10 Factors That Affect CPU Performance

CPU is the most critical component in the computer because all the latest software and tasks being performed are mostly CPU-Intensive and requires a powerful processor. There are several models of CPUs available and the performance of each is measured on the basis of a number of factors that affects the CPU performance. 

You must have sufficient knowledge of all these factors which makes the CPU more or less powerful. Otherwise, a wrong choice of CPU will not be worth your hard-earned money.

Most people believe that more number of cores in the CPU or higher clock speed are the only factors that need to be considered and all rest of the factors do not play a critical role. It is wrong and the performance of each factor is dependent upon the other factor. We will discuss it with the details in the following.

What Are The Factors Affects CPU Performance?

There are mainly three factors which have significant impact upon the CPU performance, these three factors are 1. Number of Cores,   2. Cache Size and 3. Clock Speed.

There are also several other factors which in combine multiplies the performance of CPU and will also be discussed about them in the following.

By the time you read the full article, you will have acquired professional level knowledge and capable of what factors to look into a powerful processor and how to measure its performance exactly.

1. Clock Speed

Clock speed is the single most important factor used for measuring and comparing the performance of CPUs with each other.

Clock speed is measured in GHz (Gigahertz) which provides the information that how many cycles your CPU executes per second. The higher the clock speed, the faster it can process the data requested by the user.

For Instance, a CPU has clock speed of 3.2 GHz, it means that this CPU is powerful enough to execute 3.2 billion cycles per second.

When potential buyer has to compare two CPUs will have to use this factor. For Instance, Intel Core i5 750 offers 2.67 GHz clock speed and the second processor Core i5-760 has base frequency of 2.8 GHz. In the comparison of both CPUs, core i5 760 is faster because it can execute more number of processing cycle in one second.

This clock speed factor in above example is only relevant as long as comparing same product line.

Let’s take another example to understand why comparison should be made in same product line. For Instance, BOTH CPUs Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3600 having same clock speed and executes same number of cycles per second. Still, Ryzen 5 will outperform the Ryzen 3 CPU in the performance comparison test.

This is because Ryzen 5 have more number of cores to achieve speed with higher efficiency. Its cache size is also larger than the Ryzen 3. Cache size reduces the probability of Cache miss, which otherwise CPU has to process this missed data from the main memory which will take comparatively longer time.

2. Number of Cores

A CPU core is actually mini processor responsible for processing the all commands and instructions given by the user. All CPUs have multiple cores in the modern time; each core is powerful enough to process different instructions at any given time.

The higher the number of cores in CPU, the faster it will process the data and achieve more efficiency.

The CPU core is also defined as separate processing units, each is responsible for processing specific type of data and again this approach helps in achieving highest efficiency because the processing role has been specified for every core.

There is a huge demand for computer CPUs and it is $74 billion market in 2022. Intel and AMD are giving stiff competition to each other and every year coming with new line of CPUs with better design, spending billions of dollars on R&D to improve in CPU architecture, design and other techniques.

The benefit of tough competition results as technology is becoming more advanced and overall declining trend in prices. In the past, Quad-Core CPU used to be considered as high-end CPU and selling for $300. In the present, it is only an entry-level processor and will cost you a lot less.

3. Clock Cycle

Clock cycle is defined as amount of time it takes between two electrical pulses which sends the signal to the CPU to perform certain function and execute the given command. Processor will not perform any activity unless receive a signal in the form of electrical pulse.

Modern and highly efficient CPUs can perform and execute multiple instructions in per clock cycle. It is depended upon the CPU architecture and design.

In the comparison, old CPUs only used to be executing single instruction per cycle.

This shows that higher clock cycle can give multiplier effect to the clock speed factor in improving CPU performance.

Execute the two instructions per cycle will double the CPU performance comparing to the executing only one instruction per cycle.

4. Cache Size

Cache memory is smaller in size but faster in data processing. Cache memory is located close to the CPU and stores the data for most frequently performed tasks.

Cache memory is built to immediately response the same input is being requested on repeatedly basis; to avoid the excessive usage of CPU cache memory was built. It will not require the CPU to go through the main memory every time. The larger cache size, the more temporary data it can store.

This storage of temporary memory improves the CPU performance to allow it make the data quickly available on the CPU request, less need to deal with RAM.

Cache memory not only stores data but instructions which is also required by the processor to response the user request. It helps the processor to retrieve the instructions from Cache memory faster than it does from the RAM.

5. Threads

Threads are also defined as virtual cores unlike the physical cores. Threads are designed to enhance the performance of CPU, Threads achieves this by boosting the performance of Cores up to 30%.

Threads as virtual cores enable the Cores to be actively engaged in numerous processing simultaneously. Cores are powered by the Threads to process the multiple tasks by following the sequence and same type of instructions at a time.

Mostly AMD CPUs offers four cores and eight threads, whereas Intel mostly comes with two cores and four threads. Number of threads is twice to the number of cores in both CPUs manufactured by AMD and Intel.

All CPU Benchmark shows that threads helps a lot in improving the performance of its cores and overall increases the efficiency.

