Your computers CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is one of the more important parts of your computer. It is responsible for doing a lot of the work your computer does. Choosing the right one can sometimes be a bit of a challenge.
New CPU’s are coming out all the time, so recommending particular models is not really wise in an article like this. After all, we’re trying to offer some general guidance moer than specific models. However, these guidelines should help provide some general pointers to help guide you through the bewildering choices.
So should I choose Intel or AMD?
When it comes to gaming computers, there are two CPU manufacturers that you need to worry about – Intel and AMD. They’ve been fierce rivals for almost as long as the IBM PC has been in production.
For a long time, the Intel CPU’s had the performance edge. With AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, that tipped the balance more in AMD’s favour, though that may well be going back to Intel. The constant battle at the top end of the market can sometimes be very confusing.
If you’re looking to get every last bit of performance out of your computer, it would be worth paying close attention to the benchmarks to try and work out which CPU delivers the best performance. The User Benchmarks website can be a useful reference for these benchmarks.
For the rest of us mere mortal, both Intel and AMD make very capable CPUs at many different price points. For most people, as long as there’s a CPU that suits your workload within your budget, it probably doesn’t matter all that much whether it’s made by Intel or AMD. Unless you’re looking for something very specific, or really must have top-teir performance, it often just boils down to personal preference.
About those gigahertz
A CPU’s processing speed is rated in gigahertz. Generally speaking, the higher the speed rating, the faster the CPU.
The only issue is that, with such a wide array of CPU’s available now, the speed rating isn’t as useful as it used to be. It is really only useful now for comparing CPU’s within the same family. For example, an 8th generation Intel I5-8500 running at 3.0ghz will be running faster than an Intel I5-8400 running at 2.8ghz. However, an 8th generation Intel I5-8500 at 3ghz benchmarks about the same as a 6th generation Intel i7-6700 at 4ghz.
There are many other factors now that affect performance now that using the speed rating is, in many circumstances, going to be meaningless unless you’re comparing CPU’s in the same family.
Fighting for a good cores
This is where you will most likely need to pay the most attention. Nearly every modern CPU has a number of different cores. The simplest way to think of it is having multiple cores is like having multiple processors all in the one chip. This is one of the things that make a top-of-the-line CPU faster than something more budget.
This is one of the things you will want to pay attention to when making your choice.
As a general rule, quad-core and hex-core CPU’s like the Intel I3 and the lower-end Ryzen’s generally make up most of the budget options on the market at the moment. If you’re just looking for a home office computer, particularly if you’re on a budget, these will usually be more than capable. They can be used in a budget gaming rig at a pinch.
At the other end of the market is various forms of media production, such as animation, video editing and audio mixing. Larger projects in particular will need some very capable CPU’s. Assuming budget is no object, the general guide you should go for is stick with the latest generation or two of CPU’s, go for as many cores as you can, and then get the fastest speed your budget will allow. The reason for this is that these types of workloads lend themselves to being split up into pieces, known as threads, which can then be spread across the different CPU cores.
If you’re wanting to do gaming, you’ll want to step up from the budget CPU’s if you can. While you can use the lower-end CPU’s like the I3 as a casual gaming CPU in a pinch, these CPU’s won’t be sufficient for many of the more demanding titles.
There are two approaches you can take with this. The first is to follow the same general rules as high-end media production. This will of course give you an extremely powerful gaming rig. This may be something you’d need to consider if you’re going to be streaming to a service like Twitch from the same computer as you’re gaming on, as the extra CPU power can be used to support the streaming tools.
Another approach to take is is to go for a more budget option is to go for a more mid-range CPU. A CPU like Intel I5 range or the AMD Ryzen 5600X is still a very capable CPU, but a bit more budget friendly than the high-end options. Unless you are planning on loading your machine up with additional tools while gaming, they can often meet requirements for many contemporary games. This would often make them suitable for gaming machines when budget is a more of a concern.
We hope this guide will point you generally in the direction of choosing a decent CPU. This article should help provide some general guidance to point you towards an appropriate CPU.
Of course, we can’t cover every particular circumstance. No article ever can. But for gaming and streaming rigs, we hope this is helpful