In computing, the clock rate typically refers to the frequency at which the clock generator of a processor can generate pulses, which are used to synchronize the operations of its components,and is used as an indicator of the processor's speed. It is measured in clock cycles per second or its equivalent, the SI unit hertz (Hz).
The clock rate of the first generation of computers was measured in hertz or kilohertz (kHz), the first personal computers (PCs) to arrive throughout the 1970s and 1980s had clock rates measured in megahertz (MHz), and in the 21st century the speed of modern CPUs is commonly advertised in gigahertz (GHz). This metric is most useful when comparing processors within the same family, holding constant other features that may affect performance. Video card and CPU manufacturers commonly select their highest performing units from a manufacturing batch and set their maximum clock rate higher, fetching a higher price.[ citation needed ]
Manufacturers of modern processors typically charge premium prices for processors that operate at higher clock rates, a practice called binning. For a given CPU, the clock rates are determined at the end of the manufacturing process through actual testing of each processor. Chip manufacturers publish a "maximum clock rate" specification, and they test chips before selling them to make sure they meet that specification, even when executing the most complicated instructions with the data patterns that take the longest to settle (testing at the temperature and voltage that runs the lowest performance). Processors successfully tested for compliance with a given set of standards may be labeled with a higher clock rate, e.g., 3.50 GHz, while those that fail the standards of the higher clock rate yet pass the standards of a lesser clock rate may be labeled with the lesser clock rate, e.g., 3.3 GHz, and sold at a lower price.
The clock rate of a CPU is normally determined by the frequency of an oscillator crystal. Typically a crystal oscillator produces a fixed sine wave—the frequency reference signal. Electronic circuitry translates that into a square wave at the same frequency for digital electronics applications (or, in using a CPU multiplier, some fixed multiple of the crystal reference frequency). The clock distribution network inside the CPU carries that clock signal to all the parts that need it. An A/D Converter has a "clock" pin driven by a similar system to set the sampling rate. With any particular CPU, replacing the crystal with another crystal that oscillates at half the frequency ("underclocking") will generally make the CPU run at half the performance and reduce waste heat produced by the CPU. Conversely, some people try to increase performance of a CPU by replacing the oscillator crystal with a higher frequency crystal ("overclocking").However, the amount of overclocking is limited by the time for the CPU to settle after each pulse, and by the extra heat created.
After each clock pulse, the signal lines inside the CPU need time to settle to their new state. That is, every signal line must finish transitioning from 0 to 1, or from 1 to 0. If the next clock pulse comes before that, the results will be incorrect. In the process of transitioning, some energy is wasted as heat (mostly inside the driving transistors). When executing complicated instructions that cause many transitions, the higher the clock rate the more heat produced. Transistors may be damaged by excessive heat.
There is also a lower limit of the clock rate, unless a fully static core is used.
The first fully mechanical analog computer, the Z1 operated clock frequency at 1 Hz (cycle per second) clock frequency and the first electromechanical general purpose computer, the Z3, operated at a frequency of about 5–10 Hz. The first electronic general purpose computer, the ENIAC, used a 100 kHz clock in its cycling unit. As each instruction took 20 cycles, it had an instruction rate of 5 kHz.
The first commercial PC, the Altair 8800 (by MITS), used an Intel 8080 CPU with a clock rate of 2 MHz (2 million cycles per second). The original IBM PC (c. 1981) had a clock rate of 4.77 MHz (4,772,727 cycles per second). In 1992, both Hewlett-Packard and Digital Equipment Corporation broke the difficult 100 MHz limit with RISC techniques in the PA-7100 and AXP 21064 DEC Alpha respectively. In 1995, Intel's P5 Pentium chip ran at 100 MHz (100 million cycles per second). On March 6, 2000, AMD reached the 1 GHz milestone a few months ahead of Intel. In 2002, an Intel Pentium 4 model was introduced as the first CPU with a clock rate of 3 GHz (three billion cycles per second corresponding to ~ 0.33 nanoseconds per cycle). Since then, the clock rate of production processors has increased much more slowly, with performance improvements coming from other design changes.
As of 2011 [update] , the Guinness World Record for the highest CPU clock rate is 8.42938 GHz on an AMD FX-8150 Bulldozer-based chip.
As of 2012 [update] , the CPU-Z record for the highest CPU clock rate is 8.79433 GHz on an AMD FX-8350 Piledriver-based chip.
