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Desktops & Components

Best Processors / CPUs

The processor, or Central Processing Unit, is effectively the heart of a computer. The clock speed, indicated by frequency, basically sets the rate for how fast all functions within a computer can be performed. If the heart beats faster, then programs and tasks run faster.

With the addition of multi-core processors and hyperthreading, a single CPU is able to run as though it consists of multiple chips all working together in unison. This means that computers can run faster than ever before, offering a wide range of options in terms of overall speed and performance.

You should think carefully before picking your CPU, since other decisions like your motherboard, RAM, and even the power supply in your computer are all directly tied into the processor you choose. The processor and CPU buyer’s guide below has great information and advice for picking the right chip for your computer.

Intel i7-4960X Extreme Edition LGA 2011 Processors BX80633I74960X

This CPU is an absolute beast of a processor that offers some of the best speeds on the market. The clock speed on this one isn't too astounding in and of itself, since it comes in at 3.6GHz standard and up to 4.0GHz turbo frequency. However, this is a six-core processor with hyperthreading to make it function like a 12-core CPU. That, combined with the solid clock speed makes this processor incredibly fast and the performance you can get from it is pretty much impossible to beat. Combine that with 15MB of L3 cache memory and you'll see this chip outperform just about any other CPU on the market. It uses the Ivy Bridge-E chipset, which is an improvement on the older Ivy Bridge standard. This definitely isn't a cheap model and you’ll need to provide cooling for it, but it can handle demanding tasks at incredible speeds.

Intel Core i7-4790K Processor 8M Cache, up to 4.40 GHz BX80646I74790K

There’s a lot to like about this CPU, which offers tremendous speed at about one-third the price of the i7-4960X. This chip has four cores, with hyperthreading to function like an 8-core CPU. It has a raw clock speed of 4.0GHz, with a turbo frequency of up to 4.4GHz. That’s actually one of the fastest raw clock speeds out there, getting a ton of performance from this chip with even more potential if you overclock it. It also has 8MB of L3 cache memory and requires pretty low amounts of power considering how fast it runs. You actually get a heatsink and fan with this model, but you might want to use your own cooling if you plan on overclocking it, since much higher speeds means more heat. Overall, this is a great CPU that gives you excellent speeds at a much lower price than some other Intel chips.

AMD FD9590FHHKWOF FX-9590 FX-Series 8-Core Black Edition

In terms of clock speed, this chip certainly outpaces many others on the market, with a speed of 4.7GHz right out of the box. So in terms of raw speed, this is the easy winner. However, this is an 8-core processor and AMD doesn't use hyperthreading so an Intel chip with six cores and 12 threads outperforms this one in benchmark testing. For AMD processors, however, you're not going to top this one. It has 8MB of L2 cache memory and runs beautifully so it will definitely handle anything you throw at it while maintaining fast speeds and performance. It uses the Vishera core from AMD with a 32nm design that can draw quite a lot of power, so keep that in mind as you design your computer around it. This CPU comes with a liquid cooling kit, which you'll want to use to keep it running smoothly even at very fast speeds. While the Intel i7-4960X might be faster, it’s also quadruple the price so this is a great choice if you want speed but need to save a little money.

Intel i7-4930K LGA 2011 64 Technology Extended Memory CPU Processors BX80633I74930K

While the Intel i7-4960X might be the king of fast processors, this is an excellent choice at only half the price. It has six cores with hyperthreading, so it runs like a CPU with 12 cores, giving you tremendous speed and performance. It runs at 3.4GHz out of the box, which you can boost for faster performance. In fact, this model has an unlocked multiplier, so you can easily overclock this one for optimal performance, and it’s probably a better option than the 4960X if you’re an overclocking hobbyist. You get 12MB of L3 cache memory, which keeps it running fast and lets it handle many tasks at once, even a high number of demanding processes. This one doesn’t include a heatsink or fan, so you’ll need to provide your own cooling, but that’s a reasonable necessity considering the tremendous performance and reasonable price point of this model.

