Jul 23, 2014

Does CPU speed still matter?

In the CPU “arms race” one thing that hasn’t seemed to be increase much over the past few years is CPU speed. In fact, some older PCs have CPUs with faster clock rates than the new PCs that are sitting on store shelves at this moment. Is this because of the increase in CPU cores over the past few years, or is something else at work?


Yes and no. Of course CPU speed still matters, but if you simply look at that number in isolation, it means very little. It tells you how quickly the is performing a clock cycle or step, but not how efficient the CPU is or what is taking place in each step. How many instructions are being performed each cycle, for example? In fact, not single number really tells the entire story. Yes, the number of cores and the clock speed does give an indication, of course. The best way to gauge the performance of any given CPU is to look at benchmarking. 

I suppose it might matter to gamers, for example. They generally need the fastest CPU and GPUs they can get to run games at the highest and smoothest frame rates.

For other users though CPU speed has become relatively unimportant since most of today's computers can run the usual software at acceptable speeds. How much faster do people need their browser to load a web page? Or open a word processing document?

At some point relative CPU speed increases become barely noticeable by most non-gaming users.
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