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CPU specifications

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November 4, 2009 4:41:41 AM

I'm a newb in computers. Recently i want to build my own gaming pc. But first i want to learn the basics. All the meaning of the specification numbers for each component.

I came across the CPU category and i don't understand some things.

For example:
on the newegg website. I was looking at the "Intel Core i7-860"
It gave me numbers like.

2.8GHz
L3 Cache 8MB
1333Mhz

correct me if i'm wrong.
the 2.8GHz means it's estimated processing speed

I don't really understand the L3 Cache 8MB, i read somewhere that it means that it divides the memory load up to 3 ways for faster data sharing between cores...or something like that. And what does 8MB mean?? it can have maximum 8MB of data sharing in between cores?? Is this L3 or L2 cache important when purchasing a cpu?

1333Mhz .... the cpu info says it supports DDR3 sticks. But what would DDR2 sticks work?? or that depends on the mobo?

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November 4, 2009 6:13:43 AM

Also, if you want build advice, post in the Homebuilt Forum using the How to Ask for Build Advice sticky.
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November 4, 2009 4:16:03 PM

2.8 GHz is not an estimate. That's the processor's actual rated speed, BUT... that's just one component to look at when comparing processors. Here's a simple example... an Intel Pentium D 820 runs at 2.8 GHz and so does the Intel i7-860 you mentioned. Well, which is better? Even though they're both running at the same speed, the i7-860 is TREMENDOUSLY faster than the Pentium D... it's not remotely comparable. Why? The Pentium D is using Intel's Netburst architecture (look it up!) and the i7-860 is using an architecture (Nehalem) that is 2 generations newer. Also, the i7-860 has twice the number of cores. In simple terms... the newer chip is more efficient and has more brains (cores).

(everything in the above post ignores the fact that the i7-860 uses TurboBoost to achieve clock speeds above 2.8 GHz)

On to your 2nd question... cache is just ultra fast memory... and typically it is located within the CPU (there are a few exceptions to this, but for this... let's stick with that) So the i7-860 you're looking at has 3 levels of cache (memory) ... and as I'm sure you noticed there's less L1 than L2 and there's less L2 than L3. Well, guess which is the fastest cache (meaning which has the most bandwidth) ... yeah, the L1. Just like clock speed... the amount and type of cache a processor has IS something to take into consideration, but is certainly not the only thing that makes a processor fast/slow. Want to know what a processor without L2 or L3 cache is like?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celeron#Covington

If you bothered to read that, you'll understand that modern processors are dependent on cache for performance... but more doesn't always mean dramatically better performance.

If you're still curious to know more about cache...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CPU_cache

Lastly... about that memory. The i7-860 you mentioned has an integrated memory controller and will ONLY work with DDR3. DDR2 is not an option for this processor class. Currently there is no motherboard that is compatible with an i7-860 and DDR2 and I doubt there ever will be. Sorry!

Hope this helped clear things up. If I misstated anything, anyone feel free to correct me.
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November 4, 2009 5:42:53 PM

I think Rodney wins BEST ANSWER hands down on this one. The only thing I can ad is a general rule that the more expensive the CPU, the more power and performance it has. And since the OP is interested in a gaming rig, a dual core gets you more bang for the buck and is easier to overclock to a higher speed (in terms of percentage) than a quad core. IMO, the best budget build for a gaming rig is an e8400 (easily runs at 3.6 Ghz, 1600 fsb) and P45 chipset mobo. The cost difference between that an i7 CPU and 1366 motherboard is about $125 - $150 that you could put towards a GTX 275 or Radeon HD 5850.
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November 9, 2009 4:48:41 AM

thank you very much guys. I love how detailed the answers are. And thanks on that build. I would put that into consideration.
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