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How To Choose A CPU? [Things To Know]

In this guide, we will explain the important factors you should keep in mind, like specifications and usage, when choosing a CPU for either a gaming or work PC.

Looking for processors in the market for your latest PC build is not a simple task. Depending on your budget and use case scenario, you must settle on a motherboard and a specific performance benchmark before proceeding. This is why we are here to guide you on how to choose a CPU while staying within budget.

Key Takeaways
  • Before choosing the processor, decide on your budget and build around it.
  • Upgrading the processor based on the current motherboard in the PC can save motherboard costs. However, the CPU upgrade should have a substantial gain.
  • Consider a few specifications before purchasing, such as the number of cores and threads, clock speeds, TDP, and amount of cache in the processor.
  • Choose a single-core processor for a gaming build and a multicore processor for a multitasking build.

AMD Vs Intel: Which One To Choose?

If you want to utilize the CPU for light workloads, both AMD and Intel will work fine. But if you’re going to use your CPU for heavier workloads such as video rendering, AMD processors might be better because of faster Instructions Per Clock (IPC).

On the other hand, Intel processors might be the better choice if you want to play games due to better single-core performance in most CPUs. When you are done with picking a brand, here are the things you need to consider before purchasing a CPU:

Socket Compatibility And Motherboard Chipset

Intel’s socket compatibility lifespan is significantly shorter than AMD’s. In Intel’s case, a socket is used for two processor generations, after which you must buy a new motherboard. So, Intel’s 12th and 13th gen processors are compatible with the 600 series motherboard chipset, but Intel’s 14th gen processors will require a new motherboard.


WARNING: Before you choose a CPU, you must know whether it is compatible with your other components. For example, a processor might not be compatible with an older motherboard chipset and sometimes even CPU coolers.

Showcasing The Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX Motherboard
Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX Motherboard (Image By Tech4Gamers)

On the other hand, AMD offers better socket compatibility. Going from the Ryzen 2000 series processors to the Ryzen 5000 series processors, you potentially don’t need to upgrade your motherboard. However, you might need to update the BIOS of an ancient AM4 chipset motherboard.

Starting from the Ryzen 7000 series processors, AMD finally changed its socket from a Pin Grid Array (PGA) to a Land Grid Array (LGA), similar to Intel. Therefore, if you’re considering upgrading from a Ryzen 5000 series processor to a Ryzen 7000 series processor, you’ll need to upgrade from an AM4 to an AM5 motherboard.

Specifications

One of the most important things to look for when you choose a CPU is its specifications. You can find an entire list of specifications on AMD and Intel’s official websites.

The number of cores and threads, the amount of cache, the frequency speeds, and the Thermal Design Power (TDP) of processors are the most important specifications a consumer must know before purchasing.

Overclocking

An important aspect to consider when purchasing a processor is to know whether you want to overclock. Overclocking is when you allow your processor or graphics card to run above its stock or pre-designed settings.

Overclocking The AMD Ryzen 5 3600 Processor Using The AMD Ryzen Master Software
Overclocking CPU (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Therefore, knowing whether you want to overclock your CPU is essential. Because not every processor is overclockable, that is even more liable for Intel processors than AMD processors. Unlike the latter, only the “K” series Intel processors can be overclocked.


Tip: Overclocking won’t harm the PC; you might get extra performance when in a pinch. Overclocking variants aren’t a lot more expensive than their other siblings.

Cooling Solution

Depending on the advertised TDP of the processor, you will need relevant cooling solutions. Therefore, you must adapt your cooling solution depending on the chassis size, processor, and use case scenario. Of course, you can always attempt to cool your PC using a lot of case fans and a good aftermarket CPU cooler, but mixing it with water cooling will yield better results.

The Noctua NH-D15S Chromax Black CPU Cooler Cools The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D Processor
Choosing Cooling Solution For CPU (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Summary

In conclusion, along with the things mentioned above, you must also consider your budget and the reason for buying a CPU. If you want to build a gaming PC, consider a single-core processor with a higher clock frequency, as they are ideal for gaming. You can also check how a CPU will perform when running a certain game on sites like Can You RUN it, and then buy the CPU that fits your gaming requirements.

In contrast, if you are a workaholic and want to multitask on your system, choosing a CPU with more cores and threads will be a better decision. You can also check our processor testing guide and processor review section to get a better idea of which CPU you should choose.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know which CPU is faster when comparing both?

You can head over to our Comparison section and go through the gaming benchmarks of the CPUs you have selected.

How much RAM does my CPU require?

Due to enhancements in today’s programs, you require at least 8GB of DDR4 RAM for day-to-day tasks. However, if you want to play games, you’ll need 16GB to 32GB of DDR4 RAM for a smooth experience.

Does a higher clock speed equal a faster CPU?

While clock speeds do improve the performance of a processor, the Instructions Per Cycle (IPC) speed greatly matters as well. If a processor only has a fast clock speed but a slow IPC, it will only be bottlenecked.


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