6. Instruction Set

An instruction set can be defined as a set which consists of two binary digits 0 and 1, CPU only understands the language of binary digits and get the instructions to response the command given by the user.

The complete set of all instructions for different commands given in the form like {0,0,1,0,1,0,1,1} or {1,1,1,0,0,0,0,0}. These two are different instructions set and CPU has embedded intelligence to read it accordingly and response the command.

7. Heat

When a user performs heavy-duty tasks like video editing or playing high-end games, it makes the intensive usage of processor and other components which causes heat generation and it affects the CPU performance.

If user does not fix the overheating issue and delay it, this will not only damage the CPU but also other components like ram, cache memory, motherboard or SSD. CPU performance is very much depended upon the performance of other components.

For Instance, when CPU interacts with cache memory to utilize its temporarily stored memory to process; this quick interaction is also depended upon the health of cache memory chip which may get damaged by overheating issues.

Therefore, there should be proper ventilation system on the CPU which keep releasing the heat from inside the cover. Furthermore, user should also be cautious about the room temperature and prefer sitting in a low temperature room.

Though, latest computers have been equipped enough to operate normally in higher temperature. For Instance, a Core i7 9700K is the CPU which comes with its resistance against the heating and powerful enough to process efficiently without any issues.

Core i7 9700K would show the great performance even its inside temperature has reached up to 100 Celsius. If someone keeps using it at 100 Celsius on regular basis, it may reduce the lifespan of CPU.

8. Bandwidth

Bandwidth refers the concept of the capacity of the CPU to read and write the data within the second. If system has low bandwidth, the less amount of data / information will be given to the CPU to process it.

There is no use of powerful CPU without high bandwidth because every time it is given so little amount of data to process which takes longer time to complete the cycle.

All modern CPUs today can support up to 40-50GBs, higher bandwidth speed will improve the performance of CPU.

9. Word Length

A word is defined as unit of data in “Computer Architecture” and its length is referred to understand that how many units of data can be responded and transferred from storage to processor.

The term “Word Length” is also used to refer how many bits of data is processed by the CPU in one time. Higher bits definitely improve the CPU performance.

Modern CPUs today are designed to deal with the 64-bit instruction set; this shows that they are twice as powerful to respond units of data as some older CPUs who could only respond 32-bit instruction set.

10. Address Bus Width

The capacity of address bus is measured in “Width” and it is stated as what amount of memory can be addressed by its width (Address Bus), the larger the capacity to address memory, better for CPU performance.

It has to address the memory locations which store the all computer data in very organized form. Each data is given a value of either 0 or 1 as these are binary digits.

If address bus width can access more memory locations in one second, the will retrieve more data process and eventually make the CPU faster.

Frequently Asked Questions

We are going to answer the most frequently asked questions on this topic, so you all can get answers on one forum.

Is 1.8 GHz clock speed fast enough to process heavy-duty tasks?

1.8 GHz clock speed used to be fast enough to run high-end applications four to five years ago. In the recent times, all latest video-editing and development apps require a processor with minimum 2.4 GHz clock speed. There is no way can expect powerful performance from CPU having maximum 1.8 GHz clock speed.

However, there are processors powered by Turbo Boost Max technology and which results them as achieving higher than 3.0 GHz base frequency.

For Instance, a processor Core i5 9400T comes with 1.8GHz base frequency but on turbo boost can achieve max 3.6GHz clock speed.

What is the recommended clock speed for gaming?

It is considered that 3.5 GHz to 4.0 GHz clock speed is required for enjoying better gaming experience. Though, clock speed is not the only critical feature but the most important to have good single-thread performance.

Is Frequent Over-Clocking Harmful For the CPU?

Mostly, gamers and tech-geek performs the over-clocking to experience the maximum potential speed of CPU. A user can perform the over-clocking by make some change in BIOS settings; it is not recommended for non-technical users.

Over-clocking can definitely damage not only the CPU but also other components such as motherboard and RAM. On the over-clocking mode, CPU gets incremental supply of voltage which produces more heat and increase the temperature which results as CPU gets damage.

How modern CPUs perform better than old CPUs?

No doubt, higher clock speed enhances the performance of CPU in faster data processing and completes the cycle per second. Nevertheless, the latest CPUs have become more efficient because of new architecture.

The modern CPU architecture can execute large number of instructions at one time which is comparatively not the case with old CPUs.

Therefore, the type of architecture does also affect the performance of CPU and make it more or less efficient.

How numbers of cores affect the CPU performance?

CPU cores are responsible for processing the instructions and commands given by the user. The more number of cores means more instructions can be processed simultaneously.

Furthermore, these cores can handle different types of instructions to provide the output and allows user to perform multitasking means video editing and streaming music at the same time, multiple cores will handle it.

How cache memory affects CPU performance?

Cache memory stores the all instructions and data being frequently required by the CPU to response the input. Secondly, this memory is also faster than the RAM and do not keep the CPU waiting for accessing the instructions stored in cache memory.