Tag Archives: Processor

New York Rockefeller pano

Building the perfect photo editing PC: part one

With so many of the readers of our blog keen photographers, we wanted to provide some help and advice on how to create the perfect machine for editing photos. Rather than doing it ourselves, professional wildlife photographer Richard Peters has very kindly written a blog running through everything that a budding photographer needs in their ideal rig. So without further ado, we’ll let Richard tell us what we need.

Since the advent of digital photography, as well as the massive increase in computer users, many amateur photographers simply take their shots, upload to their computer, and then share them with friends and family. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with this, but to really make the most of the time and effort that goes into taking these photos, a bit of editing can go a long way. While photographers originally needed a darkroom to develop their photos, the modern photographer can get themselves set up for processing their images with a desktop PC.

However, without the right type of PC, photo editing can go from being a pleasure to a teeth-grinding chore as the computer struggles to do the tasks you’ve asked of it. With this in mind, I want to discuss the key components that a photographer needs in their PC for photo editing, so that they can make the most of the money they are investing.

Whilst I have been a Mac user for some time now, not everyone wants to go this route. If you shop around you can actually build a Windows-based PC with more than enough power for a fraction of the cost of a Mac. While the thought may scare some people, building the machine from scratch can save money, and allow a much greater degree of customisation. Of course, pre-built machines are available, and offer a great solution for those without the time and inclination for tinkering with a computer. All of these components have been chosen to ensure that processing, saving and editing large image files is as quick as possible.

A fantastic monochrome image of a red deer by Richard Peters


The CPU is the brains of the computer. While high-end gaming and video editing machines place a high reliance on a powerful graphics card (which we’ll come to in a minute), the processor is the key component for an image editing PC. When doing anything in Photoshop, for example, the processor has to do a lot of number crunching. That’s why certain actions in Photoshop can seem to take ages on an older or less powerful PC. The Intel Core i7-3820 is well worth looking at as it offers the best combination of power and cost, and will make it much easier to manipulate large RAW images.


The motherboard is one of the key components for ensuring that your computer will remain up to date as long as possible, and also dictates the components that you can use with it. A good motherboard, such as the Asus P9X79 PRO, will reduce the need for adding extra components. For example, if it already contains USB 3.0 ports and a soundcard, then there is no need to buy these extra components, cutting down on cost and additional hassle when building. An advanced mother board will also mean that you have the space to add extra RAM, PCI cards and hard drives should you need them in the future.

In the next post, Richard will be looking at the video card, memory and storage requirements for a photo editing PC. In the meantime, why not take a look at some of the guides out there for building a PC, and don’t forget to keep taking lots of photos!

Intel Core i5 FI

The best processors you can buy

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Dave at TechRadar.com, one of our favourite sources for tech news and reviews. Here are his thoughts on the best processors around today.

Things have been changing pretty quickly in the world of processors recently. First off AMD tried to make a big splash with its brand new Bulldozer architecture in its FX series CPUs, and last month Intel went crazy and released its super-enthusiast chips, the Sandy Bridge E series.

These chips weren’t designed to go head-to-head with AMD’s top FX chip, the 3.6GHz FX-8150, coming in around the £200 mark and the Sandy Bridge E top end part sitting at £810. That’s a big gulf in price and, despite AMD’s new chip claiming to have eight cores, the hex-core Core i7-3960X is a processing marvel.

There are a lot of flavours of CPU outside of those two big boys, and the traditional Sandy Bridge processors, like the Core i7 2700K and i5 2500K, still have an awful lot left to give.

We’ve gone into depth about the latest advances in CPU technology in our Best CPU guide and we’ve checked out the serious contenders for the top processor crown too.

You may have noticed we’ve left the Core i7-3960X out of the list, but at over £800 it’s out of the price range of most, and if you need the sort of performance it can give you’ll pay the premium.

So here’s our list of the top CPUs around right now.

8. AMD FX-8150 – 3 stars

Eight cores. Two billion transistors (or 1.2 billion depending on how AMD is feeling at the time of asking). A radical modular architecture. 16MB of cache memory. And Turbo clockspeeds north of 4GHz. How could something that sounds so awesome end up so wrong?

