A processor is a collection of logic circuits that is designed to efficiently process data. There are a number of processors – processor designs are created for specialised tasks, these include the Central Processing Units (CPU), Graphics Processing Units (GPU), Physics Processing Units (PPU) or Digital Signal Processors. An array or vector processor solves computational queries through a range of interconnected processors that are arranged in the distributed computing model.

Intel, AMD, ARM and Fujitsu are amongst the leading developers of processors and related technologies in the world.

Read more on x86 microprocessors >>

Read more on non x86 microprocessors, such as ARM >>


Microprocessors are programmable integrated circuits that can be used to perform a wide range of operations, they can be designed for specific purposes, allowing them to be manufactured in large quantities at low costs. Microprocessors are found in a variety of devices from telephones to Formula 1 technology, and since the first commercially available microprocessors (the Intel 4004 developed in 1971), they have now become smaller, efficient, more powerful and cheaper to manufacture. There are occasions when microprocessor may be used to refer to as a CPU.

Central Processing Units (CPU)

A CPU is the electronic ‘brains’ of a computer, it interprets and executes hardware and software commands. A CPU is fabricated on a single microprocessor (sometimes referred to as a silicon chip) in personal computers, it consists of an arithmetic logic unit (ALU) (which performs arithmetical, logical and input / output operations), and a control unit (CU) (which extracts instructions from memory, decodes and executes them).

The design and implementation of CPUs have changed over the years, but the core operations remain the same. Apart from the refinements in processing power and speed, the single core computing component has been superseded by dual, triple, quad, hexa core processors  and processor arrays which offer improved performances, because for example they can execute multiple instructions independently.

Intel Core i7, i5 and i3 chipsThe Intel range of multi core processors includes:

Intel Pentium Dual Core Processor

Intel Core i3 Processor

Intel Core i5 Processor

Intel Core i7 Processor

Intel Xeon E7 Processor

The range of AMD multi core processors includes:

AMD FX Processor

AMD A-Series Processor

AMD Phenom II X6 Processor

AMD Athlon II Dual Core Processor

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

A GPU helps to build images within the video output component of computing and mobile devices. It is a dedicated processor designed to perform lighting, rendering, polygon and other associated calculations efficiently. Intel, AMD, ATI and Nvidia are the leading manufacturers of GPUs.

Physics Processing Unit (PPU)

A PPU is a specialised microprocessor that delivers the physics calculations in video games, academic or industrial computers that are involved in collision detection, dynamics or particle systems calculations.

Processors such as the GPU and PPU preform specialised functions, thereby decreasing the workload on the CPU.

See also…

Electronics Weekly processor blog – x86 Endgame

Electronics Weekly semiconductor blog – Mannerisms