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Issue #619: June 2-8, 2019

Q: I currently have a Dell computer with an I3 processor. If I go up to an I5 processor which has a faster speed, will the web pages load up faster, or is the higher speed just for up/downloads? Thank you for your column.

– John S.
Niceville, Florida

A: Your question actually implies more unasked questions than the actual question, John. So, I’m going to try and cover a lot of ground in the small space of this week’s edition.

First of all, if by “go up to an I5 processor” you mean purchase a new processor for your existing computer, that’s probably not possible. On many modern systems, laptops in particular, the CPU is soldered directly to the motherboard. In cases where a socket is used, the socket may not be compatible with anything other than what the OEM designed it for. Now, if you mean you want to purchase a new system with a different processor, then yes, of course that’s possible.

Will web pages load faster? I’m afraid not. The speed at which pages load is a factor of your Internet connection speed, and how many devices are sharing it simultaneously. I’m guessing that if you felt it necessary to ask the question, you must be experiencing slow page loading. This is a tough one to quantify, since “slow” is such a relative term. Besides, the actual content of any given page will inherently load faster or slower than any other given page. Regardless, if what you are seeking is faster loading web pages, you should be seeking an upgrade to your connectivity, rather than your processor. This includes all the equipment on your side of the firewall. That means any router, switches, wireless access points, even the cables themselves. All of these factor-in to the overall speed of downloads, which includes loading web pages.

So, then what is the big deal about I5 and I7 processors? Well, it’s a matter of raw computing power. Think of it this way: tiny little 2-seat passenger cars and big muscle cars share the road with everything in between. They both do the same job – riding on roads to get you from place to place. But one is much more responsive than the other. You hit the gas, and you GO. In the right place, such as a track, one could out-pace the other in both acceleration, and top speed. So it is with different processors. They all do the same basic job, but the actual “horsepower” you get from them is a factor of many things, such as their clock speed, how many processor cores they contain, the availability of cache memory, and other technologies such as hyper-threading. Depending on these factors, a well-equipped I3 machine might actually be faster than a poorly equipped I5 machine. There’s a lot to know when trying to make a purchase. I often find that people want the absolutely screaming fastest computer they can possibly get, but they don’t understand what all the numbers mean. If all you do is check e-mail and surf the web, or even use most desktop office applications, a decently appointed I3 machine is plenty of computing power. Now, if you want to render multiple hundred frames of high-resolution graphics per second in a 3D immersive video game, or if you’re compiling several hundred thousand lines of C++ source code, or modeling the movement of subatomic particles in a large supercollider, then you’re probably going to want the best, screaming fastest machine money can buy. Otherwise, save your money and buy something a little less, which is probably intended for your kind of use anyway.

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From the Geek: This is another call for reader questions! My queue is running on fumes, and I need your questions to make the column run. Surely I haven’t done my job so well that nobody has any more questions? Remember, your questions don’t need to be about computers! I’ll gladly tackle any technology-related topic! Got questions about your new smart speaker (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.)? How’s your home audio system doing? Are you getting your money’s worth out of that Smart TV you bought? I can help! Visit my website, and click the Submit a Question link to get started.

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