Processors (CPU's)

What you need to know about the current processor types.

What is a CPU?

The CPU stands for Central Processing Unit otherwise referred to as the Processor. It is a piece of computer hardware that is found on the motherboard of a computer. It controls a lot of the commands between other hardware and software on the computer.

Intel and AMD are the two most popular computer CPU manufacturers

Intel Processors – The Range:

Celeron: Entry level CPU, able to cope with everyday tasks on a budget. Usually 2 cores.

Pentium: Mainstream CPU, offering “bang for buck”. A reasonable level of performance, for a reasonable price. Usually 2 cores, sometimes hyper-threaded (see notes).

Core i3: Mainstream performance, faster than a Pentium while priced only slightly higher. Able to cope with most non professional / gaming tasks. 2 – 4 Cores, sometimes Hyper-threaded (see notes).

Core i5: Performance CPU, designed for greater speed while still balancing power consumption and cost. The i5 costs more than the i3, but can offer much greater performance in some tasks. Good for gaming. Usually 4 – 6 cores.

Core i7: Traditionally Intel’s performance champion, designed for high end, power hungry tasks such as gaming, rendering, editing. Great for high end gaming in Intel’s current range, core count can vary from 4 to 8 cores.

Core i9: Intel’s ultimate consumer / prosumer CPU, offering up to 18 cores and 44 CPU PCI-E lanes. This chip really shines in professional workloads, such as rendering, encoding, editing, etc. Not recommended for gaming due to price performance.

AMD Processors – The Range:

Ryzen 3: Budget conscious CPU, offering great value for money. Usually 4 cores.

Ryzen 5: Mid-Range CPU, again offering great value for money and extra performance. Good for gaming. Usually 6 Cores and AMD’s version of hyper-threading.

Ryzen 7: Performance CPU, offering great performance while still keeping an eye on the budget. Good for gaming. Ryzen 7 usually has 8 cores, and comes with AMD’s hyper-threading.

Thread Ripper: AMD’s Core i9 equivalent, offering huge performance for professional tasks. Up to 16 cores makes short work of rendering tasks, encoding, etc. While Thread Ripper offers a massive 60 PCI-E lanes for those who need it. Not recommended for gaming due to price performance.

What is hyper threading? Why should I care?

Hyper threading is the ability for one CPU core to simultaneously handle two tasks (threads) at the same time. An 8 core hyper threaded CPU, for example, can handle 16 threads simultaneously… a 16 core, 32 threads, etc.

This can in some tasks provide a system performance boost, as the system is able to process more data at any one time in parallel. 

Cores vs Clock speed, which is better?


This gets asked a lot, but again it’s dependent on the workload you have in mind for your PC.

It’s also a balance, so cores without clock speed is no good, and clock speed without cores is also no good.

Usually there is a trade off or a “sweet spot” that can match your budget with your usage, it’s not as straightforward as this, but as a general guide, if you are a gamer and want good performance you should pick a 4-6 core CPU with the fastest clock speed you can afford and the best IPC (instructions per clock) performance. For example the current CPU gaming champion is the i7-8700K featuring 6 cores, excellent IPC performance, and up to 4.7ghz clock speed.

If you have any questions regarding which processor you should choose when buying a new computer or upgrading your existing computer, then please get in touch with PC Guy.