The central processing unit, or CPU, is a key component of the desktop or laptop computer. Because it helps to know what you are purchasing beforehand, here is some useful information for desktop and laptop shoppers and novice personal computer (PC) users.
In today’s computers, the CPU, or microchip, is the brain of the personal computer. This chip contains in excess of 100 million transistors that are only 0.09 microns in width. At first, the microchip’s size and speed defy the imagination. Can you visualize information being passed along millions of microscopic transistors in lightning speed? The CPU computes billions of instructions every second.
The CPU performs many functions for your PC. The information (or data) that moves around the computer passes through this electronic brain. The CPU calculates maths and logic problems, transmits data to the memory and storage components, and recovers data from memory and storage components. The microprocessor also carries out instructions from the hardware and software components.
The world’s largest producer of microchips is Intel. The competitors of Intel include AMD, VIA, and Motorola. These chips work in IBM-compatible PC’s and Macs.
When you set out to buy a new laptop or desktop, buy a personal computer with the most powerful processor speed you can afford. You can measure the power of a CPU by its speed in gigahertz (GHz), or billions of cycles per second. This is how fast information runs through the microchip.
Consider how prices differ depending on the speed of the computer chip (or CPU). Typical PC packages include a processor with a specified speed in GHz, an operating system like MS Windows Vista Home edition, a WD rewrite able drive, and a CD drive. The computer unit may also include a floppy disk drive. The typical package also comes with a computer monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and wire connectors.
For example, at Best Buy.com, you can buy a Gateway desktop computer with an Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core Processor E5200 with a speed of 2.50 GHz for $509.99. For a little more than twice the price ($1,249.99), you can purchase a PC desktop with the new 4th generation Intel® Core™ I7 processor. According to Intel, the I7 processor is for users with more “serious computing needs” and is the “best desktop processor on the planet.”