Core i7-5930K Haswell 6-Core 3.5GHz LGA 2011 15MB L3 Cache 140W Processor

One of the biggest issues to consider when looking at this CPU is the fact that it's a bit older than a lot of other models out there. While some retailers have stopped carrying it, you can still find this chip pretty easily. It offers performance that almost matches the i7-4960X from Intel, but at a lower cost due to its age. This CPU has six cores with hyperthreading to work like 12, plus a standard clock speed of 3.5GHz that can be boosted thanks to an unlocked multiplier. With 15MB of L3 cache memory, this processor is fairly competitive with the i7-4960X in terms of speed and performance. However, the big difference, is this one uses an older core model with Haswell-E architecture. There’s no cooling provided with this chip, so you’ll need your own heatsink and fan or liquid cooling.

Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition Processor

This is definitely an expensive processor, but if you can afford it, then you won’t find a better model in terms of power and performance. The clock speed on this CPU seems a bit low, at just 3.0GHz, but that certainly doesn't hold this model back. It has eight cores and utilized Intel’s hyperthreading technology, which lets it run like a CPU with 16 cores to offer absolutely tremendous performance. If you plan on running high-end PC games, rendering 3D graphics, or throwing other demanding tasks at your computer, then this processor can handle it. It has a 20MB L3 cache and uses Haswell-E architecture to pack all that performance onto a 22nm chip, with low power requirements. You don’t get a fan or heatsink with this model, so you’ll need to provide your own cooling, but its processing power is extraordinary.

Intel i7-4960X Extreme Edition LGA 2011 Processors BX80633I74960X

This CPU is an absolute beast of a processor that offers some of the best speeds on the market. The clock speed on this one isn't too astounding in and of itself, since it comes in at 3.6GHz standard and up to 4.0GHz turbo frequency. However, this is a six-core processor with hyperthreading to make it function like a 12-core CPU. That, combined with the solid clock speed makes this processor incredibly fast and the performance you can get from it is pretty much impossible to beat. Combine that with 15MB of L3 cache memory and you'll see this chip outperform just about any other CPU on the market. It uses the Ivy Bridge-E chipset, which is an improvement on the older Ivy Bridge standard. This definitely isn't a cheap model and you’ll need to provide cooling for it, but it can handle demanding tasks at incredible speeds.

AMD FD9590FHHKWOF FX-9590 FX-Series 8-Core Black Edition

In terms of clock speed, this chip certainly outpaces many others on the market, with a speed of 4.7GHz right out of the box. So in terms of raw speed, this is the easy winner. However, this is an 8-core processor and AMD doesn't use hyperthreading so an Intel chip with six cores and 12 threads outperforms this one in benchmark testing. For AMD processors, however, you're not going to top this one. It has 8MB of L2 cache memory and runs beautifully so it will definitely handle anything you throw at it while maintaining fast speeds and performance. It uses the Vishera core from AMD with a 32nm design that can draw quite a lot of power, so keep that in mind as you design your computer around it. This CPU comes with a liquid cooling kit, which you'll want to use to keep it running smoothly even at very fast speeds. While the Intel i7-4960X might be faster, it’s also quadruple the price so this is a great choice if you want speed but need to save a little money.

Intel i7-4930K LGA 2011 64 Technology Extended Memory CPU Processors BX80633I74930K

While the Intel i7-4960X might be the king of fast processors, this is an excellent choice at only half the price. It has six cores with hyperthreading, so it runs like a CPU with 12 cores, giving you tremendous speed and performance. It runs at 3.4GHz out of the box, which you can boost for faster performance. In fact, this model has an unlocked multiplier, so you can easily overclock this one for optimal performance, and it’s probably a better option than the 4960X if you’re an overclocking hobbyist. You get 12MB of L3 cache memory, which keeps it running fast and lets it handle many tasks at once, even a high number of demanding processes. This one doesn’t include a heatsink or fan, so you’ll need to provide your own cooling, but that’s a reasonable necessity considering the tremendous performance and reasonable price point of this model.

AMD A10-Series APU A10-7850K AD785KXBJABOX

In looking at this APU compared to other processors, it's important to consider how it is designed differently than a lot of CPUs on the market. As an APU, this processor includes both general CPU and more specialized GPU processing cores, but the Kaveri design allows the computer to more easily use both types of cores for a wide range of tasks. So while it has four CPU and eight GPU cores, AMD markets it as a model with 12 compute cores overall. In terms of actual performance, it is quite good and can run a wide range of tasks, including many PC games, without a dedicated graphics card. If you want to run the latest games at the highest settings, however, then you'll still want a video card with dedicated graphics memory. It has 4MB of memory and runs at 3.7GHz right out of the box. The 28nm Kaveri architecture also has quite low power draw, which makes this very different from something like the AMD FX-9590 that requires a lot of power.

