If you want to know about GHz, what it does and how it affects the performance of a PC, you have come to the right place. Here you will find all the information related to clock speed and the best way to find the right CPU for your specific need.
Gigahertz, in short GHz, refers to a processor’s clock speed. Gigahertz is a unit of frequency that’s used to measure computer processing speed, AC (alternating current), and EM (electromagnetic) frequencies equal to 1,000,000,000 (one billion) hertz.
Meaning of GHz
GHz is short of gigahertz, consisting of two parts Giga and hertz. Hertz is the measure of frequency named after the German physicist H.R Hertz who proved the existence of EM waves in 1883.
Giga is SI prefix which means a billion; therefore, one gigahertz is equal to 1,000,000,000 (one billion) Hz, two gigahertz is equivalent to 2 billion per second.
GHz is a unit of frequency in a computer processor, also known as a clock rate or clock speed. GHz represents a cycle of time in a computer processor.
What Does Gigahertz Mean in a Processor?
The processor, also known as the central processing unit (CPU), is essential for a computer. It is the most important hardware component and enables your computer to process and execute programs’ instructions.
The CPU provides the information and processing power the computer requires to perform its job.
The information you interact with passes through the CPU before it reaches you. When referring to a computer processor, GHz measures the processor’s clock rate or clock speed. Clock speeds plus computer core work together to process and deliver information at the processing speed.
A clock speed is a rate measured in kHz, MHz, or GHz in which processors complete a cycle. One kHz equals thousands per second, one MHz equals one million cycles per second, and one GHz equals one thousand million or one billion per second.
Back in the days when the first computer started, the first-generation computers’ processors operated in KHz. After that, with the emergence of personal computers, the processors speed increased to MHz.
Now, in modern days, the processors work in GHz and with multiple cores.
A clock cycle is an electrical pause in a CPU during which a CPU can perform a basic task.
In short, a gigahertz (GHz) computer completes a billion clock cycles per second. The clock cycle is the time between the two pulses from an oscillator, while the Clock speed is the number of pulses from the oscillator completed per second.
Processor speed is the number of cycles a processor completes in one second, depending on its clock speed. A CPU carries out its functions by processing the information it receives. How much information is processed during a clock cycle depends on the clock speed.
A CPU can process information faster if it can process a higher number of pulses per second.
Therefore, a 2.6 GHz processor can process 2.6 billion instructions in one second, and a 3.6 GHz processor can process 3.6 billion instructions in one second.
The higher the GHz, the faster the instructions are processed per second, and the quicker the program is executed.
What is GHz, and how does it affect performance?
Your CPU continually completes calculations, and if you have a higher clock speed as in more GHz, it can complete the calculations faster.
As a result, your computer will operate more quickly, which will run your applications faster. The higher the GHz number, the faster the processor speed. A higher processor speed means the processor can execute more instructions per second, making it faster.
Processors these days mostly come in two clock speeds, a base (minimum) clock, and a boost (maximum) clock. Base speed is for light everyday work, typically between 1GHz and 2GHz or higher, depending on the processor.
For heavy load, the CPU temporarily accelerates to 3.5GHz to 4.5GHz for the task. Depending on the CPU brand, the temporary boost is generally known as Turbo Core or Turbo Boost.
Sometimes overclocking is used to increase the speed of the CPU for faster performance. However, it is not suitable for your PC as it can create stability problems and crash your system if not done correctly.
If you are interested in overclocking your CPU I have made an in-depth guide on overclocking
Most popular brands have some CPUs that supports overclocking, but sometimes overclocking is not supported by all CPUs.
Multi-Cores, Processors, and Threads
High clock speed requires more power and generates more heat, making it difficult to increase the clock speed. Therefore, to improve the computer’s performance further, the processor cores are increased.
In modern days CPUs mostly have two, four, or six cores; these are called dual-core, quad-core, and Hexa-core. Hence, these CPUs are able to take a much more significant amount of workload, unlike the old times when there was only one core processor.
A CPU with multiple cores performance is better than a single-core CPU of the same speed.
Multiple cores allow a CPU to process numerous things at the same time, dividing the work into various units. All cores are like mini- processors; a two-core 3.5 GHz processor has two mini-processors in it.
Each one of this mini-processor can process 3.5 billion instructions per second concurrently.
As multiple cores let computers run multiple processes at one time, this parallel computing increases your performance when multitasking. However, even though parallel computing is good for multitasking, it has its own limitation.
All problems cannot be solved concurrently; that’s why generally faster speed single core work-per-second offers the best performance.
