Moore's Law, which states that hardware capabilities will double every 18 months, won't hold true forever. However, it's still going strong today—processor technologies have been changing so fast that keeping up with all the new chips and their basic differences is tough. To help, here's an overview of today's hottest processors.
10. Intel Celeron—Positioned as a value-oriented buy, the Celeron is best suited for general business and office work. The Celeron is built on a 0.13 micron die set, has a maximum speed of 2.4GHz and a maximum front-side bus speed of 400MHz, and supports 128KB of Level 1 cache.
9. AMD Duron—Built on the same core as the higher performing AMD Athlon CPU, the AMD Duron is also a value-oriented processor. Built on 0.18 micron technology, the AMD Duron has a maximum speed of 1.3GHz, 128KB of Level 1 cache, and a 200MHz bus speed. However, AMD has no plans to continue development of the Duron line.
8. Transmeta's Crusoe TM5800—Designed expressly for the mobile market, the Crusoe TM5800 is a low-power-consumption CPU used in many Tablet PCs. The Crusoe processor line isn't built around the x86 technology but rather uses a Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW) processor that provides compatibility with the x86 instruction set. The TM5800 uses 0.13 micron manufacturing; runs at a maximum speed of 1GHz; and has a 128KB Level 1 cache, a 512KB Level 2 cache, and a 33MHz bus speed.
7. AMD Athlon XP—Arguably the fastest 32-bit processor available, the AMD Athlon XP 3200+ processor has a maximum speed of 2.2GHz. The QuantiSpeed architecture lets this processor execute nine operations per clock cycle (compared with the Intel Pentium 4's six operations per cycle), giving the AMD Athlon XP better performance than the 3.2GHz Pentium 4. The AMD Athlon XP is built using 0.13 micron manufacturing, has a front-side bus speed of 400MHz, and provides 128KB of Level 1 cache and 512KB of Level 2 cache.
6. AMD Athlon XP-M—Basically the same as the AMD Athlon XP, the AMD Athlon XP-M includes AMD PowerNow! technology to optimize power usage for notebook systems. The AMD Athlon XP-M supports a 266MHz front-side bus and has 128KB of Level 1 cache and 512MB of Level 2 cache.
5. Intel Pentium 4—Intel's top-of-the-line desktop CPU, the Pentium 4 runs at a maximum speed of 3.2GHz, has 512KB of Level 1 cache, supports an 800MHz system bus, and is built with Intel's 0.13 micron technology. The Pentium 4 also supports Hyper-Threading Technology, which lets it run two software threads simultaneously.
4. Intel Centrino—The hottest new technology for notebook computers, the Centrino isn't technically a CPU but is instead a combination of three technologies: the Pentium M mobile processor, the Intel 855 chipset, and an integrated 802.11b wireless connector. This combination results in a high-performance mobile processor with excellent battery life. The Pentium M processor runs at a maximum speed of 1.7GHz, has 1MB of Level 2 cache and a 400MHz system bus, and supports as much as 2GB of Double Data Rate (DDR) RAM.
3. Intel Xeon—The workhorse of most of today's high-performance server systems, the Xeon is specially designed for servers. Although based on the Pentium family, the Xeon sports a larger Level 3 cache and a chipset that's optimized for multiple processors. The Xeon runs at a maximum speed of 3.06GHz, has a 533MHz front-side bus speed, includes a Level 1 execution trace cache and 1MB of Level 2 cache, and supports as much as 2MB of Level 3 cache.
2. AMD Opteron—AMD is pinning its future attempts to gain market share in the server market on its new 64-bit AMD Opteron chip. Built using 0.13 micron technology, the AMD Opteron uses an extension of the x86 architecture to run existing 32-bit applications as well as 64-bit applications. The processor has 1MB of Level 2 cache and a 1.8GHz bus speed.
1. Intel Itanium 2—Intel's Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing (EPIC) architecture gives the Itanium 2 an unmatched degree of parallelism. However, the Itanium 2 isn't binary compatible with today's 32-bit applications, which must run in x86 emulation mode. The current Itanium 2 is built using a 0.13 micron die set. It runs at 1GHz and has 3MB of Level 3 cache, 256MB of Level 2 cache, 32KB of Level 1 cache, and a 400MHz bus speed.