AMD FD8320FRHKBOX FX-8320 FX-Series 8-Core Black Edition

While $150 might be more than you're looking to spend, if your budget can afford it, this processor is pretty much as good as it gets. It's an eight-core model, meaning it can handle just about anything you throw at it. You can definitely save some money by choosing a less powerful option, but an eight-core CPU at this price point is truly impressive. It has a clock speed of 3.5GHz right out of the box which you can boost through some overclocking, though there are some better overclocking options out there. It has 8MB or L2 cache memory, and another 8MB of L3 to keep your system running smooth and fast. The only real drawback to this model is that it is at the high-end for a budget processor, and you might find it for just over $150 from some retailers so keep that in mind.

Intel Pentium Processor G3258 4 BX80646G3258

This is probably something of a niche option for a budget processor, but it's too good to pass up without first considering what it has to offer. The specs on it are pretty barebones, but keep in mind it retails for about $70, making it a wonderful budget option. It has two cores and no hyperthreading, so it really is a dual-core model, and just 3MB of cache memory. It runs at 3.2GHz out of the box, which is definitely not amazing. However, what is amazing about this processor is it’s an unlocked Haswell chip with no manufacturer-placed limits on clock speed. Even with the stock cooler and basic power requirements, it's pretty easy to overclock this model up to 4.0GHz, and with better cooling as well as a very stable power supply, many people have tuned this model up to 4.5GHz. If you're an experienced overclocker working with a  budget gaming system, , the value of this CPU cannot be overstated as it will deliver will deliver terrific performance at an incredible price.

AMD A10-Series APU A10-7850K AD785KXBJABOX

In looking at this APU compared to other processors, it's important to consider how it is designed differently than a lot of CPUs on the market. As an APU, this processor includes both general CPU and more specialized GPU processing cores, but the Kaveri design allows the computer to more easily use both types of cores for a wide range of tasks. So while it has four CPU and eight GPU cores, AMD markets it as a model with 12 compute cores overall. In terms of actual performance, it is quite good and can run a wide range of tasks, including many PC games, without a dedicated graphics card. If you want to run the latest games at the highest settings, however, then you'll still want a video card with dedicated graphics memory. It has 4MB of memory and runs at 3.7GHz right out of the box. The 28nm Kaveri architecture also has quite low power draw, which makes this very different from something like the AMD FX-9590 that requires a lot of power.

AMD FD6300WMHKBOX FX-6300 6-Core Processor Black Edition

There's a lot to like about this processor, and it's a great choice that comes in quite a bit lower in terms of price than the FX-8320. If budget is your primary concern, then you should definitely take a good look at this option. This is a six-core processor, which isn't quite as many cores as the FX-8320, but it's an incredible value at just over $100 suggested retail price. It runs at 3.5GHz right out of the box, with turbo speeds up to 4.1GHz and some overclocking can definitely make this processor race at high speeds. You get 6MB of L2 memory and 8MB of L3 cache memory which is quite good for a processor at this price point and it keeps your system running fairly quickly. It also has a pretty low power requirement, especially compared to the FX-8320, which makes it a little better fit for a budget computer build.

AMD FD6350FRHKBOX FX-6350 FX-Series 6-Core Black Edition

This model basically lands squarely between two other budget processors from AMD which are the FX-8320 and the FX-6300. It has six cores like the 6300, but runs a bit faster and requires more power, closer to what you’ll need for the 8320, with the price landing just about right in the middle between the other two processors. The clock speed on this model is 3.9GHz, which is the fastest base speed you’re going to find from a budget model, and allows for some really excellent performance from this chip. You get 8MB of L3 cache memory, 6MB of L2, and while you’ll need a pretty decent power supply for this processor, its needs aren’t excessive. The fan that comes with this processor can get pretty loud, so keep that consideration in mind if noise is a concern for you.

