What is the processor speed and why does it matter? Today we will go over this in detail.  Each processor is different in its performance and deciding on the correct one is very important, The CPU, Also know as central processing unit, It can impact how long your computer will stay fast and how much battery power your it will use.

CPU's what you need to know blog post

As a computer repair technician, I run across many questions regarding a laptop or desktop’s performance.  Computers are getting more and more complex and deciding on the right one can make a big difference on how satisfied you will be.  It is easy to think you have the best one picked out because the hard drive is bigger, but choosing is no longer based on the biggest numbers. There are three main factors to determine the speed of a computer. 

The RAM or memory

Also called random access memory, RAM is a temporary storage location for the operating system and programs.  This helps each program to run smoothly and quickly.

The hard drive

The storage location of everything including the operating system.

The processor

What is CPU?  CPU stands for central processing unit. The CPU’s function is the brain or thinking station of the computer, all data runs through the CPU.

If any one of these is slow then the entire computer will be slow

Today we will discuss CPUs in depth to help you decide on which computer you want to purchase.  We will define some common terminology regarding processors.  When you purchase a computer, you will see some common terms listed below.

What is GHz and base GHz?

The GHz or base GHz is referred to gigahertz, gigahertz is a frequency just like megahertz or hertz.  Simply put the higher the gigahertz the higher the frequency and the higher the frequency the more data can pass through the device.  The higher the GHz the faster the processor is.  But there is one important factor here, most processors only advertise the base GHz which is the lowest operating performance of the processor so when you see the GHz on a processor label it is the base GHz not the fastest GHz it can go.  All newer processors have a variable GHz performance to conserve power consumption. On the label below this is a example of the base GHz.

Base GHz on a processor label
Ryzen processsor GHz label

What is turbo boost?

Turbo boost is the maximum GHz of a processor, this number is the most important for determining your processor’s speed.  When you go to the store you will likely not see this specification on any computer sign’s, you can find this information online by searching a specific processor model number.

When your computer has a high demand, the processor can increase it GHz speed resulting in faster performance.  A processor can run constantly at its turbo boost speed if necessary.  The higher the running GHz level of the processor the more power it is consuming.  Turbo boost is especially beneficial for laptops since it can change its power level based on demand allowing the laptop to have a longer battery life.  All newer processors have a variable performance or turbo boost.

Is the Model number important?

There are many different models of processors the most common are Intel processors, I3, I5, I7, I9 or Ryzen processors, Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, Ryzen 9.  Apple also has the newer M1 processor.  The processor model is very important because it directly relates to the overall performance.  Here is the performance differences.

Entry level performance

I3 and Ryzen 3 – Good performance but not the fastest

Mid range performance

I5 or Ryzen 5 – A good processor and a good value for the performance

High end performance

I7, Ryzen 7 or M1 – High end or high performance processor

Over the top performance

I9 or Ryzen 9 – Harder to come by.  You will pay a pretty penny for these processors.

High end Intel CPU

Processor model label

Mid range Ryzen CPU

Ryzen Processor Model number label

What is a core? Is it important?

The cores are one of the most important factors in choosing a processor.  A core is basically a processor of its own.  When a processor says dual core that means it has two processors working together. Processors can have up to 10 or even more total cores.  Cores are internal inside the processor so you can not see how many cores a processor has unless you were able to take a processor apart to see the inside of it.

Are more cores better?

Yes the more cores you have the faster the overall performance of the processor.

How do I find out how many cores a CPU has?

In order to find out the amount of cores a CPU has you need to look up the specific model number online.  There are many different processor models for each generation.

What is the generation and is how important is it?

The generation is important as well. The newer the generation the processor the faster it will be.  The latest processors are always faster or improved in many ways.  If you are looking at a new computer generally it is the newest generation.  Ryzen’s generation is different than Intel’s generation, so if you notice the numbers are different from each other you don’t need to worry.  Every newer generation has a performance increase of some sort.  How do you tell the generation? In a intel  and Ryzen processor it is the first numbers right after the processor name.

The current newest generation in the Ryzen lineup

Ryzen processor generation label

The current newest generation in the Intel lineup

Processor label with generation

On the Apple M1 processor they are all the newest generation since there is not a newer generation released yet.

What is a mobile processor vs a desktop processor?

There are two main types of processors, mobile and desktop.  A mobile processor is made for a laptop and uses less power. A desktop processor has higher performance but uses more power.

For example, a Intel I5 in a desktop will significantly be faster than a I5 in a laptop even though they are both I5.  Some all-in-one computers have a mobile processor or desktop processor in them.

What are Threads?

Threads are not too important to understand for basic needs.  Threads are the processor’s ability to use the same core simultaneously.  The more core’s a processor has the more total threads it can have.  So, for example a standard processor can do one command at a time in order.  A dual core processor with 2 threads can do 4 commands at the same time, 2 commands per each core. 

A Thread’s performance will not always be the same performance level as a regular processor command without threads because the thread uses the same resources of the processor. For example, you have one regular single core processor and a single core processor with two threads, both have 1GHz performance. The processor with no threads will have a performance output of 1, the processor with 2 threads will have a performance output somewhere between 1-2 but never fully at 2.


Choosing a processor will determine how long your computer will perform well.  The most important factors for choosing a processor are the model generation, the cores and the GHz.  The Hard drive and RAM also determine the overall performance of a computer.  Following these guidelines will help you choose the best CPU for your needs.  Now when you look at a CPU comparison chart you will be able to understand what those ratings are and why there important.  Before you buy a new computer it might be a good idea to speed up your existing one, sometimes you can improve its performance greatly.  Find out how to speed up your computer.