One day, the full story of AMD’s troubled new PC processor architecture will emerge. It should make for a fascinating tale. After all, the Bulldozer architecture that underpins the FX 8150 must have seemed like a great idea. It’s all about balancing threads with cores with a view to delivering the most efficient and effective processor architecture possible.

However, that 1.2 to 2 billion transistor count makes it very expensive to manufacture, while its disappointing performance puts a limit on the price tag AMD can attach.

And more than anything else, it’s just not a great chip for PC gaming.

Read TechRadar’s AMD FX-8150 review.

7. Intel Core i3-2100 – 3 stars

Take a cheap chip. And clock the living bejesus out of it. This, friends, has long been the path to great PC performance for the pathologically penniless.

Enter, therefore, the Intel Core i3-2100. Like it or lump it, Intel has by far the best CPU architectures today and the feisty little 2100 is part of its latest generation of chips, known as Sandy Bridge.

With an unlocked multiplier, this thing could seriously rock. Without one though it’s merely OK.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i3-2100 review.

6. AMD FX-4100 – 3 ½ stars

Consider the AMD FX 4100. We can’t be absolutely sure about this without official confirmation, but we reckon it’s based on the very same two-billion transistor processor die as the range-topping FX 8150.

The difference is that two of the 8150’s four Bulldozer modules have been nuked from orbit.

The best that can be said about this dual-module Bulldozer is that it’s not far behind its triple and quad-module brethren in games.

If only they weren’t all off the pace.

Read TechRadar’s AMD FX 4100 review.

5. AMD FX-6100 – 3 ½ stars

When is a six-core PC processor not a six-core PC processor? When it’s AMD’s new FX 6100.

Long before AMD released its fancy new FX chips, we had a feeling a fit of fisticuffs was brewing over the definition of what constitutes a processor core. Now the FX has arrived and the gloves are off.

At stock clocks and with the final module hidden, it’s not terribly exciting. However, if it turns out that most of all 6100s will happily run with the final module enabled, it might just be worth a roll of the dice.

If that happens, we’ll be more than happy to upgrade the 6100’s status to buy.

Read TechRadar’s AMD FX 6100 review.

4. Intel Core i7-3930K – 4 stars

The Intel Core i7-3960X is a positively preposterous processor. This is the Intel Core i7-3930K and it’s not the same chip. Not precisely, anyway.

We’ve reviewed the 3960X elsewhere and deemed it disappointing, moderately sinister (it’s prima facie evidence of Intel carpet bagging in response to AMD’s failure to bring out a really quick chip) and largely irrelevant to human existence.

So, here’s the best bit. The 3930K costs over £300 less.

OK, £500 is still a big ask. But the difference in price alone is enough to buy a half decent desktop PC or a cheap laptop.

The point, then, is that this cheaper Sandy Bridge E gives you everything the top chip delivers for a lot less money. There’s  absolutely no reason to spend.

We’re not completely convinced even this truly means the 3930K is good value for money. But it’s still a very fast processor and the chip we’d buy if we had a big budget.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i7-3930K review.

3. Intel Core i7-2700K – 4 stars

The 2700K is the new de facto king of Intel’s line of LGA 1155 models. For us, it’s the LGA 1155 socket that’s really relevant to PC enthusiasts and gamers, not the highfalutin’, server-derived LGA 2011 platform and its quad-channel silliness.

The 2700K, then, is the fastest chip any mere mortal is likely to run in his PC any time soon.

Unfortunately, what it ain’t is a big step forward over the existing Core i7-2600K.

What’ll she do, mister? The answer during our testing and in the context of air cooling and a modicum of extra voltage is an overclocking speed of 4.8GHz.

A very good result, we think you’ll agree. But not materially better than you can expect from most 2600K processors. Again, the game doesn’t move on.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i7-2700K review.

2. AMD Phenom II X6 1100T – 4 ½ stars


Little did we, or frankly AMD, know how good we had it with the Phenom II X6 1100T.

Only now, with the release of AMD’s all-new Bulldozer architecture and the FX processors it powers, can we truly put what was once known as Hammer into full context.

It’s not that far off when it comes to threading. But it also ponies up that little bit more per-core performance that could make the difference between smooth frames rates and the occasional chugging that really spoils the experience.

It’s a bizarre thing to be asking, But please, AMD, have another go with the Hammer.

Read TechRadar’s AMD Phenom II X6 1100T review.