Intel Core i7-5820K Processor 3.3GHz 15MB

Even if you’re not interested in overclocking this is an excellent processor, but once you turn up the speed it really excels. This model has six cores with Intel hyperthreading so it runs like a processor with 12 cores, which gives you incredible performance. Out of the box it runs at 3.3GHz which is pretty fast and you can boost it up to 3.6GHz but thanks to an unlocked multiplier you can overclock this model even faster. It has a great amount of cache memory and a Haswell-E core for great overall performance. One consideration with this model is that the power requirements for it are rather high, so you’ll need a very good power supply to overclock this CPU. It doesn’t come with any cooling, so you’ll need your own heatsink and fan or liquid cooling, but otherwise this is an excellent choice.

Intel Pentium Processor G3258 4 BX80646G3258

This is probably something of a niche option for a budget processor, but it's too good to pass up without first considering what it has to offer. The specs on it are pretty barebones, but keep in mind it retails for about $70, making it a wonderful budget option. It has two cores and no hyperthreading, so it really is a dual-core model, and just 3MB of cache memory. It runs at 3.2GHz out of the box, which is definitely not amazing. However, what is amazing about this processor is it’s an unlocked Haswell chip with no manufacturer-placed limits on clock speed. Even with the stock cooler and basic power requirements, it's pretty easy to overclock this model up to 4.0GHz, and with better cooling as well as a very stable power supply, many people have tuned this model up to 4.5GHz. If you're an experienced overclocker working with a  budget gaming system, , the value of this CPU cannot be overstated as it will deliver will deliver terrific performance at an incredible price.

AMD FX-9590 Eight-Core Processor 4.7GHz

This is just a tremendous CPU for overclocking and it offers excellent performance and speed even right out of the box. It's an 8-core processor with 8MB of L2 cache memory which keeps it running quick and reliable even when you have a lot of things happening at once. It runs at 4.7GHz, which is very good just for a standard frequency. Overclocked, this CPU commonly gets up over 5.0GHz and is incredibly fast when properly boosted. The heatsink and fan that are included with this chip aren't that impressive even for the standard setup; if you plan on overclocking this processor, you definitely need to pick up an aftermarket option and you'll want to use liquid cooling for really high speeds. The price on this processor makes it a solid value but the power requirements on it are very high; for overclocking you’ll need a very powerful power supply.

Intel Core i5-4690K Processor 3.5 GHz LGA 1150 BX80646I54690K

This is a really nice processor that has some tremendous potential for overclocking, due to its design and initial performance. Right out of the box it runs at 3.5GHz with turbo frequencies up to 3.9GHz and has 6MB of cache memory. If you spend some time overclocking this one, you can definitely get it up to 4.5GHz or higher. This is only a four-core processor so you probably won't see it outperforming the most high-end CPUs on the market. For applications that only use up to four cores, such as many PC games, this is a great choice that runs beautifully. The 22nm design of this processor from Intel is great for mobility and low power consumption which leaves you with more power for overclocking. It includes a heatsink and fan, but you might want to utilize liquid cooling once overclocked.

Intel Core i7-4790K Processor 8M Cache, up to 4.40 GHz BX80646I74790K

There’s a lot to like about this CPU, which offers tremendous speed at about one-third the price of the i7-4960X. This chip has four cores, with hyperthreading to function like an 8-core CPU. It has a raw clock speed of 4.0GHz, with a turbo frequency of up to 4.4GHz. That’s actually one of the fastest raw clock speeds out there, getting a ton of performance from this chip with even more potential if you overclock it. It also has 8MB of L3 cache memory and requires pretty low amounts of power considering how fast it runs. You actually get a heatsink and fan with this model, but you might want to use your own cooling if you plan on overclocking it, since much higher speeds means more heat. Overall, this is a great CPU that gives you excellent speeds at a much lower price than some other Intel chips.

Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition Processor

This is definitely an expensive processor, but if you can afford it, then you won’t find a better model in terms of power and performance. The clock speed on this CPU seems a bit low, at just 3.0GHz, but that certainly doesn't hold this model back. It has eight cores and utilized Intel’s hyperthreading technology, which lets it run like a CPU with 16 cores to offer absolutely tremendous performance. If you plan on running high-end PC games, rendering 3D graphics, or throwing other demanding tasks at your computer, then this processor can handle it. It has a 20MB L3 cache and uses Haswell-E architecture to pack all that performance onto a 22nm chip, with low power requirements. You don’t get a fan or heatsink with this model, so you’ll need to provide your own cooling, but its processing power is extraordinary.

