Last year I brought my main PC from a core 2 duo 4600 (2.4GHz Allendale - half cache of regular core 2) up to speed (literally?) with a core i5 2400 Sandy bridge. Model number not withstanding, the i5 2400 is a 3.1-3.4GHz CPU.
That's a "thing" now. You don't buy a CPU of a particular architecture that runs at "x" cycles per second, but one that runs in a range. Why? Because of heat these processors can give out is now enough to even damage the motherboard they're plugged into. A friend of mine has a collection of processors on his desk - a 486 dx2 (woo!), a Pentium 2, a Pentium III - and what's striking about these is the steady progression of thermal solutions that is used to keep the bloody thing cool. We're power hungry CPU savages is what we are, and as a result of that, even more exotic solutions - such as water cooling - is becoming mainstream. not only can one get water cooling EASILY from boutique vendors, but also cheaply using all in one solutions, or from the processor maker themselves.
So processors are getting hot. I don't mind too much. I'd very much prefer cooler processors, since heat relates to how hard my fans spin, and that means noise for me.
I used to overclock. My first major upgrade to the first system I built myself, was to an Athlon XP based system. I had upgraded the CPU to an Athlon XP-m (laptop CPU!), and motherboard to support it. Back then, those CPUs featured an unlocked multiplier, and 266MHz Front side bus. Your CPU's speed is the main-bus-speed*multiplier. What this means for unlocked CPUs is very easy overclocking (i.e. the CPU runs faster than advertised). The other trvial tidbit was the FSB on this was meant to run at 400MHz, being a desktop derived CPU (barton core). I immediately received an awesome boost in speed for a minimal cost. Memory ran 1:1 sync with the FSB (that was important then) and the CPU was stable up to 2.5GHz. This was way back - 2004/2005. Today I wonder if there's a real need to overclock. I'm at my own level of "good enough" power. And letting the system handle it's on clocking is good enough for me these days.
The XP-m was at least eight years ago. While I did buy another AMD system since that time (Hammer time!) Intel - the then sleeping giant woke up.
(A little recap...)
Intel still reigns in terms of overall power. But we're at a different stage in our technological evolution. This is a stage where "good enough" processors abound (such as atom). Previously I mentioned Intel's i5 and i3 are set to compete with AMD's 8-core (4-module) and 6-core (3-module) CPUs. While Intel's core i5 is just that much more powerful than the 8-core AMD piledriver, the 6-core fares much much better against Intel's core i3. This is because the i3 has noticeably less single core and multi-core performance. Halving cores, cache, removing turbo and some instructions hampers it far more than what AMD's 8-core does to become a 6-core. AMD just removes 2 cores (disable 1 module). Everything else is the same - even the cache, so technically, each core has more cache to use. Don't take this the wrong way. The i3 puts up a pretty damn good fight. One powers my HTPC as a result. For gaming, it probably still has an edge - but it doesn't hold up as nicely in multithreaded/multiprocessing workloads.
So Thanks to the effort (and 350z) of my good pal Joe, and a couple of microcenter trips, I've put together a replacement to my other PC (also was a core 2 duo 4600). An AMD FX6300 CPU backed by 16GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and Geforce 650ti. Here's some pics to celebrate the upgrade, and my long-winded blabbering.