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Is 3.3GHz to 3.9GHz in a processor considered a big difference?

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The upperbound difference is exactly what the numbers suggest: the 3.9GHz processor will run about 18% faster than the 3.3GHz processor.

The reality is that is only true if all other variables were held constant. There’s going to be some variable differences between the processor spec’s which matter as much if-not-more than clock-speed. A simplistic list of other factors:

  • Definitely important to consider:
    • Cache-size
    • Number of cores
    • Number of threads per core
  • Possibly important to consider:
    • Lithography
    • Bus speed
    • Number of memory channels
    • PCIe revision
    • Number of PCIe lanes
    • Integrated graphics
    • Instruction Set Architecture
      (More relevant in phones and tablet’s than PC’s)
  • Any of the above could make a big enough difference in a system that even though 3.9 > 3.3, the chip clocked at 3.3GHz could still considerably outperform the 3.9GHz chip.
  • Even if all-else above is held constant, many applications bottleneck on other system components beyond the CPU. If an application is bottlenecked by hard-disk then a 18% improvement in CPU speed will likely have a negligible/zero-percent improvement on execution speed.

TL DR, if all other CPU variables are held constant, then moving from a 3.3GHz chip to a 3.9GHz chip will net you a system performance increase anywhere from 0% up to 18% improvement, based on what you’re doing. If you’ve sacrificed processing cores or threads to get that upperbound 18% improvement, then you likely netted a loss for common-case use. Trust benchmark numbers over simplistic clock-speeds, as their value is over-rated.

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2 thoughts on “Is 3.3GHz to 3.9GHz in a processor considered a big difference?

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