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You know a thing or two about computers. You’re pretty much up to speed on what a CPU does and how it performs. And you know that more threads mean better performance.
But when it comes down to it, do you actually know what it means when people talk about threads? Do you know what they are? Do you know why they’re important?
Today we’re detailing everything you need to know about threads. We’ll be discussing why they are important. We’ll be talking about how they work in conjunction with your CPU.
And we’ll detail what exactly it is that they do. Keep reading to learn more about CPU threads and why they’re crucial to the performance of your system.
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A Brief Explanation of Threads
All central processing units have threads, but what exactly does that mean? In simple terms, the threads are what allow your CPU to perform multiple things at once. So if you want to run multiple processes that are very intensive, you will need a CPU with a lot of threads.
The number of threads you have depends on the number of cores in your CPU. Each CPU core can have two threads. So a processor with two cores will have four threads. A processor with eight cores will have 16 threads.
A processor with 24 cores (yes, those exist), will have 48 threads.
Threads are important to the function of your computer because they determine how many tasks your computer can perform at any given time.
We’re diving into further detail on exactly what threads are, why you need to understand what they do, and why they’re so important.
What Are Central Processing Units?
Before you can understand threads, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of what a CPU is. You cannot understand the function of one without understanding the capabilities of the other.
The CPU (central processing unit) is the core of every smartphone, tablet, and computer. It is a critical component that dictates the way your computer will perform and determines how well it can do the job.
It is the core of your computer, and your computer cannot function without it.
The CPU is sometimes called the brain of the computer. It sits upon the motherboard (also called the main circuit board) and is a separate component from the memory component.
It acts upon the memory component, which stores all the data and information on your system. The memory component and the CPU are separate from your graphics card. The graphics card’s only function is to take the data and transform it into the images you see on your monitor.
As technology advances from year to year, we see CPUs getting smaller and smaller. And they are performing faster than ever before. You’ll understand this faster performance if you know a thing or two about Moore’s Law.
Moore’s Law takes its name from Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. It is Moore’s idea that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years.
It is not a law of physics or a law of natural science—it is due to the projected growth rate of the number of components per integrated circuit. For a full explanation of Moore’s Law, click here.
What Does the CPU Do?
As we said earlier, the CPU is the brain of your computer. It takes the data from a particular program or application, performs a series of calculations, and executes the command. It performs a three-part cycle otherwise referred to as the repetitive loop of fetch, decode, and execute.
In the first phase, the CPU fetches the instructions from your system’s memory. Once it has the instructions from the memory, it moves onto the second phase. It is within this second phase that it decodes those instructions.
Once the machine has decoded the instructions, it moves onto the third stage of execution.
The decoded info passes through the CPU to reach the units that need to actually perform the required function. In the decoding process, it performs mathematical equations to send the required signal to your system.
This cycle repeats over and over again for every action and command you perform. In cutting-edge CPU technology, the components of your CPU no longer do everything themselves.
But they are still crucial to feeding the specialized hardware numbers they need to perform the task at hand.
The CPU is a critical part of any system, and it works hand in hand with threads. Different CPUs have different amounts of thread to limit or expand the performance of your computer.
What Are Threads?
So what exactly are threads? How do they relate to your CPU? How do they affect the way your system performs? Let’s dig in a little bit deeper to explain exactly what threads are, what they do, and why they’re so important.
They are usually managed by a scheduler, which is a standard part of any operating system.
To create a thread, you have to first create a process. Upon completion, the process creates a thread, which are then executed. This can be for a short or long period of time, depending on the process.
Regardless of how long it takes, this creates the appearance that your computer is doing many things at once.
Every process has at least one thread, but there is no maximum number of threads a process can use. For specialized tasks, the more threads you have, the better your computer’s performance will be. With multiple threads, a single process can handle a variety of tasks simultaneously.
You’ll also hear people use terms such as “multithreading” and “hyper-threading.” Hyper-threading technology allows a single CPU core to act as two cores, speeding up the execution of a particular program or application.
Even with one core, it can simulate the performance as if you actually have two. The more cores you have, the more threads you have. The more threads you have, the better the performance of your system will be.
If you have a dual-core CPU, hyper-threading will make it appear as though you have four. A quad-core CPU will simulate the results of eight cores. CPUs were originally built with one core.
