Your Guide to Intel Computer Processors

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Your Guide to Intel Computer Processors

A computer processor is the component that most influences the speed at which the machine operates. Many computer enthusiasts list Intel as one of the top brands. The various models differ in terms of the number of cores, cache size, and capabilities. Which you need ultimately depends on budget and computing needs.

Number of Cores

The number of cores a processor has determines the amount of power it uses, and the speed it completes computer functions. More cores means less power consumption at faster speeds. The Intel i3 is a dual-core processor, and the i5, and i7 are quad-core processors. Their multi-core feature makes them most suitable for computer users that run multiple applications at once. The Intel Celeron and Pentium are single-core processors that are best for basic computer users that surf the web, send emails, and create word-processing documents.

Cache Size

When you open the same documents and use applications over and over again, the processor takes notice. It then saves the frequently accessed data to its cache, as it is much faster for the computer to retrieve it from the cache than the hard drive. The Intel i7 processor has an 8 MB cache, which is the largest of all Intel processors. The i5 has a 6 MB cache, and the i3 has a 3 MB or 4 MB cache, depending on specific model. The cache size of lower-end processors like the Intel Pentium or Celeron ranges from 512 KB to 3 MB. Fast action video games often perform best with processors that have a large cache size.


Hyper-threading technology—available on most 4th generation Intel processors—essentially doubles the power of each core. In order for you to get the full benefits of hyper-threading, you must have a processor, chipset, and operating system that support the technology. In the past, one core was only able to send one thread of data. This meant it could only run one application at a time. A fully enabled hyper-threading set up is a cost-effective way to double the computing power of each core in machine.

Clock Speed

Intel CPUs come with a preset clock speed measure in gigahertz (GHz), which indicates the speed and performance of the computer. A high clock speed means each core can handle a bigger workload without any noticeable slowdown in performance. High-end processors like the i5 and i7 have clock speeds that range from 3 to 3.9 GHz, while lower end processors like the Pentium and Celeron have clock speeds that range from 1.6 to 3.3 GHz.
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