Intel i7-4960X Extreme Edition LGA 2011 Processors BX80633I74960X

This CPU is an absolute beast of a processor that offers some of the best speeds on the market. The clock speed on this one isn't too astounding in and of itself, since it comes in at 3.6GHz standard and up to 4.0GHz turbo frequency. However, this is a six-core processor with hyperthreading to make it function like a 12-core CPU. That, combined with the solid clock speed makes this processor incredibly fast and the performance you can get from it is pretty much impossible to beat. Combine that with 15MB of L3 cache memory and you'll see this chip outperform just about any other CPU on the market. It uses the Ivy Bridge-E chipset, which is an improvement on the older Ivy Bridge standard. This definitely isn't a cheap model and you’ll need to provide cooling for it, but it can handle demanding tasks at incredible speeds.

Core i7-5930K Haswell 6-Core 3.5GHz LGA 2011 15MB L3 Cache 140W Processor

One of the biggest issues to consider when looking at this CPU is the fact that it's a bit older than a lot of other models out there. While some retailers have stopped carrying it, you can still find this chip pretty easily. It offers performance that almost matches the i7-4960X from Intel, but at a lower cost due to its age. This CPU has six cores with hyperthreading to work like 12, plus a standard clock speed of 3.5GHz that can be boosted thanks to an unlocked multiplier. With 15MB of L3 cache memory, this processor is fairly competitive with the i7-4960X in terms of speed and performance. However, the big difference, is this one uses an older core model with Haswell-E architecture. There’s no cooling provided with this chip, so you’ll need your own heatsink and fan or liquid cooling.

Intel i7-4930K LGA 2011 64 Technology Extended Memory CPU Processors BX80633I74930K

While the Intel i7-4960X might be the king of fast processors, this is an excellent choice at only half the price. It has six cores with hyperthreading, so it runs like a CPU with 12 cores, giving you tremendous speed and performance. It runs at 3.4GHz out of the box, which you can boost for faster performance. In fact, this model has an unlocked multiplier, so you can easily overclock this one for optimal performance, and it’s probably a better option than the 4960X if you’re an overclocking hobbyist. You get 12MB of L3 cache memory, which keeps it running fast and lets it handle many tasks at once, even a high number of demanding processes. This one doesn’t include a heatsink or fan, so you’ll need to provide your own cooling, but that’s a reasonable necessity considering the tremendous performance and reasonable price point of this model.

Intel Core i7-5820K Processor 3.3GHz 15MB

Even if you’re not interested in overclocking this is an excellent processor, but once you turn up the speed it really excels. This model has six cores with Intel hyperthreading so it runs like a processor with 12 cores, which gives you incredible performance. Out of the box it runs at 3.3GHz which is pretty fast and you can boost it up to 3.6GHz but thanks to an unlocked multiplier you can overclock this model even faster. It has a great amount of cache memory and a Haswell-E core for great overall performance. One consideration with this model is that the power requirements for it are rather high, so you’ll need a very good power supply to overclock this CPU. It doesn’t come with any cooling, so you’ll need your own heatsink and fan or liquid cooling, but otherwise this is an excellent choice.

AMD FD9590FHHKWOF FX-9590 FX-Series 8-Core Black Edition

In terms of clock speed, this chip certainly outpaces many others on the market, with a speed of 4.7GHz right out of the box. So in terms of raw speed, this is the easy winner. However, this is an 8-core processor and AMD doesn't use hyperthreading so an Intel chip with six cores and 12 threads outperforms this one in benchmark testing. For AMD processors, however, you're not going to top this one. It has 8MB of L2 cache memory and runs beautifully so it will definitely handle anything you throw at it while maintaining fast speeds and performance. It uses the Vishera core from AMD with a 32nm design that can draw quite a lot of power, so keep that in mind as you design your computer around it. This CPU comes with a liquid cooling kit, which you'll want to use to keep it running smoothly even at very fast speeds. While the Intel i7-4960X might be faster, it’s also quadruple the price so this is a great choice if you want speed but need to save a little money.