As of mid-2013 [update] , the highest clock rate on a production processor is the IBM zEC12, clocked at 5.5 GHz, which was released in August 2012.
Engineers continue to find new ways to design CPUs that settle a little more quickly or use slightly less energy per transition, pushing back those limits, producing new CPUs that can run at slightly higher clock rates. The ultimate limits to energy per transition are explored in reversible computing.
The first fully reversible CPU, the Pendulum, was implemented using standard CMOS transistors in the late 1990s at MIT.
Engineers also continue to find new ways to design CPUs so that they complete more instructions per clock cycle, thus achieving a lower CPI (cycles or clock cycles per instruction) count, although they may run at the same or a lower clock rate as older CPUs. This is achieved through architectural techniques such as instruction pipelining and out-of-order execution which attempts to exploit instruction level parallelism in the code.
IBM is working on 100 GHz CPU. In 2010, IBM demonstrated a graphene based transistor that can execute 100 billion cycles per second.
The clock rate of a CPU is most useful for providing comparisons between CPUs in the same family. The clock rate is only one of several factors that can influence performance when comparing processors in different families. For example, an IBM PC with an Intel 80486 CPU running at 50 MHz will be about twice as fast (internally only) as one with the same CPU and memory running at 25 MHz, while the same will not be true for MIPS R4000 running at the same clock rate as the two are different processors that implement different architectures and microarchitectures. Further, a "cumulative clock rate" measure is sometimes assumed by taking the total cores and multiplying by the total clock rate (e.g. dual core 2.8 GHz being considered processor cumulative 5.6 GHz). There are many other factors to consider when comparing the performance of CPUs, like the width of the CPU's data bus, the latency of the memory, and the cache architecture.
The clock rate alone is generally considered to be an inaccurate measure of performance when comparing different CPUs families. Software benchmarks are more useful. Clock rates can sometimes be misleading since the amount of work different CPUs can do in one cycle varies. For example, superscalar processors can execute more than one instruction per cycle (on average), yet it is not uncommon for them to do "less" in a clock cycle. In addition, subscalar CPUs or use of parallelism can also affect the performance of the computer regardless of clock rate.
Athlon is the brand name applied to a series of x86-compatible microprocessors designed and manufactured by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). The original Athlon was the first seventh-generation x86 processor and was the first desktop processor to reach speeds of one gigahertz (GHz). It made its debut as AMD's high-end processor brand on June 23, 1999. Over the years AMD has used the Athlon name with the 64-bit Athlon 64 architecture, the Athlon II, and Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) chips targeting the Socket AM1 desktop SoC architecture, and Socket AM4 Zen microarchitecture. The modern Zen-based Athlon with a Radeon Graphics processor was introduced in 2019 as AMD's highest-performance entry-level processor.
The Intel 486, officially named i486 and also known as 80486, is a higher-performance follow-up to the Intel 386 microprocessor. The i486 was introduced in 1989 and was the first tightly pipelined x86 design as well as the first x86 chip to use more than a million transistors, due to a large on-chip cache and an integrated floating-point unit. It represents a fourth generation of binary compatible CPUs since the original 8086 of 1978.
Instructions per second (IPS) is a measure of a computer's processor speed. For complex instruction set computers (CISCs), different instructions take different amounts of time, so the value measured depends on the instruction mix; even for comparing processors in the same family the IPS measurement can be problematic. Many reported IPS values have represented "peak" execution rates on artificial instruction sequences with few branches and no cache contention, whereas realistic workloads typically lead to significantly lower IPS values. Memory hierarchy also greatly affects processor performance, an issue barely considered in IPS calculations. Because of these problems, synthetic benchmarks such as Dhrystone are now generally used to estimate computer performance in commonly used applications, and raw IPS has fallen into disuse.
Celeron is Intel's brand name for low-end IA-32 and x86-64 computer microprocessor models targeted at low-cost personal computers.
HyperTransport (HT), formerly known as Lightning Data Transport (LDT), is a technology for interconnection of computer processors. It is a bidirectional serial/parallel high-bandwidth, low-latency point-to-point link that was introduced on April 2, 2001. The HyperTransport Consortium is in charge of promoting and developing HyperTransport technology.
Pentium 4 is a series of single-core CPUs for desktops, laptops and entry-level servers manufactured by Intel. The processors were shipped from November 20, 2000 until August 8, 2008. The production of Netburst processors was active from 2000 until May 21, 2010.
