speed and number of cores to a new i7 really perform worse/slower? Does size matter? Why would I go with a 22nm CPU over a 32nm when the size difference is so trivial? What about the cache? When does the cache come into play with performance?

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closed as not constructive by Xavierjazz, Journeyman Geek, studiohack Sep 22 '12 at 2:09

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
What makes a good car? –  David Schwartz Sep 22 '12 at 2:42
    
Im sorry that this question felt like it deserved a sarcastic answer to you. I realize that what I am asking may be as broad of a question as that but that is exactly what I want to know. I was looking for a broad generalization of the benefits of different parts of a CPU. I was not looking for an opinion or detailed explanation of what defines a good CPU but rather a broad look into main components. I really just wanted to know if an older CPU with equal cores and clock speed to a new one would perform better or worse. –  Zizma Sep 22 '12 at 3:22
    
Much worse, of course. Otherwise, what would be the point of CPU innovation? We'd just keep increasing clock speeds and adding cores. –  David Schwartz Sep 22 '12 at 8:15
    
Exactly. Thats really what I wanted to know. Thank you. –  Zizma Sep 22 '12 at 14:59
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1 Answer 1

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Without a good understanding of underlying CPU technologies and the applications that use them, it is unfortunately non-trivial to compare two processors from different lines or determine a 'most powerful' CPU.

Why would I go with a 22nm CPU over a 32nm when the size difference is so trivial?

It is hardly trivial in percentage terms; as that is a 1/3rd reduction. The smaller size means that:

  • more complex circuitry can fit on the same die size
  • less heat generation, which allows usage of smaller heat sinks or more overclocking
  • the 22nm one is likely newer, and has other architectural improvements integrated as well

What is the deal with cores? If I take using optimized applications out of the mix would it theoretically better to get quad core 1.0GHz CPU or a 1 core 4 GHz CPU?

Multiple cores allows the system to run more than 1 application without having to context switch, it can also help with overall responsiveness as your foreground application doesn't starve the OS of CPU resources.

Most typical computer applications don't max out each core, so more of them will improve performance. Conversely, in some cases like games which make heavy use of a single core but aren't optimized for multiple cores, the performance is better with higher clock speed per core.

If they both were had the same clock speed and number of cores [... which does better?]

As a rule of thumb, the newer one should do better as it has the latest architectural improvements (better pipeline prediction, lower branching penalty etc.) integrated.

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Thanks for seeing the relevance of this question. This was exactly what I was looking for, you really cleared up some questions I have had for a long time now. Im sorry that others may have interpreted it differently (hence the closing of it). Maybe I didnt explain it in a good manner. I apologize. –  Zizma Sep 22 '12 at 3:24
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It's not you, at least mostly. Some people around here tend to be close happy, delete happy, edit happy, alteration demanding, etc. I wouldn't mind it if there were a way to set it so that I never saw closed questions in the first place, but when I asked for that, of course that wasn't possible. It's the one negative in what is otherwise an AWESOME collection of web sites. –  Mark Allen Sep 22 '12 at 4:32
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