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    It never fails. Just after you upgrade your CPU, Intel or AMD announces a new processor, pushing technology to new limits at least its next processor.

    To make things even more muddled, AMD and Intel each offers multiple families of processors ranging from those designed for value-oriented family PCs to powerhouse CPUs designed to run most tasking 3D games smoothly. Added into the mix are a host of additional featuresis as well as a new selection of dual-core processors designed for 32-bit or 64-bit computing.

    If you find yourself looking through computer store flyers and wondering exactly what an “Athlon 64 X2” is or what the difference between a Pentium 4 and a Pentium D is, then this is a good place to start. We provide an overview of some of the newer and more common families of processors from Intel and AMD.

    To make understanding processor technology a little easier, you can use our “Key Terms” list to decipher some of the technical processor lingo, view reviews and specifications for each type of processor, and, of course, check out the links page to follow-up for more information.

    AMD Sempron

    The AMD Sempron processor is designed to meet the needs of home and business PC users. AMD Sempron processors are 32-bit and offer capabilities that include HyperTransport technology, up to 512K total high-performance cache, advanced 333Mhz frontside bus and an integrated DDR memory controller.

    Sempron 3400+ Processor Review Review by SharkyExtreme – “The main part of the Sempron market appeal is related to its low price and high value, and even though the Sempron 3400+ is the top performer in the AMD entry-level line, relative pricing actually took a slight dip.”
    The Duron Successor From Tom’s hardware Guide – AMD’s AthlonXP + The Athlon64 = Sempron

    AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core

    The AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core processor contains two processing cores, residing on one chip, which increases efficiency and speed while running multiple programs and multi-threaded software. It enables a seamless transition from 32-bit to 64-bit applications. Both 32- and 64-bit applications can run virtually simultaneously and transparently on the same platform.

    Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Processor Review Review by SharkyExtreme – “The Athlon 64 X2 processors are the first true dual core processors for the desktop, and compared to the Intel Pentium D/Pentium EE design, offer a more streamlined and forward-thinking architecture.”

    AMD Athlon 64

    AMD64 provides full support for x86 code base for 32-bit computing and is ready for 64-bit applications. AMD64 technology doubles the number of processor registers and increases the system memory addressability.

    AMD Athlon 64 Web page

    Includes links to information on Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 x2 Dual-core, 64 Processor for Desktops, and Mobile Athlon 64
    AMD Athlon 64 4000+ Review The guru of 3D offers this Athlon 64 4000+ Review

    AMD Opteron

    The AMD Opteron processor offers simultaneous 32- and 64-bit computing, using AMD’s Direct Connect Architecture. It’s designed to run existing 32-bit applications and offer simplified migration path to 64-bit computing. The AMD Opteron processor is available in 1 to 8-way servers and 1 to 4-way workstation solutions.

    An Introduction to the AMD Opteron HardwareExtreme provides this Introduction to the AMD Opteron.

    Intel Celeron D

    The Intel Celeron D is a value-priced processor. The Celeron D processors include a larger integrated L2 cache and faster processor system bus when compared to Celeron processors. Celeron processors are available at speeds ranging from 1 GHz to 2.80 GHz. Celeron D processors offer a 533 MHz multi-transaction processor system bus with 256-KB Level 2 cache. Intel added Extended Memory 64 Technology to its value oriented Celeron D line.

    Celeron D Processor Brief Intel’s Celeron D Product Brief Web page.
    Intel Celeron D: New, Improved & Exceeds Expectations AnandTech provides an introduction to Intel’s Celeron D processors.
    Value Overclocking Guide This SharkyExtreme overclocking guide compares the Celeron D to the Sempron 3100+.

    Intel Pentium 4

    The Intel Pentium 4 processor family supporting Hyper-Threading Technology (HT Technology) is best-suited to desktop PCs and entry-level workstations. The Pentium 4 processor is designed to deliver performance across applications and uses where end-users can appreciate and experience the performance. These applications include Internet audio and streaming video, image processing, video content creation, games, multimedia and multitasking user environments.

    Pentium 4 Extreme Edition

    The Intel Pentium 4 processor Extreme Edition supporting HT Technology features 3.46 GHz with 2 MB of L3 cache and 3.73 GHz with 2 M of L2 cache to offer high levels of performance targeted specifically for high-end gamers and computing power users. It provides flexibility for future applications that support both 32-bit and 64-bit computing with Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology and is a dual-core processor (two physical cores in one processor support better system responsiveness and multi-tasking).

    Pentium 4 6x Series

    The Intel Pentium 4 6x series offers 2MB L2 Cache and clock speeds of 3 to 3.80 GHz. Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology is available on the 600x processors. This provides flexibility for future applications that support both 32-bit and 64-bit computing.

    Pentium 4 5x Series

    The Intel Pentium 4 5x series offers 1MB L2 Cache and clock speeds of 2.80 to 3.80 GHz. Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology is available on the 600x processors is available only on some of the 5x models (571, 561, 551, 541, 531, and 521).

    Intel Pentium 4 Specifications The Intel Pentium 4 Web site with specifications, briefs, Technology Overview & More.
    Pentium 4 Technology Explained SharkyExtreme’s Hardware Guide explains the technology behind the Intel Pentium 4

    Intel Pentium D

    Intel Pentium D processors are designed to provide users with more power while running multiple applications (for example, editing videos while downloading files). Pemtium D processors offer 2x1MB L2 cache, clock speeds ranging from 2.80 GHz to 3.20 GHz and an 800 MHz frontside bus. These processors are dual-core and offer Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology as well.

    Intel Pentium D Processors Intel’s Pentium D Web page offers specifications, briefs, Technology Overview & More.
    Pentium 4 670 & Pentium D 820 Processors SharkyExtreme takes a look at the Pentium 4 670 & Pentium D 820 in this review.

    Intel Pentium 3 (Pentium III)

    Intel builds on the technology it developed with the Pentium II microprocessors. The Pentium III processor comes with a Synchronized Dynamic Random Access Memory (SDRAM), allowing for an extremely fast transfer of data between the microprocessor and the memory. Pentium III’s offer enhanced multimedia and 3D performance with 100 MHz front-side bus speed, a muti-transaction system bus, and MMX support.

    Intel Pentium III Processor Intel’s Pentium III Web page includes a detailed overview, technical specifications, and more.
    Intel’s Pentium III 1.2GHz processor The tech report provides this overview of the Pentium III 1.2GHz.

    Did You Know…
    The observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore’s Law predicts that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. In subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, but data density has doubled approximately every 18 months, and this is the current definition of Moore’s Law, which Moore himself has blessed. (Moore’s Law)

    Key Terms To Understanding Processors

    A silicon chip that contains a CPU. In the world of personal computers, the terms microprocessor and CPU are used interchangeably. At the heart of all personal computers and most workstations sits a microprocessor.

    clock speed
    Also called clock rate, the speed at which a microprocessor executes instructions.

    Dual-core refers to a CPU that includes two complete execution cores per physical processor.

    Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.

    This article was originally published on October 21, 2005