CPU Definition List

This page contains an updated CPU definition/terminology list to help you understand the world of microprocessors.

ALU – The ALU (Arithmetic and Logic Unit) is the part of a processor that performs the actual computations of data.

AMD – Stands for Advanced Micro Devices. A world leading CPU manufacturer, competing with Intel.

Athlon – A brand family of modern processors made by AMD.

Athlon 64 – AMD’s entry into the consumer 64-bit processor market, the AMD Athlon 64 is a current breed of CPUs based on AMD64 architecture.

Athlon 64 X2 – The first dual-core desktop CPU made by AMD. It’s essentially made up of two Athlon 64 cores, resulting in a faster processor.

Athlon XP – A type of AMD Athlon processor, with the XP meaning ‘extra performance’. Production of Athlon XP processors has discontinued with the introduction of the Athlon 64.

Assembly – The native language of a microprocessor. Each CPU has its own specific assembly language.

Celeron – Intel’s budget line of processors, the Celeron is suited for basic computer use.

Clock Speed – Also known as clock rate, the clock speed is the rate at which a processor executes operations. The higher the clock speed, the more operations is it can perform. Measured in MHz or GHz.

CPU – Central Processing Unit. Also known as a processor or microprocessor, the CPU is the brains of a computer. It’s responsible for executing computer instructions, and is one of the most important elements in a computer.

CPU Cooler - See 'Heatsink'.

Data Width – The width of the ALU. An 8-bit ALU can perform operations on two 8-bit numbers, while a 32-bit ALU can operate on 32-bit numbers. An 8-bit ALU would have to execute four instructions to add two 32-bit numbers, while a 32-bit ALU would be able to do it in one instruction.

Dual-core – A dual-core CPU is one made up of two independent processors combined onto a single integrated circuit, or silicon chip.

GHz – Gigahertz. A unit of frequency that is equal to one billion cycles per second. A CPU’s clock speed is usually measured in gigahertz.

Heatsink - The heatsink, also known as the cooler, is responsible for cooling a high performance CPU as a fan. Most CPUs come built with a stock heatsink fan, but if you are using a high end CPU you will need to purchase an aftermarket cooler to keep it running cool and quiet.

Intel – World leading CPU manufacturer, in competition with AMD.

MIPS – Stands for millions of instructions per second, used as a rough indication of the performance of a CPU.

Overclocking – Forcing a CPU to run at a higher clock speed than listed on the manufacturers specification. Overclocking a CPU increases its performance, although it can result in system instability and may cause damage to the CPU.

Pentium – A widely-used brand family of processors made by Intel.

Quad Core - A quad core CPU is one that has four cores and provides excellent multitasking performance.

Sandy Bridge - The codename for Intel's latest range of microprocessors, which include the core i3, core i5, and core i7.

Sempron – AMD’s budget processor model, the Sempron goes head to head with the Intel Celeron in the budget CPU market.

Transistors – Miniature electronic switches that make up a processor. The number of transistors available has a large impact on the performance of a processor.

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