Central processor (CPU) installed in a computer becomes it’s true heart. System unit will not be able to function without a processor, as well as without many other components, but it is the CPU that determines the maximum power of а configuration collected inside the computer case.
Choosing a processor for your computer is not an easy procedure, and it requires some certain knowledge. On the market there are thousands of different processors for system units. This processors differ from each other by the manufacturer, power, connectors, and most importantly – by their price. Processor cost starts from few dozens of dollars and reaches thousands for server solutions. Depending on the tasks that are put before the computer, you will need to select the appropriate CPU for it.
Table of contents: 1. What CPU is the best to choose: AMD or Intel 2. Which CPU socket should be chosen 3. How to choose CPU for your computer - key features - Number of cores - CPU frequency - Number of threads - Cache memory - Video core - Supported operative memory - Technical process 4. What are the differences between OEM and BOX CPU 5. Which CPU to choose - Intel processors - AMD processors
What CPU is the best to choose: AMD or Intel
The confrontation between AMD and Intel has been going on for several decades. These are the two largest and most famous processor developers. Every year these companies launch new models of their CPUs using the most progressive technologies. No one can actually say for certain which processors are better – AMD or Intel. In many ways these processors are similar, but there are also some significant differences between them.
Intel Core processors are normally chosen by those users who plan to build a powerful gaming computer or solution for performing heavy tasks – video editing, creating 3D graphics and so on.
AMD processors are more suitable for users who need to perform multiple tasks on one same computer. So in this case we are talking about common working computers.
AMD has a new series of processors – Ryzen, which was created especially for games.
You need to choose AMD or Intel as a processor depending on your budget and your needs. Usually AMD processors are cheaper at roughly comparable capacities.
Which CPU socket should be chosen
Processor socket is a connector that connects CPU to the motherboard. If you are building your computer from scratch, and you did not purchase a processor for a particular motherboard, you should carefully think which socket is best to choose. It is necessary to select a processor depending on the socket for the processor on the motherboard.
Nowadays processor developers are trying not to force the release of new standards for sockets to the market, since there are already dozens of them. You can divide all sockets into three groups: obsolete, about to be obsolete and modern. Of course, it’s better to purchase a motherboard with a modern socket, so that in a few years it will be still possible to install one of the new processors into it.
For AMD processors:
- Obsolete sockets — AM1, AM2, AM3, FM1, FM2;
- Sockets about to be obsolete — AM3+, FM2+;
- Modern sockets — AM4, TR4.
For Intel processors:
- Obsolete sockets — 478, 775, 1155, 1156, 2011;
- Sockets about to be obsolete — 1150, 2011-3;
- Modern sockets — 1151, 1151-v2, 2066.
So in case you are choosing a processor right now, of all the options mentioned above it makes more sense to consider AM4, 1151, TR4 sockets. At least because they will definitely last on the market for the longest time.
How to choose CPU for your computer – key features
Processor’s power is determined by it’s features. When choosing a CPU, we recommend you to focus on the following processor characteristics that can be rightfully called the key ones.
Number of cores
Surely, you’ve heard that processor may have one core, two, four, eight cores and so on. Most often, the more cores has a given CPU, the more powerful it is, but this is not a dogma. The number of cores should be determined according to the tasks your particular computer will solve:
- Office computer that will be used for working with browser, Word, Excel and several other light applications. In this case there will be enough to have a processor with two cores;
- The office computer of a designer or a person who actively works with Photoshop (or it’s analogues), while simultaneously launching several other applications, including browser. For this computer it will be better to choose a processor with 4 cores;
- A gaming computer with a good graphic card that can reveal the potential of a processor. For such a computer, it’s better to select 6-8 core processors;
- Computer that is used to create 3D-animation, video editing and other demanding professional tasks. In this case it is highly recommended to choose processors with 10-18 cores.
All the above recommendations are quite approximate, but they allow you to roughly understand how the number of cores is affecting processor’s performance.
Currently not all programs are able to use the full potential of a processor. For example, if the application that you are constantly using is not capable of perceiving more than 2 cores processor, you will not benefit from buying an 8-core solution in terms of the speed of interaction with this program.
The most important characteristic of any CPU is it’s frequency. It affects the overall performance of a particular device. Each core works on the frequency indicated in the characteristics of the processor. That is, the higher is the core’s frequency and the more cores processor has – the more powerful it will be.
CPU frequency is directly affecting it’s cost. The higher it is, the more expensive will be the CPU. If the computer was purchased for simple tasks, a frequency of 2-3 GHz will be quite enough. For gaming computer best will be to get a CPU with a frequency of 3.5 GHz, and for solving complex professional tasks – from 4 GHz.
If from your computer you will require power, rather than working in multiple streams, it is better to choose a processor with a higher frequency than with a large number of cores.
Most modern powerful processors, in addition to the base frequency, have a frequency in Turbo Boost or Turbo Core mode. This is such a frequency, to which the performance of the processor can rise if given a serious load. The stronger is the load, the higher is the frequency.
For example, your processor has a base frequency of 3.5 GHz, and it’s maximum frequency in Turbo Boost mode is 4 GHz. In case one core is involved, and it has a high load, it can raise the frequency to 4 GHz. If two cores are involved, their frequency will be about 3,7-3,8 GHz. And so on. The more cores are used at the current task, the closer the CPU’s frequency will get to the base one. But if the task is using only one core, the maximum frequency in the presence of Turbo Boost or similar technology can be raised to the maximum marks.
Number of threads
We have already discussed such a concept as the number of cores. But it’s also important to mention that each core can have multiple threads. Technology, where one core can handle several data streams, is called Hyper-treading.
