A few things bring more pleasure than the process of buying a new computer. You can almost taste the happiness that you are going to experience when you start using your system, and that sweetens the entire process. This is why many people enjoy it even though it is quite time-consuming. However, if you are a first-time, you may feel overwhelmed.
Whether you want it for work purposes, for gaming, or for simple browsing, choosing the CPU is the most crucial decision. It is the brain of the computer and how your system performs will depend on it almost entirely.
With the growing number of options in the market, this decision can confuse you massively. That is why we decided to create a comprehensive guide just for you. By the end of this article, you will have a clear mindset, and you will know how to pick a CPU that’s right for you even if you never bought a system before. Let’s get started!
Why do you need a computer?
Choosing a computer involves much more than picking out the one that fits your budget. Did you ever think that maybe there’s a computer that’s cheaper and yet, perfectly suitable? Well, there is. In fact, many of us end up buying more expensive systems because we don’t do our homework. We don’t buy based on our need. We buy based on how much we can spend. We shall change that now.
Ask yourself what you need the computer for gaming, animation, creative work, overclocking, or just basic tasks.
- CPUs that have extreme multitasking abilities and those which allow superfast rendering of 4K videos, 3D animations, etc. are the most expensive.
- CPUs that can overclock and are ideal for creative work are still expensive but not as much as the aforementioned ones.
- Gaming computers can be between the affordable and expensive range. Your primary focus here will be the graphics card.
- Lastly, systems that only perform basic tasks are the cheapest.
See how the price varies with the function? Yes! But, that’s not it. Each category has high-end and low-end options. This means that even though, for example, gaming CPUs are in the mid-level range, within this range you will find cheap and expensive options. Choose the right one based on your budget. If the low-end ones are really not good enough for you, you can either wait or go for second-hand CPUs. We would advise against compromising here because you will regret it later when you start using your PC regularly.
Should you get AMD or Intel?
Once you know exactly what you need the CPU for, deciding whether you should go for AMD or Intel will be a breeze. This is because AMD is better for video editing and similar tasks while Intel wins it when it comes to gaming. A few years ago, people did not really pay attention to AMD, but it has come out to be a ripper with Ryzen. So, don’t underestimate it. Choose AMD if your purposes align to it.
After this, you will have to focus on the generation of processor and the model numbers. Going for the latest processors makes the most sense without a doubt, but if you are looking to save money, you can check out the old generations. The penultimate ones are usually easier to find.
What are the specs that you should pay attention to?
We have the basics sorted. Now, we must jump into the ocean to decide on the specifications that we actually need. In this section, we will talk about overclocking, threads, cache, sockets, etc.
- Overclocking: The first thing you should ask yourself is whether you even need your computer to overclock. Overclocking is nothing but the process of pushing your CPU to the limit and making it run at a higher speed than normal. Overclocking processors are more expensive because you will also need an overclockable motherboard. Plus, many users don’t even need it. It is suitable only for those who are enthusiastic gamers and those who like living on the edge. If you are neither, you can just go for a simple CPU that does not allow overclocking.
- Clock speed: Systems usually adjust the clock speed by themselves based on the task being performed, but it is a good practice to know the minimum and maximum speeds of the chip.
- Thermal Design Profile: You know that chips generate heat, right? But, how much heat your processor will generate. Based on this, you can get a cooler so that you eliminate the risk of overheating completely. Be careful while choosing thermal design profile (TDP), though, because you may be enticed by better performance. More TDP = better performance but also more heat.
- Threads: How many processes can your chip do in one go? The number of threads will give you that information. The more the threads, the better your CPU will be at multitasking. So, video editors, animators, and transcoders will want to choose simultaneous threading (AMD) or hyper-threading (Intel).
- Core: You have definitely heard the word “core” multiple times but why is it important? Why do brands keep talking about cores and which core must you choose? Cores are mini-processors in CPUs. Even though you can go as low as 2 cores and as high as 32, you should choose at least 4 cores. Anything less than that will not give you the performance you are looking for.
- Cache: There are L1, L2, and L3 caches. L1 caches are super-fast while L3 is slow. However, L3 caches are more spacious while L1 is not. L2 are right in the middle. They are faster than L3 and roomier than L1. The cache functions to transmit data from the CPU to the RAM. Now, you have to make your choice. Do you need this process to be faster or more spacious?
Point to note: This is not a priority spec. You don’t need to pay too much attention to it, but it is good to be informed about it.
- Motherboard: You should spend most of your time deciding which motherboard to choose. The number and types of sockets on it are of utmost importance because they will determine the entire system’s performance. The first thing to remember is that the motherboard and the CPU should be compatible with each other. For example, you cannot buy an AMD motherboard for an Intel processor. They don’t work together. If you have a motherboard already, all your decisions should be based on the motherboard itself. If you don’t, you should buy the CPU and motherboard based on compatibility and other related factors. The same goes for overclocking. If your CPU can overclock, you will need a motherboard that allows it as well. Once you decide which motherboard you need, focus on the sockets. You will need multiple sockets based on your work. PCI-e lanes, HDMI, VGA, speakers, etc. are some options. Different motherboards for AMD and Intel have different number and types of sockets. Do your homework and pick the best.
Pro-tip: Think about the motherboard and the processor together so that you don’t get confused later on and face compatibility issues.
What is most important and what is least important?
We realize that we have bombarded you with numerous specs and details, but there’s no need to be confused. You just need to get your priorities straight. Which of these is more important? Which of them can you ignore?
Like we mentioned earlier, you don’t really need to worry about the cache. The motherboard, on the other hand, is crucial. The other important factors are threads, core, and clock speed. Even among these, you can shift your priorities based on your tasks. Gamers don’t need to worry about threads. For them, higher clock speed matters. On the other hand, programmers and designers will need more cores and threads.
So, choose based on your purpose in the long-run. Right now, you may want it just for one purpose. Later on, your needs may evolve. Keep that in mind as well, especially because buying a CPU is a long-term commitment.
We won’t lie to you. Choosing a CPU is one of the most important decisions you will make. Your work and your interests will depend on it. Thus, it is totally worth it to take your time and then take a call. Decide on your budget and needs first, and then work your way into the specifications.
Reading about it can feel extremely daunting, but it is not that hard when you start doing your research and homework. In fact, you will have fun through the process because, at the end of it all, your perfect CPU awaits!
We promised to help you find the way, and we hope we delivered on our promise. Go on then, start shopping!