Computer chips are thin, semiconducting wafers containing the circuitry that runs most modern computerized devices. These chips can range in size from the tiny processors that run smartphones and personal data assistants (PDAs) to the larger components that are the building blocks of the personal computer. In most devices, chips are installed on a larger circuit board that connects them together. Common types of computer chips include central processing units (CPUs), graphical processing units (GPUs), random access memory (RAM) sticks and custom chips designed to run devices such as digital cameras, music players and other consumer electronics.
CPUs are the backbone of most computer systems. On desktop and laptop computers, the CPU fits into a large slot on the computer's motherboard and allows users to perform everyday computing tasks such as word processing. These types of computer chips tend to generate a significant amount of heat and usually employ some sort of cooling system with fans or heat sinks. Portable devices such as smartphones utilize small, energy-efficient CPUs to fit in the smaller form factor.
Also known as video cards, GPUs are responsible for outputting data to a computer monitor. While graphics processing is a discrete function on many systems, some CPUs have the capacity to provide integrated graphics, which can perform basic video outputting tasks. Users who are interested in video gaming or using multiple monitors will still need to install a dedicated GPU in their system. Some of the more powerful GPUs require their own connection to the power supply and have their own cooling systems.
RAM is another important type of computer chip for most systems. RAM allows the computer to temporarily store data so it can be utilized quickly by the CPU. This type of memory can help speed up intensive computing tasks such as video editing and encoding. Many computers feature RAM expansion slots so the user can purchase additional memory in the future or swap out existing chips for more powerful updates.
Customized computer chips operate many consumer electronics devices that aren’t necessarily considered computers. Diverse appliances such as high-definition televisions, washing machines and cell phones use chips to perform basic functions, as well as managing advancements such as energy-saving options and different types of sensors. Newer automobiles may use several types of computer chips to monitor the condition of the engine and to enhance safety features such as airbags.