AMD FX 9370 H20 Cooled AM3+ 8C DT 220W BE H2O Processor FD9370FHHKWOX

Although this model might not quite be able to match the performance of the FX-9590, it’s a great second option and a chip that can provide you with excellent power at a slightly lower price. You get eight cores with this processor, which is as many as you’ll find from an AMD CPU. It runs at 4.4GHz out of the box, running nice and fast, but it is slightly slower than the 9590. You can boost the performance up slightly and overclock it to run a bit faster, but it’s not designed to be an exceptional overclocking CPU. It has 8MB of cache memory with a similar overall design and architecture to the 9590, just with a bit slower clock. The power requirements on this model are pretty high like that of the 9590, so keep that in mind. However, you’ll save about $20 choosing this option rather than the more expensive AMD CPU.

AMD FD8350FRHKBOX FX-8350 FX-Series 8-Core Black Edition

This is a great processor overall that offers tremendous performance right out of the box, and if you're interested in overclocking, then this might be the best pick for you. It's an eight-core chip that runs at 4.0GHz as soon as you install it into your computer as well as 8MB of L2 cache memory and another 8MB of L3, which keeps your system running fast. Technically, it's slower than the FX-9590 and side-by-side comparisons of them would certainly demonstrate this. However, if you really want ultimate performance, you can overclock this processor with a little work and liquid-cooling and have it running just about as fast as the 9590. The lower power requirements on this chip also make it ideal for overclocking, even though it uses the same 32nm architecture as the 9590. Since this chip costs quite a bit less than the 9590, it’s a tremendous value as long as you’re comfortable with overclocking.

AMD FD6350FRHKBOX FX-6350 FX-Series 6-Core Black Edition

This model basically lands squarely between two other budget processors from AMD which are the FX-8320 and the FX-6300. It has six cores like the 6300, but runs a bit faster and requires more power, closer to what you’ll need for the 8320, with the price landing just about right in the middle between the other two processors. The clock speed on this model is 3.9GHz, which is the fastest base speed you’re going to find from a budget model, and allows for some really excellent performance from this chip. You get 8MB of L3 cache memory, 6MB of L2, and while you’ll need a pretty decent power supply for this processor, its needs aren’t excessive. The fan that comes with this processor can get pretty loud, so keep that consideration in mind if noise is a concern for you.

AMD A10-Series APU A10-7850K AD785KXBJABOX

In looking at this APU compared to other processors, it's important to consider how it is designed differently than a lot of CPUs on the market. As an APU, this processor includes both general CPU and more specialized GPU processing cores, but the Kaveri design allows the computer to more easily use both types of cores for a wide range of tasks. So while it has four CPU and eight GPU cores, AMD markets it as a model with 12 compute cores overall. In terms of actual performance, it is quite good and can run a wide range of tasks, including many PC games, without a dedicated graphics card. If you want to run the latest games at the highest settings, however, then you'll still want a video card with dedicated graphics memory. It has 4MB of memory and runs at 3.7GHz right out of the box. The 28nm Kaveri architecture also has quite low power draw, which makes this very different from something like the AMD FX-9590 that requires a lot of power.

Buyer's Guide

Processors/CPUs Buyer’s Guide

Processors have evolved a great deal over the last few decades and there’s a lot to know and look for to make sure you get the right CPU for your needs. If you already have a motherboard, then make sure you choose a processor that can fit into the board you have. When building a system from scratch, you’ll want to consider all of your components together and pick a processor that will give you the speed and performance you want, and then choose a motherboard and other hardware to compliment it. While it may seem like there are a lot of numbers to understand about processors, once you know what to look for, it becomes easy to pick just the right CPU for your system.

Manufacturer

For mainstream processors, there are really only two manufacturers to consider: AMD and Intel. There’s a great deal of debate regarding which manufacturer is superior, but ultimately it will come down to what level of performance you want, your budget, and personal preference.

Intel vs. AMD

In general, AMD processors can be more affordable and offer excellent speed and performance with many cores in a single CPU. Intel processors are often more expensive, while offering excellent speed due to hyperthreading. Whichever manufacturer you ultimately choose, make sure you pick the same type of motherboard, as Intel CPUs can’t work in AMD motherboards, nor can AMD processors work in Intel boards.