But now, with more cores and processing units available, you can enjoy more threads than ever. More threads mean more performance and the ability to run many processes at once.
How Do Threads and CPUs work together?
To better understand what a thread is, it’s helpful to know how threads and CPUs work together. We say “thread” to simplify the idea, but in actuality, you should think of it as a “thread of execution.”
You perform a command. Your CPU begins the fetch, decode, and execution process to achieve that command. The thread is the sequence of instructions that tell your computer what it has to do to perform that command.
They work in conjunction to open programs, use apps, play videos, and do whatever you ask your computer to do.
When it comes to CPUs and threads working side by side, it doesn’t matter where the instructions come from. Your processor will determine which process gets handled by the CPU and which gets handled by a thread.
Every time your processor loads a new thread, the original thread gets saved in the main memory. Once the original thread’s instructions get removed from the cycle, a new thread can begin. The new thread then embarks on the first step of the three-step fetch, decode, and execution process.
Which CPUs Have the Most Threads?
Now that you know a thing or two about threads, you’re most likely thinking “I want a faster CPU with more threads.” But how can you be sure you’re buying a CPU with enough threads to provide the power and performance you need?
We’ve compiled a list of several high-performing CPUs that are available on the market, plus a few that are set for release in 2018. To date, these CPUs offer some of the best performance and the most amount of threads.
Intel Core i9-7980XE Extreme
18 cores mean 36 threads, which makes the Intel Core i9-7980XE Extreme one of the fastest and most powerful processors on the market. It boasts a 24.74 MB cache, a 2.60 GHz clock speed, and 4.20 GHz max turbo frequency.
Intel Core i9-7960X
16 cores, 32 threads, and a max turbo frequency of 4.20 GHz make the Intel Core i9-7960X a favorite. With a 2.80 GHz clock speed and a 22 MB cache, it’s an excellent option if you’re looking for power and performance.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950x
The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950x comes with 16 cores, this CPU boasts 32 threads, a boost clock of 4.0 GHz, and an L3 cache of 32 MB. Many users consider it to be more flexible than comparable CPUs with Intel Core i9.
Intel Core i9-7940X
With 14 cores and 28 threads, the Intel Core i9-7940X features a max turbo frequency of 4.30 GHz and a max clock speed of 3.10 GHz. It’s one of many powerful Intel Core i9 CPUs designed for excellent performance.
Intel Xeon Platinum Series
If you want the best processor and the most amount of threads, check out the Intel Xeon Platinum series. Intel CPUs are well-known as the best in the business, and for good reason.
The Platinum 8176, 8176F, and 8180 models boast 28 cores with 56 threads. The Platinum 8164 and 8170 feature 26 cores and 52 threads. If that’s more performance than you need, the Platinum 8160, 8168, 8160T, and 8160F boast a mere 24 cores with 48 threads.
The performance of the Intel Xeon promises to be impressive, but you’ll have to shell out some big bucks for these beasts. (The current listed price for the 8180 model is $8,999 on Amazon).
Average users usually don’t know much about threads, don’t care to know, and don’t spend the time to understand what they do or why they are important. And if you usually only run a single program on your computer, that’s completely fine. But if you want to know and understand exactly how your computer operates, understanding threads is key.
To understand threads, you have to first know what a CPU is and what a CPU does. You need some understanding of the fetch, decode, and execute cycle. But the most important thing to know is that threads affect how quickly and efficiently your computer can multiple instructions at the same time.
Within Windows, all threads are actively operated on for some period of time. Some CPUs have multiple threads with hyper-threading that mimic double the amount of CPU cores you actually have.
With many threads, even a single processor can perform a variety of tasks at the same time.
To have a functioning system, you need the right CPU and the right amount of threads. Together, they are crucial elements that allow your computer to function.
You need the CPU to power the other components and send instructions to the right elements of your computer. You need the threads to perform many functions at a time and allow your computer to run efficiently.
Without these two elements, you won’t see any performance at all.
If you want to make sure your CPU offers enough threads, do your research to know the difference and know what various CPUs are capable of. Compare costs, compare function, and compare performance.
Read reviews from actual users so you know what to expect from your CPU or any new CPU that you plan to buy.
Invest a bit of time doing research. Take the time to read reviews. Compare prices and function to know what you’re getting for your money.
If you do your homework, you’ll find a CPU with enough threads to provide the performance you need.
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