The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, on your computer is the core component of your workstation or server.  It is responsible for taking instructions and breaking them down into calculations that make our computers do the things we need them to.  You may be familiar with some of the biggest CPU manufacturers, for example Intel or AMD, but there are several other smaller CPU makers as well.  A new player in the CPU space that’s making some big waves recently is ARM and Apple is releasing new laptop and desktop devices on these new ARM-based processors.

So what’s important about your CPU, and which is the best one to go with in terms of speed, reliability, longevity, and how they will affect your work?  With CPU advancements coming out seemingly every year, it’s easy to get lost in what will work best for your office workstations and servers.

What’s the Difference Between CPU’s and How To Measure Speeds

The CPU manufacturers that control the majority of the space are Intel and AMD, with ARM‑based processors starting to grow larger. Intel and AMD, however, are the leaders when it comes to desktop and laptop processors by far.  You may be familiar with some of the CPU’s they offer such as Intel’s line of Core I3, I5, I7 and more recently their I9 series of CPU’s.  AMD also has a lineup of well-known processors with their Threadripper 3000X series of CPU’s as well.

But how can you determine which is best for the work you do?  Which CPU’s offer more power for the money spent, and how can you tell what’s faster?

A CPU core is what does the actual work of your computer; the more cores your computer’s CPU contains, the more efficient it is at performing tasks, like rendering video, opening documents, running applications, etc.  A CPU is made up of several cores – some physical and some that are virtual.  For many years, Intel has led the way with their Core 2 Duo and Quad Core series CPU’s.  These were made up of 2 physical cores and 2 virtual cores which did all the processing work of your computer.  Later, AMD would come out with a 6 core and 9 core CPU, which improved processing speeds dramatically.  This, in turn, forced Intel to develop and release their own series of CPU’s which offered ore cores as well.

The speed of your CPU is measured in Hertz, typically Gigahertz (Ghz).  A CPU’s clock speed rate is a measure of how many clock cycles a CPU can perform in a second.  If your CPU has a rate of 3.5 Ghz clock speed, that means it can perform 3,500,000,000 clock cycles per second.  This is useful when comparing CPU’s in the same family, but, be aware that comparing clock cycles of CPU’s from different manufacturers (e.g. Intel vs AMD) or from different generations of CPU is not going to give an exact perspective of speed variance as different generations of CPU and manufacturers may be able to perform calculations more efficiently and with different workloads.

Intel, AMD, ARM – What’s Best for Your Work

So, with all of these different variables to think about, how do you decide which workstation has the right CPU for the work that you and your employees are doing?  Truth be told, some CPU’s can perform certain tasks more efficiently than others.  Intel’s Xenon series of CPU is more efficient at rendering video and 3D models when compared to its competitors. Also, Intel CPU’s are still one of the staples of server-based processors with most servers’ levels computing performing off of Intel based processors.

AMD, however, has become a major innovator in the desktop and workstation space.  AMD’s Threadripper series of processors have generally clocked higher speeds and greater efficiency for workstations that mostly perform tasks, like running office applications, providing more cores for less cost per core, and greater memory support.  This indicates that AMD currently is faster in most scenarios compared to Intel-based workstations and for less cost.

More recently, ARM-based computers are becoming more popular among computer manufacturers, like Apple and Google.  ARM-based CPU’s are more prominent in devices like our phones, tablets, and now some of our computers.  Google’s Pixelbook laptops use ARM-based processors, and Microsoft has a line of Surface laptops that use these CPU’s as well.  Apple is taking it to the next level by introducing a line of Macbook Pros, iMacs, and Mac Minis that will be using ARM-based processors.  This is being seen as a way to bridge the gap between apps that run on our smart phones and tablets, and apps that run on our desktop computers.

ARM-based processors haven’t been able to catch up to their desktop competitors, like Intel and AMD, so unless you specifically require an ARM-based CPU to run certain software, it’s recommended for now to stick with the Intel and AMD-based CPU’s for now on your workstations.

Navigating the different types of CPU’s that computers use can get a little overwhelming, which is why a managed IT services company, like Natural Networks, can help you decide what workstation is best for your office.  If you are looking to upgrade or purchase new workstations for your office and have questions about what’s best for your staff, give us a call today!