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Processor Low Down?

Posted on 2006-11-14
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Last Modified: 2010-07-27
2000 points up for grabs to the first person to provide me with the easiest to understand answer to my question.

I have been building computers for quite sometime, and i have enough knowledge to understand what is compatible and what isn't, but there are a few things I've never fully understood and hope someone can help asap.

Without sending me links to other pages unless the answers I'm looking for are very easy for any computer user to understand, please cover the following.


1. Please explain to me the exact meaning of front side bus. For example, the difference of 1000 fsb over 2000 fsb and why some processors that are half the fsb can be more expensive.

2. What is L1 and L2 cache, and whats the huge difference between 1 - 2 mb? Obviously 2mb cache is a larger number and can contain more data, but is that 1mb a large difference in terms of performance... only 1 meg?

3. Yes, dual core helps to run multiple applications more efficiently and increases load times, but is there an honest % difference? 10%? 50%? 80%? ... Would this not increase performance of a game since its the only app being run?

Hopefully once i understand these 3 things I can begin to learn why certain processors are more expensive than others when the specs do not seem too different.

Thank you for your time
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Question by:Arka3L
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jhance earned 500 total points
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1) FSB - Basically the speed of the data path to the MEMORY.  Faster is almost always better.  Cost is not always related to performance.

2) The Level of the cache, i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc. is an indication of its "closeness" to the CPU.  L1 is almost certainly on-chip and is usually the smallest but give the most "bang" for the money.  L2 is common on-chip these days but not always.  Is slower than L1 but usually larger.  Ther can be more level of cache depending on CPU and system design.  The size of the cache is a tradeoff.  Bigger is not always better since the larger the cache the bigger the performance hit when it needs to be reloaded.  Understanding cache is a topic for a graduate level computer architecture design class.

3) No!  Do _not_ assume that dual-core or dual-CPU is necessarily faster or better.  Some application do not gain anything on dual-core.  Other apps may see a 2X speed improvement.  It just depends.  Nothing hard and fast is possible here.  A well design multiprocessing-aware application that solve a problem that is readily multiprocessable (not all problems are such) can do wonders on a muti-CPU/multi-core system.

Cost is not really related to any of the above.  Market forces, competition, supply/demand, contacts, etc. drive price more than any of the above technical features.  If you are trying to understand CPU pricing based on tech specs, you will not succeed.
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