Socket Type and Series

The socket type of a processor indicates what sort of motherboard it can fit into. AMD and Intel each have their own socket types, and several different ones are currently popular. A processor can typically only fit into a single type of socket, so it’s important you pick one that is compatible with your motherboard.

Intel sockets include LGA 1150 and LGA 2011, while popular AMD sockets include FM2, AM3, and AM3+. The series depends on the manufacturer and typically indicates the generation of a processor. For example, Intel indicates series numerically with i5 released before i7, and each series has different features. AMD uses other notations, however, such as FX-series and A-series, which refer to different types of processors. For the best performance possible, consider an Intel i7 or AMD FX-8 or FX-9 series CPU.

Core Name

Core names are often terms or internal codenames used to refer to different types of processor chips. Each new generation or significant improvement on a line of CPUs typically has a new name, and while you don’t always need to know these names when buying a processor, it can be helpful when reading reviews. Haswell is the most popular and current Intel chip name which you’re likely to see when looking at Intel i5 and i7 processors. Vishera is the most common, recent core name for AMD models. In general, you’re better off looking at CPU series, rather than codenames.

Number of Cores

Additional cores in a processor let a CPU basically act like multiple chips together on a single system. Increased performance is not purely multiplicative, so a dual-core CPU doesn’t exactly double the performance; however, it still provides better speeds than an older, single-core processor. Quad-core CPUs have become increasingly common and affordable, so consider a processor with at least four cores. If you really want incredible performance, you can find six-core and even eight-core processors offering amazing speeds when running multiple programs and demanding software.

Hyperthreading

When looking at Intel processors, you want to consider threads in addition to cores. Hyperthreading uses virtualization to effectively double the number of cores, but does so through non-physical means. Multiple cores are physical while multiple threads do not involve the presence of additional physical cores. A dual core CPU with hyperthreading basically acts like a four-core processor, while a quad-core processor with hyperthreading works like an eight-core CPU. If you pick an Intel processor, then you probably want to find one with multiple cores and hyperthreading, though AMD processors don’t use hyperthreading.

Frequency (Speed)

The frequency, measured in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz), basically indicates the speed of a processor. The CPU in a computer acts as the beating heart of a system, the faster it beats, the faster all of the applications on that computer run. You’ll typically find processors listed with operating frequency and maximum frequency. The operating speed is how fast the CPU usually runs; while maximum frequency shows the top speed you can easily boost it up to, usually through boosting provided by the manufacturer.

You can overclock a processor to run even faster, which can take it far beyond the maximum speed listed by Intel or AMD, but make sure you know what you’re doing before overclocking a CPU. Try to get the fastest CPU you can afford, but don’t only focus on clock speed as multiple cores are just as important.

Cache Memory

Cache memory is a small amount of very fast memory used by a processor to retrieve data quickly and run programs as fast as possible. You’ll typically see modern processors with L2 and L3 cache memory. You want a processor with as much of this memory as possible, usually measured in megabytes (MB); however, this isn’t something you’ll need to spend a lot of time worrying about. If you find a CPU with a good number of cores and a fast clock speed, it’s very likely it will have a good amount of cache memory too.

Integrated Graphics

In the past, you would typically find integrated graphics on a motherboard and it was usually pretty unimpressive. More recently, manufacturers have added graphics processing onto CPUs. This is more common with AMD processors, but you can find it with Intel models as well. On AMD processors there are even models, usually A-series ones, which include multiple cores dedicated to graphics processing. If you’re not planning on spending extra on a dedicated graphics card, then a processor with cores for video processing can help improve your video performance. This is less important if you’re going to install one or more video cards, but keep it in mind as you’re looking at different models.

Cooling and Power Requirements

Although you can add your own heatsink and cooling to a processor after you install it, most CPUs come with a cooling option included. If you plan on running your processor at normal speeds and you don’t care about the most powerful performance possible, then a heatsink and fan should be sufficient for keeping your CPU cool.

Very powerful processors that are good for overclocking might include liquid cooling options that are much more efficient than air cooling. A lot of processors will run just fine with a baseline 350-400 Watt power supply, but some very powerful models might require better power supplies. For more information to help you pick the right PSU for your system, take a look at the power supply buyer’s guide.

Bestcovery Staff
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