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cpu clock speed

Buying a new computer? Do not pay too much attention to the speed of the CPU clock. "CPU speed" was once an easy if not completely accurate way to compare the performance of two computers.

Modern computer processor speed is faster enough for the most basic tasks so you will also want to look at other things when it comes to performance comparison. 

For example, does the computer come with an SSD or a slower magnetic hard drive?

Why You Can Not Just Compare the Processor Clock Speed

Processor clock speed or clock speed is measured in hertz - usually in GHz or GHz. The clock speed of the CPU is a measure of how many cycles a CPU clock rate can perform per second. 

For example, a 1.8 GHz clock processor can perform 1800000000 clock cycles per second.

It looks simple on the face of it. The more a processor can perform clock cycles the more things it can do right? Well yes and no.

On the one hand, clock speed is useful when comparing similar computer processors in the same family. For example, suppose you are comparing two Intel Haswell Core i5 processors which differ only in their clock speed. 

One runs at 3.4 GHz and one runs at 2.6 GHz. In this case, a 3.4 GHz processor will yield a 30% faster performance when both are running at their highest speed. 

This is true because the processors are the same otherwise. But you can not compare the processor clock speed of the Haswell Core i5 with another type of processor such as an AMD processor ARM processor or even an older Intel processor.

It may not seem obvious at first but it's actually a very simple reason. Modern processors are becoming much more efficient. That means they can do more work in each clock cycle. For example, Intel released Pentium 4 chips clocked at 3.6 GHz in 2006. 

Now it's the end and the latest and fastest Intel Haswell Core i7 processors sound at 3.9 GHz from the factory. 

Does this mean that CPU base clock rate speed performance has improved only slightly within several years? Not at all!

Instead, the Core i7 processor can simply do much more during each clock cycle. It is important to examine not only clock cycles but the amount of work a processor can do in each clock cycle. 

All other things being equal, fewer clock cycles with more work are better than more clock cycles with less - fewer clock cycles means the processor requires less power and produces less heat.

Also, modern processors have other enhancements that allow them to perform faster. This includes additional CPU cores and larger amounts of CPU cache memory that the CPU base clock speed can work with.


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