The processor is the centerpiece of a PC system. It is the brain of your computer and everything that you do goes through the processor. It can dictate what you can and you can’t do with your computer. So it is very important that you pick the right processor for the system you are building. Picking the inappropriate processor for your system might lead to unsatisfying performance or overspending if you decided to upgrade later.
Here we will give you the guidelines on how to pick the right processor for your system.
Define the Purpose and Intended Use of the System
AMD and Intel are the leading processor manufacturers, and they make each processor specifically for its purpose – for gaming, video editing, or for office use. Picking a processor intended for office use and light tasks and then use for gaming might not perform as expected, resulting to poor performance of your system. Buying a workstation processor for gaming can still deliver the performance, but it will spend you a lot of money compared to the processors intended for gaming. So it is very important that the purpose of the system you will build is clearly defined.
Pick The Latest Processor
AMD and Intel consistently improve and optimize their processors to be on top of the competition and attractive to the consumers. Picking their latest processor means you will get the optimized and improved version of their previous processors. It will also have the latest technologies and new features.
Core Count and Threads
Processors have cores which act as workers to process the operations. More cores is usually better, but still depends on what you will do with the system you are building. Some software can utilize more than 4 cores, for some, two cores are enough. So even though you picked a 6 or 8-core processor but you are just doing light tasks, or the software you will be using does not make use of all the cores, you will not feel the difference in performance and you will be just wasting money.
Thread is just a subdivision of the core, like having an extra hand from a single arm to do the job. A quad-core with Hyper threading (for Intel) or Simultaneous Multi-Threading (for AMD) technology will have 8 threads, dividing the cores into two.
For office computer, browsing or home theatre PC, a dual core or a cheap quad-core processor is enough to get the job done. For gaming and streaming, a fast quad-core up to 8 cores, and 6 cores or more with hyperthreading for video editing, 3D rendering, and other workstation tasks.
Don’t compare an Intel quad-core to an AMD quad-core because they are totally different in any ways – in architecture, clock speed, features, power consumption and many more. You can compare processors in the same series or generation, compare Intel i5-9400F and i3-9100F for example, they are in the same 9000 series of Intel Core processors.
Core Clock and Instructions Per Cycle
Core clock or frequency, measured in Hertz, is the number of cycle the processor can do in a second. In those cycles, it is when the processors execute instructions. So if the processor is clocked at 4 GHz, it can executes 4 billion instructions in a second.
But higher frequencies doesn’t necessarily gives you better performance. There is another factor – the Instructions Per Cycle or Clock (IPC). IPC tells you how many instructions can a processor execute in each cycle. So the processor clocked at 2 GHz but can execute 3 instructions per cycle will be faster than the 4 GHz processor that can only execute 1 instruction per cycle. You can check which processor has higher IPC over the other by looking at their single core or single thread performance.
In our example, despite having faster clock frequency at 3.1 GHz, the Intel Core i5-8600 still gets lower score than the Intel Core i5-9500 at 3.0 GHz. This means that the i5-9500 executes more instructions per cycle. So do not be deceived easily that higher clock will give you better performance, that’s not always the case.
Some processors have graphics card built-in to the chip, some don’t. And some of these integrated graphics processors (IGP) are just as fast or even faster the some of the discrete graphics cards.
Processors usually come with a fan heatsink, but some don’t, both on AMD and Intel. And if you are overclocking, you might end up buying a better fan heatsink or a liquid cooler and not using the stock heatsink because it is not enough for overclocking. AMD has different coolers that comes with their processors. Click here for AMD CPU list and their designated coolers. If you don’t see your processor in that list it means that it doesn’t come with a cooler. For Intel processors that ship without a fan heatsink, click here.
Latest AMD Ryzen processors all have unlocked multiplier meaning you can overclock out of the box. Intel X and K series are the only ones with unlocked multiplier. Click here for Intel processors you can overclock.
Unfortunately not all motherboards are capable of overclocking your processor. And not all motherboards can give stable performance while overclocking your processor. There are some things to consider if you want to overclock. First, check if the motherboard has the chipset that supports overclocking. For AMD Ryzen, the A320 and A300 chipsets are the only chipsets that doesn’t support overclocking, midrange and higher end chipsets have overclocking feature.
For Intel, look for the motherboard that has the Z version of the chipset, Z390 for example.
For stable overclocking, look for the motherboard that has more voltage regulator module (VRM) and has heatsink on it. VRM consists of Metal-Oxide Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistors(MOSFET), chokes (the cube ones) and capacitors (the circular one). It regulates the voltage and power before the processor use it. More VRMs means that the power is more regulated resulting to more stable voltage especially when overclocking.
If you are overclocking, get the motherboard with with heatsink on VRM to keep the components cool and stable.
Upgrading Your Processor
If you are upgrading your processor, make sure it is compatible with your current motherboard. You can check your motherboard CPU compatibility list on their website. Look for the BIOS version of the motherboard that support the processor, and compare it to your current motherboard’s BIOS version. If it is the same, the processor is supported, if not, you may need to upgrade your motherboard’s BIOS.