Choosing the Right Processor (CPU): A Comprehensive Guide

Choosing the right processor (CPU) for your computer is a very important important decision to make.

The reason for this is that your CPU is the brain of your computer and can greatly affect the performance of your whole PC.

There are many options to choose from so, it can be a very difficult decision to make, especially if you are new to building computers.

Some very important factors to choose from when looking for a CPU are the brand, price, performance, etc.

Choosing which CPU to buy

We will go through all of this below.

Brands: Intel vs. AMD


Intel is the most popular brand and has been the CPU of choice for a very long time. Intel has made a name for itself over the years and it has been the go-to CPU for a plethora of reasons, such as high-performance capabilities, excelling in single-threaded tasks, and budget-friendly options.


  • Excellent Single-Threaded Performance: Intel CPUs often outperform their AMD counterparts in tasks that rely on single-threaded performance, such as some games and legacy software.
  • Wide Range of Options: Whether you’re on a budget or looking for a high-end processor, Intel has you covered.
  • Integrated Graphics: Most Intel CPUs come with integrated graphics, eliminating the need for a separate graphics card for basic tasks.


  • Price: Intel CPUs are generally more expensive than their AMD counterparts.
  • Lower Core and Thread Counts: At similar price points, Intel CPUs often have fewer cores and threads than AMD CPUs, which can be a disadvantage for multi-threaded tasks.


AMD has made significant strides in recent years, particularly with its Ryzen series. The Ryzen 5000 series, based on the Zen 3 architecture, has been lauded for its multi-threaded performance and competitive pricing.

You should also read: What is AMD Ryzen?


  • Excellent Multi-Threaded Performance: AMD CPUs excel in tasks that can take advantage of multiple cores and threads, such as video editing and 3D rendering.
  • Competitive Pricing: AMD often offers more cores and threads at similar or lower price points than Intel.
  • Higher Core and Thread Counts: AMD CPUs generally offer more cores and threads, which is beneficial for multi-threaded tasks.


  • Single-Threaded Performance: While AMD has improved in this area, they still slightly lag behind Intel in single-threaded performance.
  • Integrated Graphics: Fewer AMD CPUs come with integrated graphics, which may require you to purchase a separate graphics card for basic tasks.

Check out “AMD vs. Intel” for a more in-depth comparison.

What Generation CPU Do You Need?

The generation of a CPU indicates its age and, often, its performance capabilities. For example, Intel’s 11th Gen Core processors (e.g., Core i7-11700K) are newer and generally more powerful than their 10th Gen counterparts (e.g., Core i7-10700K). Similarly, AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series is the latest as of my last update in September 2021, succeeding the Ryzen 3000 series.

  • Latest Generation: Offers the best performance and future-proofing but comes at a premium price.
  • Previous Generation: Provides good performance and is often available at a discounted price.
  • Older Generations: Suitable for basic tasks but may lack support for newer technologies.

Budget Considerations

Budget-Friendly (< $150)

AMD Ryzen budget cpu
Intel Core budget CPU

Budget-friendly CPUs are made for people who want a computer but only need to run light tasks such as web browsing, word processing, and some gaming.

This way you will have a computer, but won’t be able to do much with it.

  • Intel Core i3-10100: Comes with 4 Cores and 8 threads. This CPU can run basic tasks, and do some light gaming.
  • AMD Ryzen 3 3300X: Comes with 4 Cores and 8 threads. This CPU has excellent performance for the amount it costs.

In-depth comparison: Intel Core i3 vs. AMD Ryzen 3

Mid-Range ($150 – $300)

Ryzen 5 mid-range CPU
Intel Core i5 Mid-range CPU

Mid-range CPUs are where most people will land when looking for a CPU. These CPUs have great value for the amount they cost and the performance they provide.

They can do pretty much everything on your computer to some degree.

  • Intel Core i5-11600K: Comes with 6 cores and 8 threads. This CPU does a fairly good job at running games and other tasks on your computer.

High-End ($300 – $500)

AMD Ryzen high-end CPU
Intel Core high end CPU

High-end CPUs are designed for enthusiasts and professionals who need powerful performance for tasks like video editing, 3D rendering, and high-end gaming.

  • Intel Core i7-11700K: Comes with 8 cores and 16 threads. Great for gaming and content creation.
  • AMD Ryzen 7 5800X: Comes with 8 cores and 16 threads. Excels in applications that use multi-threading.

Enthusiast ($500+)

These are the cream of the crop, designed for those who need the absolute best performance for professional workloads, complex simulations, and more.

  • Intel Core i9-11900K: Comes with 8 cores, and 16 threads. Very high single-core performance.
  • AMD Ryzen 9 5950X: Comes with 16 cores, and 32 threads. Excellent multi-threading capabilities.

In-depth comparison: Intel Core i9 vs. AMD Ryzen 7

Performance Needs

Everyday Computing

For basic tasks like web browsing, word processing, and streaming, a budget-friendly CPU like the Intel Core i3-10100 or AMD Ryzen 3 3300X should suffice. These CPUs offer decent performance for everyday activities without costing a fortune.


If gaming is your primary concern, you should focus on CPUs with high single-threaded performance. Games often rely on strong single-threaded performance, making CPUs like the Intel Core i5-11600K and AMD Ryzen 5 5600X excellent mid-range options.

Content Creation

For video editing, 3D rendering, and other multi-threaded tasks, you’ll want a CPU with higher core and thread counts. The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X and Intel Core i7-11700K are excellent choices that offer a good balance between price and performance.


For professional workstations that handle complex simulations, data analysis, and other heavy computational tasks, high-end CPUs like the Intel Xeon or AMD Ryzen Threadripper series are recommended. These CPUs offer multiple cores and threads, providing the raw power needed for these demanding tasks.


Overclocking involves pushing your CPU beyond its factory-set limits to achieve higher performance. Not all CPUs are suitable for overclocking, and doing so may void your warranty or reduce the lifespan of your CPU.

How Do You Read The Model Names and Numbers?

Understanding CPU model names and numbers can help you make a more informed decision. For example, in the Intel Core i7-11700K, ‘i7′ indicates the series, ’11’ indicates the generation, ‘700’ is the SKU number, and ‘K’ signifies that it’s overclockable. For AMD, in the Ryzen 7 5800X, ‘7’ indicates the series, ‘5000’ is the generation, and ‘X’ signifies higher performance and overclockability.

Additional Factors


Higher-end CPUs generate more heat and may require aftermarket cooling solutions. Make sure to consider this additional cost when budgeting for your CPU.

Power Consumption

AMD’s Ryzen series generally has lower power consumption compared to Intel, which could be a factor if you’re concerned about energy efficiency.

Motherboard Compatibility

Ensure that the motherboard you choose is compatible with your CPU. AMD CPUs generally use AM4 sockets, while Intel’s 10th and 11th Gen CPUs use LGA 1200.


Consider a CPU that will meet your needs for several years, especially if you don’t plan on upgrading frequently.


Choosing the right CPU is very important. There are many things to consider when looking at a CPU and the specific CPU you need will depend on what you want to use your computer for.

Someone who mainly uses their computer for gaming will need a different CPU than someone who uses their computer for work.

The brand, budget, and overall performance are things that also need to be taken into consideration.

Lucas Coulson

I first got into building my own computer when I was around 12 or 13. The first computer I had ever built didn't work. So I kept researching to figure what I did wrong. I really enjoyed researching, learning, and building computers, so I decided to turn it into an online business, and here I am.

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