How to choose a CPU?

A processor or CPU is the most important part of a computer since it supervises all the other connected elements. Your CPU performs most of the actual computing on your computer, from creating game logic and running resource-intensive applications to managing seemingly routine computing activities. CPU is often referred to as the brain of a computer which is a true statement. Knowing how to choose a CPU is crucial if you’re in the market for an upgrade of your computer or if you are purchasing it for the first time ever.

However, selecting the best CPU might be challenging unless you don’t know some basic steps. There are many factors that one should bear in mind when selecting a CPU for themselves or some friend. We have ready access to cores, threads, clocks, and cache counts, but understanding them requires a little knowledge. By the time you’ll finish reading this CPU buying guide, you’ll understand how to select a CPU, what to look for, and—just as importantly—why. Let’s dive into the topic and know all the important aspects. 

What CPU specs to pay attention to?

Core count

Cores can be considered as mini processors inside the actual processors. The CPU gains like performance and multitasking efficiency significantly depend upon the cores. Because each core may concentrate on a particular task, having more cores allows the CPU to multitask and perform well. As modern applications and games start employing multiple core CPU technology to significantly boost performance, CPUs with several cores have become the new standard. In addition, a processor with more cores performs way better than one with lesser cores. 

The majority of modern CPUs contain between 2 to 64 cores so these can be perfect for a wide range of users and usages. I suggest you go for at least a four-core chip for day-to-day utilization. In contrast, the users who play top-tier games or do content creation need a processor with at least four cores. The 8+ cores are viable for the most demanding activities, such as AAA gaming while streaming, 3D video rendering, and video editing. In short, know your usage and then decide how many cores a CPU has to be a perfect part of your system. 

Threads and multi-threading

The amount of tasks that each core of the CPU can handle simultaneously is represented by the number of threads. Knowing this is crucial because contemporary CPUs frequently have more threads than cores. A core can execute two lines of code simultaneously thanks to multithreading or hyperthreading, which the operating system understands as two logical cores. Even if the extra threads do share the same resources, the CPU with more threads when comparing two CPUs with the same number of cores gives better power.

As far as the lower limit matters, you can’t for a chip with less than four cores. To make things easier, the thread count must be either equal to or more than the number of cores. You can’t go for a chip with fewer threads than the number of cores. After checking the threads count, make sure to check whether the chip has multi-threading or hyper-threading technology. If the CPU has multi-threading technology, it means that more than one thread can be utilized at a time to deal with even complex workloads like gaming and 3D rendering.

Clock speeds

The rate at which a modern CPU operates is its clock speed, which is expressed in GHz or MHz. In simple words, clock rate or clock speed is the overall speed of the CPU at which it’s operating. A clock speed of 3.0 GHz, for instance, indicates that the CPU can process up to three billion instructions per second, or one clock cycle, which is the interval between the opening and closing of the CPU’s billions of transistors. This plays a very important part in recognizing the potential of a processor.

Generally speaking, a CPU performs better the faster it operates, however, this is not always the case. The previously mentioned elements, such as core and thread counts, can also have a big effect on performance. All three of these specifications must be taken into account when estimating CPU power. A slower CPU with more cores or threads may perform better than a faster CPU with fewer cores or threads. In short, it’s better to check all the factors at once in a processor so it can perform better. 

TDP or Thermal Design Power

The thermal design power or TDP of a processor indicates how much heat it will produce and how much electricity it needs to operate at peak performance. This number is crucial because it tells you how much cooling and power supply wattage your computer may require for that particular CPU. Some processors have cooling options, which might help you spend less overall. Make sure you are aware of the precise cooling requirements for your processor before choosing one of the various solutions available.

Cache

A CPU’s cache performs similar tasks as RAM on a computer. Temporary files are kept in the cache, a compact, divided area of memory, and they can be retrieved very rapidly. In this way, the CPU doesn’t have to wait to fetch instructions; rather, it can access the data stored in the cache in no time. More data can be stored by processors with bigger cache sizes for quick retrieval and processing. primarily useful for multitasking. I suggest you go for a chip with at least 8-10MB cache memory depending upon the rest of the specifications. 

Like any technology, CPUs are continually updated and released in new versions. Modern technology that has a significant impact on performance is frequently displayed by younger generations. Occasionally, expensive new features might not be required for your design, thus saving money by buying an earlier model is an option. Keep in mind that new software that makes use of the technology of each generation as it emerges also may be required to run programs properly.

APU vs CPU: what is the difference?  

In the case of APU, the GPU and CPU are combined on a single die. The GPU and CPU in some machines share system memory for graphics and video. Combining the CPU and GPU extends battery life by using less power and producing less heat. In addition to that, these are less expensive than discrete, or independent, CPU and GPU. Other than that, you won’t have to spend some extra bucks on purchasing a dedicated graphics card since you can work it out using an APU processor. 

