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Avoid Xmas computer confusion

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Microprocessors or CPUs are found in all computers. But how do you know which computer and processor to choose when you walk into a shop this Christmas? NTOMBEZINHLE MODISELLE of Intel gives us some guidelines.

The year was 1971. Pop icon Jim Morrison from The Doors was found dead in a Paris bathtub. Apollo 14 landed on the moon. In South Africa, the SABC lifted its ban on The Beatles. In the technology world, Intel took to market its first microprocessor, the 4004, with a speed of 60 000 ‚additions’ per second, signalling a revolution in the way we learn, work, live and communicate.

40 years later, and we’ve come a long way. Today’s top end chips ‚ the so-called second-generation Intel Core processors – deliver more than 350 000 times the performance of the pioneering Intel 4004, and use about 5 000 times less energy. At the same time, the price of a transistor has dropped by a factor of about 50 000.

What’s a microprocessor, you ask? Chances are you’re using one right now. Microprocessors are the ‚brains‚ inside computers, servers, phones, cars, cameras, refrigerators, radios, TVs and many other everyday devices.

Look at the little Intel sticker on your computer. One of them tells you what chip you have in your machine right now. But when you go into a store this December to choose a computer, how do you choose the right one?

Fear not. Ntombezinhle Modiselle, Intel Corporation South Africa’s head of marketing, is here to save you. ‚With so many choices nowadays, it is a good idea to understand the ‚brain’ in all personal computers such as desktops, laptops, Ultrabooks and mobile devices. It’s a good idea to know which Intel sticker suits your needs and budget,‚ says Ms Modiselle.

Indeed, not all chips are created equal. There’s a dizzying array of different chips for different devices and different tasks, ranging from smart phones, tablets and Ultrabooks to advanced desktops and laptops.

The small device. Pick up a netbook, and chances are it will have the Intel Atom chip, which uses minimal power but delivers high performance.

The workhorse. You’ll find many keenly-priced computers with Intel Celeron processors. They’re cheaper because these chips have less memory and fewer of the advanced features found in many other higher-end machines. The Celeron is attractive for entry level users who have no need for some of the more high-level features.

The mid-range chips. The Intel Pentium processor range delivers high performance, but at a competitive price. The Intel Centrino range is appealing to the business user because of its power efficiency and added features such as flexible graphics, enhanced network connections and faster performance.

The new generation. Many newer high-end computers will have an Intel Core chip. Over time, the huge array of Core products will make way for a simplified three-tier range ‚ Core i3 (entry), Core i5 (mid-level) and Core i7 (high-level) processors.

The wow. The second-generation Intel Core delivers the blazing performance, with built-in graphic capabilities that make it easy to watch media in HD stereoscopic 3D, and modern features like hardware-assisted security and support for desktop virtualisation. For the environmentally-conscious consumer, this is the greenest technology available. It’s also the brain behind the new generation of Ultrabooks, which are high-performance machines packaged in slim, sleek bodies.

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