What determines cpu frequency

OK, the thread title sounds pretty ignorant I admit. I'm just curious about what makes my cpu raise it's frequency from 1600 to 3400. As I watch it on my system monitor sometimes it will jump up to 3400 under just 8-10% load and other times load can be as high as 20% and it will remain at 1600.

I realize that my monitor is actually taking snapshots, in my case at 2 second intervals, so there may be a lot happening that I don't see. Nonetheless, this got my curiosity up.

Is load the determining factor in cpu frequency? Or does something else come into play here?
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  1. Based on what you are saying you have an Intel® processor. The speed of 1600MHz is the speed that you would see when Intel SpeedStep® is active. This means that you dont have anything going on at that moment that demands processing performance. So to save power it drops it down to a lower speed to save you money.

    The model # of processor would be helpful in explaining if the 3400 is the higher or the speed with turbo boost or even if you have turbo boost on your processor.
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