The threads are another development of the modern computer. Threads in a processor are computers’ paths to send information to the cores.
Processor cores perform one task at a time, but with multiple threads, a core can have a constant stream of tasks ready to do and do not have to wait for information to perform tasks.
In short, a processor with more cores and threads can tackle multiple tasks at the same time by dividing its processing power.
Higher Clock Speed vs. More Cores?
By now, you know that the clock speed of a CPU is not the only indicator to determine performance. However, you can use clock speeds to compare CPUs with the same feature, brand, and number of cores.
Multiple cores CPU has multiple CPU chips inside a chip, and each core performs at the same speed. The multiple cores processor divides all programs into sub-parts and concurrently executes instructions independently.
A CPU with more core comes in pair with more threads and can perform more tasks concurrently. However, a CPU with a higher GHz speed and multiple cores will perform faster when compared with a lower GHz speed and more core processors.
Moreover, one chip that runs at 5 GHz will be faster than two chips running at 2.5 GHz. Even though the two chips running at 2.5 GHz can perform two tasks at the same time.
Higher clock speed or more core entirely depends on what you intend to use your computer for. More cores processors can run more applications simultaneously but lack higher single-thread performance.
On the other hand, the CPU with less core but higher speed is suitable for single higher single-threaded performance but is not good for applications that support multi-threading.
Therefore, you do not need more cores if you want to use your CPU for something that runs on a single thread.
In this case, a higher clock speed is what you need to improve your performance. On the contrary, if you need to use a CPU for something that requires multitasking, such as video editing or graphic designing, it’s better to have more cores and threads rather than only higher speed.
If you want to know more about multi-core CPUs I wrote another article going into more detail about the difference between higher clock speed, and higher core CPUs.
How Many GHz is Good for Laptop and Desktop Computer
A good processor speed for laptops depends on how you intend to use your laptop/computer. Lower speed processors are enough for you if you use the laptop for regular tasks or basic office work.
However, you should consider a faster computer if you need your computer for video editing or gaming. So, for everyday use, a speed of 2.3 GHz is enough, and for gaming, video editing, or heavy-load work, a speed of 4.0 GHz or higher will work better for you.
You cannot always compare the processor speeds as the older computers with the same clock speed tend to be slower than the modern computers.
Same clock speeds do not produce the same results unless they are from the same brand and model. When you compare computers’ performance and speed, it should be between CPUs from the same period and same brand.
What GHz is good for gaming
Clock speed is a significant factor to consider while looking for a gaming computer. For gaming, you need all the processing speed you can get to play with ease.
Generally, a 3.5 to 4.5 GHz processor speed with a quad-core processor is considered suitable for gaming.
It is better if you can afford to buy the one with the highest clock speed and the highest amount of cores but not always possible because of the high cost.
Most popular brands in the market
Intel and AMD manufacture the best and are the most affordable brands. It’s hard to choose between AMD and Intel as both offer fast, feature-packed processors and keep upgrading each year.
Intel brand dominated the processor market until AMD introduced Ryzen processors.
After that, AMD’s Ryzen 5000 took over and dominated the market for a decade. Intel processors include the i3, i5, i7, and i9 chips, while AMD Ryzen processors include the 3, 5, 7, and 9. Recently Intel has an edge with a new 16-core Alder Lake CPU with a boost clock speed of 5.5 GHz. Nevertheless, no matter which company you choose, you cannot go wrong.
How to check the speed of a processor
After you understand what GHz is, it is also essential to know how to check the speed of your processor.
For Windows, press the Window key and Pause button simultaneously. Here, you can check the speed and model information in the System Properties window.
For Mac, from the menu at the top, click the Apple icon and select “About this Mac.”When the system information window comes up, you can check the speed and processor type under Overview.
For Linux Users, use the command “$ cat /proc/cpuinfo” to check the information about the processor in the computer.
Processor speed is one of the most critical factors that affect overall computer speed and performance. How fast your PC works can make a big impact on your computing experience.
However, it is not the only indicator; other factors are considered besides clock speed, such as multiple CPU cores and larger amounts of CPU cache memory to work.
What is best for you mostly depends on how you intend to use your computer. After reading the article, now you have a better idea of what GHz is and how it affects the performance of a computer.
Either choose a faster speed or a higher number of processor cores or both for your specific use.
This article is part of a series click here to get the full guide on how your can increase your CPU performance.
You also might want to read this next article in the series on How Managing Your CPU Heat Can Improve Performance.