1. Intel Core i5 2500K – 4 ½ stars

Odd as it is for a CPU that’s a year old and still offers the most advanced computing technology available, the Core i5-2500K feels like an old friend.

Of all Intel’s CPUs it seems like the most honest, the most straight forward. If you’re a keen gamer, it’s probably still the fittest for purpose.

Only the higher clocked 2700K has it beaten. That’s beyond impressive for a relatively elderly and affordable chip.

Chuck in the ability to go well beyond 4GHz on air cooling and you have an unbeatable package.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i5-2500K review.

For a full list of the processors we’ve looked at over on TechRadar.com check out our constantly updated CPU reviews.

Dave James is the Components Editor for TechRadar.com and as such is a massive PC geek of the highest order. What he hasn’t destroyed through benchmarking, overclocking or general tweakery isn’t worth looking at.


Guide: How to Install a Processor

This is a Techradar article in association with Dabs.com

What shall we compare the computer processor to this week? How about the human brain or perhaps the heart? We could go mechanical and try the car engine? In truth, there’s nothing man-made that really matches the modern processor for its complexity and adaptability.

It performs billions of operations a second, running through billions of transistors. And all are packed into a silicon-based package that’s no bigger than the end of your finger.

We’ve gone from having just one of these processors running at a few million times a second to effectively having six and soon eight processing cores packed into a single chip computing instructions at the rate of billions of times a second.

Sounds impressive? It is. And it’s also not the easiest thing to upgrade the one that’s currently inside your system.

Whether you’re building from scratch or upgrading an existing system, it’s worth reading our guide to buying a new processorand our list of the best processors around. Now let’s look at how you can replace the chip inside your system.

1. Getting started

How to install a processor

The key thing to do no matter if you’re upgrading or building from scratch, is to make sure your processor matches the motherboard and memory. You can start from either end, choose a processor then pick a suitable motherboard and memory. Or more likely if you’re upgrading an older system, start with the motherboard and memory you already have and match it to the best processor available.

2. Removals begin

How to install a processor

If you’re upgrading the first step is to remove the old heatsink and processor. Disconnect the fan’s power cable and then start to unlock its fixing mechanism that can take many forms. Newer Intel solutions have push-down clips, usually you need to rotate these to release them. Most AMD solutions use a fixing lever to clamp the unit in place.

3. Release the CPUs

How to install a processor

Intel uses a LGA or Land Grid Array system to hold the processor, this traps the processor against an array delicate pins using a metal lid. Unhock the lever beside this to flip back the CPU and carefully remove it. The AMD system uses a ZIF or Zero Insertion Force socket that traps the CPU’s delicate pins n place, again use the lever beside this to unlock the socket and carefully remove the CPU.

4. Insert the CPU

How to install a processor

When installing the CPU it’s vital to install it with the correct orientation, which is to say it may be square but it can only be fitted in one position. For Intel LGA processors there are two notches cut into its sides that ensure it can only be installed one way around, line these up and drop them into place. For AMD CPUs there will be a golden triangle on one corner of the processor, this is lined up with the indented triangle on the socket.

5. Clamp it

How to install a processor

Once you’re sure the processor is seated correctly you can lock the processor into place; for Intel professors this is easier to tell as they just sit on top of the pins, for AMD processors it can sometimes be a little troublesome getting all the pins to seat but it should gently drop into the socket.

6. Heat paste

How to install a processor

A small amount of heat paste should be applied to the top of the processor. This compound will fill in any gaps between the top of the processor and the heatsink to help keep the processor cool. For AMD processors apply a thin 1mm line horizontally above the AMD logo. For Intel processors a line going vertically up from the cap notch will do, apart from for Core 2 Quad models where the line should go horizontally parallel with the notch.

7. CPU cooler

How to install a processor

Finally you can install the heatsink. On AMD systems this usually consists of hooking one end of a clamp in place and using a lever on the other to clamp the heatsink in place. On Intel system four fixing spots will either use screws or push-down posts to fix the heatsink in place. Connect the fan’s power cable in place and you’re done.

8. Fingers crossed and power on

How to install a processor

When you power on everything should continue as normal, but it’s worth diving into the BIOS to double check the processor has been detected correctly by the BIOS. Potentially, if it hasn’t you may need to update the BIOS, though this shouldn’t stop it from working correctly.