Microprocessor frequency specifies the operating (internal) frequency of CPU's core. The higher the frequency is for a given CPU family, the faster the processor is. Processor frequency is not the only parameter that affects system performance. Another parameter than greatly affects the performance is CPU efficiency, that is how many Instructions Per Clock (IPC) the CPU can process. Knowing these two parameters it's easy to calculate total number of instructions per second that can be processed by CPU: Frequency * IPC. All modern AMD x86 microprocessors and all Intel microprocessors based P6, mobile and Core micro-architectures tried to improve their performance by improving the IPC, and, whenever possible, by increasing processor frequency. Intel Netburst microarchitecture used quite different approach - it tried to increase processor frequency at the expense of IPC. This didn't work well for this micro-architecture.
Modern microprocessors do not always operate at the same frequency. To save power, all processors with PowerNow! or SpeedStep technology may temporarily reduce their operating frequency. Some mobile Intel Core 2 Duo processors may temporarily increase frequency of one of their cores when another core is idle.
The CPU frequency is measured in Hertz. The frequency can also be expressed in:
First microprocessors ran at frequencies close to 1 MHz. Modern microprocessors run at frequencies exceeding 3 GHz, or 3,000,000,000 Hertz.
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