On the market hyper-threaded solutions are presented in AMD and Intel processors. Almost all modern processors are multi-threaded, but the number of threads in their cores may vary. For example, powerful modern AMD Ryzen processors can have 4, 8, 16 threads. And considering that they have 4, 6, 8 or more cores, such processors can cope with a huge number of tasks simultaneously. That’s why Ryzen solutions are recommended for video editing and many other complex tasks.
In the gaming industry, the full potential of multi-threaded processors has been discovered by developers not so long ago, so not always a large number of threads in the processor cores positively affects the performance of a CPU in games.
All processors have internal memory, which is called a cache memory. It is required to save information about the past operation to speed up the rendering of subsequent operations. Depending on the task, the cache memory may or may not seriously affect performance of your computer.
Cache memory of the processor has 4 levels:
- Level 1. This is a small amount of memory that is available in all processors;
- Level 2. You should pay close attention to this level when choosing a processor. In modern production solutions it starts from 512 KB for one core. Anything below it is a low-performance solution;
- Level 3. It is not available in all processors. Usually, for medium-sized processors, cache of the 3rd level is 3-4 MB in size. Powerful computers have 6-10 MB;
- Level 4 . Usually, it can be found only in productive solutions.
If the processor has a cache of level 3 or level 4, it will significantly reduce the value of level 2 cache. So level 2 can basically be ignored.
Modern processors have a built-in video core. This is important, for example, if you are going to assemble an office computer and you are not planning to install a video card in it. That fact that you processor has a video core allows you to have images on a monitor even without an additional video card.
If you are going to assemble a computer that will be used to solve some complex productive tasks, you may basically ignore video core in a central processor. In your case it will be much more important to have a powerful video card.
The more expensive and modern is your processor, the more powerful will be it’s video core. For example, modern Ryzen processors (G series) have a built-in Vega core. It allows to run some not very complex, but still quite modern games even without a graphics card.
If you need to choose a processor for the computer that is not going to have a video card, it’s best to look at the tests of some certain video cores to understand their potential.
Supported operative memory
The more modern is the processor, the more RAM of different class and frequency it will support. There are 2 types of processors:
- Old ones: those are able to support operative memory no higher than DDR 3 with a frequency from 1333 to 1866 MHz;
- Modern ones : those are able to support DDR 4 memory in various frequencies (2133, 2400, 2666, 3000 MHz).
Those processors that are able to support DDR 4 memory also can support older memory types. But the manufacturers of processors that are designed to work with DDR 4 memory do not recommend using an earlier memory type. This is due to the fact that there may occur an accelerated degradation of the memory controller due to a different voltage during operation.
Every year the technical process in production of electronic components is being improved. And it is very important because the energy consumption and the amount of heat released during the operation of the device depends on it. The smaller is the technical process, the less electronic component is heated during operation, so finally it’s maximum loads can be higher.
The buyer does not need to know which technical process his CPU has. The manufacturer, focusing on the technical process, is putting characteristics in the device, so you should look at them.
What are the differences between OEM and BOX CPU
When buying a processor, you may notice that some of them have the OEM abbreviation in their name, and others have BOX.
OEM processors are sold in a minimal plastic tray, very rarely in a small box.
BOX processors are packed in a full branded box from the manufacturer. In the BOX kit, most often, there is a cooler and a thermal paste. In BOX processors, the warranty is 3 years, whereas for OEM-s it is about 1-2 years.
If the cooler comes with the processor, it does not mean that it can cool it perfectly. Most often, these are budget coolers that do not sufficiently cool the CPU given a strong continuous loads. If you are buying an expensive powerful processor that will work under a serious loads, it is better to choose an OEM option, and then select and install a quality cooler on it.
Which CPU to choose
In any online store you can find dozens of different processors. Some of them may seem similar in characteristics, but in the same time they come from different series. Let’s take look at the currently popular series of processors.
Old series that are already leaving the market:
- Celeron. Most often, these are dual-core solutions designed for office computers;
- Pentium. One of the best-selling series from Intel, which for a long time was quite popular. Today Pentium is not releasing new processors and those that are still on sale are not the most productive.
Modern series of Intel CPU:
- Core i3. Processors of the initial price segment for multimedia computers. 2-4 cores;
- Core i5. Processors of the middle price segment, which are suitable for gaming computers but not of the highest power. 4-6 cores;
- Core i7. Multi-cored and multi-threaded processors for gaming computers or powerful office solutions. 4-10 cores;
- Core i9. Processors of a very high class for powerful computers that have to work with heavy graphics or games. 12-18 cores;
- Pentium G. The surviving series of Intel Pentium processors, which can be suitable for office tasks or a multimedia computer of the initial segment.
Old and obsolete series:
- Sempron. The old budget solution, which can still be found in some office computers;
- Athlon. Obsolete game series of processors, which were quite common in the early 2000s;
- Phenom. Solutions for multimedia computers, performing on 2-4 cores. This processors are not able to cope with modern games and complex tasks;
- A4, A6, A8, A10. Processors for office computers. The higher is the figure in the name, the more powerful is the solution. But such processors are not suitable for gaming computers;
- A series of processors for powerful office computers. Solutions up to 8 cores.
Modern series of AMD processors:
- Ryzen 3. Solution on 4 cores for gaming computers of the initial price segment;
- Ryzen 5. Solution for powerful office computers (video editing, Photoshop), which will not be the best one for games. Has from 4 to 6 cores;
- Ryzen 7. A solution for powerful gaming computers or other tasks where multithreading is required. Has from 4 to 8 cores;
- Ryzen Threadripper. Extremely powerful professional (often server) solutions that have up to 16 cores.
If there is letter X on the marking of AMD processor it means that this solution has a higher frequency than the usual variations of the CPUs from this series.