The Pentium III brand refers to Intel's 32-bit x86 desktop and mobile microprocessors based on the sixth-generation P6 microarchitecture introduced on February 26, 1999. The brand's initial processors were very similar to the earlier Pentium II-branded microprocessors. The most notable differences were the addition of the Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) instruction set, and the introduction of a controversial serial number embedded in the chip during manufacturing.
The PR system was a figure of merit developed by AMD, Cyrix, IBM Microelectronics and SGS-Thomson in the mid-1990s as a method of comparing their x86 processors to those of rival Intel. The idea was to consider instructions per cycle (IPC) in addition to the clock speed, so that the processors become comparable with Intel's Pentium that had a higher clock speed with overall lower IPC.
In computing, overclocking is the practice of increasing the clock rate of a computer to exceed that certified by the manufacturer. Commonly, operating voltage is also increased to maintain a component's operational stability at accelerated speeds. Semiconductor devices operated at higher frequencies and voltages increase power consumption and heat. An overclocked device may be unreliable or fail completely if the additional heat load is not removed or power delivery components cannot meet increased power demands. Many device warranties state that overclocking or over-specification voids any warranty, however there are an increasing number of manufacturers that will allow overclocking as long as performed (relatively) safely.
In electronics and especially synchronous digital circuits, a clock signal oscillates between a high and a low state and is used like a metronome to coordinate actions of digital circuits.
A front-side bus (FSB) is a computer communication interface (bus) that was often used in Intel-chip-based computers during the 1990s and 2000s. The EV6 bus served the same function for competing AMD CPUs. Both typically carry data between the central processing unit (CPU) and a memory controller hub, known as the northbridge.
Processor power dissipation or processing unit power dissipation is the process in which computer processors consume electrical energy, and dissipate this energy in the form of heat due to the resistance in the electronic circuits.
The megahertz myth, or in more recent cases the gigahertz myth, refers to the misconception of only using clock rate to compare the performance of different microprocessors. While clock rates are a valid way of comparing the performance of different speeds of the same model and type of processor, other factors such as an amount of execution units, pipeline depth, cache hierarchy, branch prediction, and instruction sets can greatly affect the performance when considering different processors. For example, one processor may take two clock cycles to add two numbers and another clock cycle to multiply by a third number, whereas another processor may do the same calculation in two clock cycles. Comparisons between different types of processors are difficult because performance varies depending on the type of task. A benchmark is a more thorough way of measuring and comparing computer performance.
In computing, the clock multiplier sets the ratio of an internal CPU clock rate to the externally supplied clock. A CPU with a 10x multiplier will thus see 10 internal cycles for every external clock cycle. For example, a system with an external clock of 100 MHz and a 36x clock multiplier will have an internal CPU clock of 3.6 GHz. The external address and data buses of the CPU also use the external clock as a fundamental timing base; however, they could also employ a (small) multiple of this base frequency to transfer data faster.
AMD Turion is the brand name AMD applies to its x86-64 low-power consumption (mobile) processors codenamed K8L. The Turion 64 and Turion 64 X2/Ultra processors compete with Intel's mobile processors, initially the Pentium M and the Intel Core and Intel Core 2 processors.
Dynamic frequency scaling is a power management technique in computer architecture whereby the frequency of a microprocessor can be automatically adjusted "on the fly" depending on the actual needs, to conserve power and reduce the amount of heat generated by the chip. Dynamic frequency scaling helps preserve battery on mobile devices and decrease cooling cost and noise on quiet computing settings, or can be useful as a security measure for overheated systems.
The Alpha 21264 is a Digital Equipment Corporation RISC microprocessor introduced in October, 1996. The 21264 implemented the Alpha instruction set architecture (ISA).
Phenom II is a family of AMD's multi-core 45 nm processors using the AMD K10 microarchitecture, succeeding the original Phenom. Advanced Micro Devices released the Socket AM2+ version of Phenom II in December 2008, while Socket AM3 versions with DDR3 support, along with an initial batch of triple- and quad-core processors were released on February 9, 2009. Dual-processor systems require Socket F+ for the Quad FX platform. The next-generation Phenom II X6 was released on April 27, 2010.
"Overclocking" early processors was as simple – and as limited – as changing the discrete clock crystal ... The advent of adjustable clock generators has allowed "overclocking" to be done without changing parts such as the clock crystal.
This article is based on material taken from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing prior to 1 November 2008 and incorporated under the "relicensing" terms of the GFDL, version 1.3 or later.