Pentium Vs. Core


In the world of Intel CPUs (Central Processing Units), the Pentium has the longest history of all. It has been around in various incarnations since 1993. While the Pentium 4 is officially the end of the line, you can still find it in some low-cost desktop and laptop computers, a testament to its longevity and versatility. In recent years, however, Intel has introduced its Core technology, which ups the ante in several departments. There are some of the ways in which these two types of CPUs differ.

Some Similarities

  • The division between the two isn't clear at first glance. Although the Core is heralded as a multi-core, 64-bit processor, Intel also offers Pentiums with both those features. However, the Core breaks away dramatically in terms of efficiency and raw power.

    Their Core processors are widely regarded for their ability to produce much less heat, compared to both Pentiums and modern AMD processors. In fact, it is possible to operate some Core processors without the standard heatsink and fan combination, which would have been unheard of in the early days of the Intel processor and is still unfeasible today.

Heat Production and Power Consumption

  • The Core CPUs also require less power. The combination of less heat and less power makes modern Intel processors optimal for mobile use, where battery power in particular is a large part of choosing a laptop. Sufficiently hot-running laptops have been known to burn people's skin, which is not good for publicity. The Core largely solves that problem. In many cases, the Core requires half the wattage of a Pentium CPU.

Limits of Architecture

  • The Pentium 4 architecture has also been pushed to its limit. Think of it as an automobile engine that can only accelerate and run so fast, until your only option is really to switch to another engine altogether. The Core takes some cues from the Pentium line, but it has been largely created from scratch to address power consumption, heat and versatility. The Core CPU can use less than 25 watts of electricity, whereas a comparable Pentium 4 can easily use over 100 watts. That makes quite a difference over time, in terms of a laptop battery or a utility bill.

The Front-Side Bus

  • The Core has a much faster "front-side bus," (FSB) which is the part of the CPU that communicates with the "northbridge" on your motherboard. The northbridge communicates with the RAM (Random Access Memory, the chips that rapidly store and retrieve temporary data), your video card, the CPU and another component on the motherboard called the "southbridge."

    The faster the FSB, the faster the northbridge can communicate with the rest of your computer, and the faster your overall performance. A Pentium just can't keep up with those speeds without getting unacceptably hot and electricity-hungry.

A Word on Upgrading

  • Keep in mind that if you want to upgrade from a Pentium to a Core CPU, you will need a new motherboard, and a different type of RAM. The Core motherboards only support DDR2 RAM. Some motherboards can take both, but these boards tend to be of low quality, and you can't use different types of RAM at the same time.

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