In contrast, there are some downsides to the APUs as well. The devices with integrated GPUs typically perform not as well graphically as those with discrete CPUs and GPUs, but this is not always the case. APUs may not be perfect for those users who want to play top-tier games or do content creation. Rather, integrated GPUs are most frequently seen in compact form factor gadgets like laptops, tablets, and smartphones since these devices don’t need that much power for graphics processing.

Which details are relevant to me?

Some features and specs will be more significant to you when choosing a CPU than others. Depending on your needs for personal computing, there are several features and characteristics to consider. For instance, a computer that is used primarily for gaming will require a different processor than one that is solely used for web browsing. The most popular CPU buying categories are summarized here to assist you in limiting the selection of CPUs to those that will best meet your needs. 

Do not be concerned if you identify with multiple consumer groups. Simply choose a CPU that meets the requirements of both buying groups. Check out the section below for better understanding of each group. 

Home Users / day-to-day computer users

  • Compatibility of Sockets
  • Built-in GPU
  • Frequency

When it comes to a CPU, the needs of home users, business users, and gamers are highly dissimilar. Fortunately, the majority of common and reasonably priced CPUs can readily meet your needs because a home user’s processing requirements are typically less demanding than those of other buyer groups. Make sure the CPU being considered is compatible with the current motherboard as a first step. This entails checking the compatibility of the socket. A compatible motherboard must be chosen instead if the CPU is chosen first.

Office workers/professionals

  • Cores
  • Memory
  • Frequency

Your CPU requirements will differ slightly from those of the typical home consumer if you operate a home office. Find the processors first that can handle your daily computing requirements while staying within your budget for buying. A quad-core CPU works well for the majority of home business customers. That being said, find out how many cores the software being used needs if the computational requirements are more demanding, such as with programming and graphic design. Consider purchasing an eight-core CPU when using software that can utilize them.

Small business users

  • Cost
  • Compatibility
  • BGA or LGA

A small business’s CPU requirements may differ greatly from those of a home user. Consider the price, the compatibility, and whether or not the CPU has a BGA or LGA socket when making a CPU purchase. When it comes to buying computer equipment, the majority of small businesses are constrained by a predetermined budget. Cost is therefore one of the main things to think about when buying a CPU. For different needs, Newegg has a wide selection of CPUs. To get the best prices on CPUs, you can read about some best options on our platforms. 

Commercial Clients

  • Cores
  • Frequency
  • Power Thermal Design

When it comes to CPU requirements, business users have special needs as well. Here, a CPU that can handle all of a business’s computing requirements is required; in other words, a CPU is made for a heavy workload. Consider the number of cores the CPU will require when choosing a CPU. But keep in mind that having more cores is not necessarily preferable. This will depend on the program being used; for example, installing an eight-core processor but only being able to utilize four of the cores will not be a productive or economical solution.

Gamers

  • Cores
  • Frequency
  • Power Thermal Design

When it comes to a computer’s processing power, the needs of gamers are particularly precise. You need a CPU that is capable of processing all the data it needs to in order to avoid latency while gaming. How many cores your CPU will require should be your first priority. While powerful CPUs are necessary for gamers, more cores do not always translate into better gaming prowess. The number of cores the gaming software can use will influence how many cores a gamer requires. Therefore, additional cores might not be required.

Conclusion

Selecting the best CPU is an easy task if you know your usage plus how to choose a CPU as per your usage. When selecting a CPU, think about what you’ll use it for first, then calculate your budget for it once you know how much you’ll be spending on other parts. While CPUs are vital, it makes little sense to mix a fast chip with mediocre graphics (unless you don’t play games) or a mechanical hard drive that spins slowly. While reading about specifications like clock speed and the thread count is useful, unbiased reviews, like those we post here, provide the most accurate indication of a processor’s performance.

For your information, most people would only advise AMD for people on a tight budget which is true but an incomplete one. When AMD first released its Ryzen series of CPUs in 2016, it swept the market. Also not only kept their word, but they exceeded expectations and gave Intel a good kicking. For the first time, AMD CPUs were superior to Intel’s closest competitors not just in price but also in practically every test, including gaming, where they typically surpassed Intel. Today, the same is still true: if you’re considering purchasing a new CPU, I’ll nearly always suggest a Ryzen chip over an Intel chip.

Arslan Ashraf
Arslan Ashraf is Computer Expert. He developed his passion for reviewing the latest tech products. He likes to review every single piece of Hardware. If you have any questions related to Tech Products. He'll be happy to answer you.