How to Choose A CPU – The Perfect Guide For Desktop and Laptop Users

Last Updated on 22 January, 2023 by Sourav Roy

How to choose a CPU? I know it can be a bit intimidating looking through the options on the market. Our expert team is here to simplify the process as much as possible for you.

How to Choose A CPU

A central processing unit (CPU) is the heart of a desktop. This means it is solely responsible for controlling your system. With a deluge of processors in the market, one needs to be heedful about choosing one. I am here to ensure things don’t go haywire for you and that you spend your money wisely. You won’t face any complexities if you follow my guide.


Why Is The CPU So Important?

If you are unaware of how CPUs can affect your laptop/desktop experience, you might wonder why I’m emphasising so much on them. CPUs are essentially the brains of any computer. Components like RAM, GPU, and Storage Drives are important to run a computer too, but unlike the CPU, they only provide the power and resources needed to run a system.

A CPU, on the other hand, handles how programs use the resources. It does all the computing, too. Programs on a computer constantly give out inputs, outputs and all sorts of calculations to the processor, all in a second.

That’s why it’s important to get a powerful and efficient CPU. With how fast processes work, a weak CPU will barely handle the strain and create an unpleasant experience for anyone.

Of course, you can run a laptop or desktop with a weak CPU, but you can’t do much with such a component. Almost all heavy tasks will lag. You might think that you’ll be able to get away with light use, but that’s becoming untrue rather quickly. Newer programs demand a lot of power and can barely work with weak CPUs.

Before going further, though, there’s something you should take note of. The experience of buying processors can vary based on what sort of system you’re going to buy. If you’re building your own system, you’ll have to put in a lot of effort, but you’ll have a good amount of freedom about what parts you get. Pre-built Brand PCs need a little less effort but may be harder to upgrade later on. You’ll have to spend extra when the rest of the components don’t support the part you want to upgrade to.

You need to be most careful when buying laptops. Portable systems don’t need any effort for assembling the hardware, but there is a catch. Laptops aren’t modular. A majority of their parts are soldered onto their motherboards, meaning that once you purchase the laptop, you’re stuck with these parts until you get an entirely new laptop.

You can change some important components, like storage and RAM, but not the CPU or GPU, which are even more important. Hence, it’s vital to take a close eye on the CPU if you want a good laptop. Most high-quality laptops usually come equipped with competent processors.

Now, let’s get to the juicy part of the post; choosing CPUs. It’s a fairly challenging task, but nothing that’s too much effort for anyone, including newcomers.

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Things To Consider About CPU: Everything You Need To Know

My guide is here to meet all your requirements, regardless of what you choose (laptop or desktop). Let’s get into the knick-knacks of the procedure and get you the best choice for your system.


1. The Brand

It may sound a bit cliche, but I would advise you to start with choosing the brand. There are two leading competent computer processor manufacturers – AMD and Intel. The latter needs no introduction, and the former is getting to the stage of undisputed popularity. How do you decide on one out of the two?

I’ll get you up to speed about both brands. Here’s an overview of their benefits and disadvantages.

The best things about Intel CPUs
  • They have good overall performance.
  • Nearly all of them come with Integrated Graphics.
  • They have higher clock speeds.
  • They provide better single-core boosts on laptops.
Disadvantages of Intel CPUs
  • They consume more power.
  • Mid-range Intel CPUs are relatively expensive.

If you plan to do short workloads and want excellent performance, I’d suggest going for these Intel processors. Intel Core and Intel Xeon series processors are some of the best options you can get from the brand.


The best things about AMD CPUs
  • They’re priced lower than their Intel equivalents.
  • They offer better Integrated Graphics.
  • They’re better for laptops since the lower clock speeds ensure less energy consumption.
  • They get less hot.
Disadvantages of AMD CPUs
  • Fewer models come equipped with Integrated Graphics.
  • Not ideal for high-end systems.

If battery life, overall efficiency and reliable iGPUs are things you consider more important than the absolute best performance, I’d recommend trying AMD. Some of the best AMD processors are ones from the Ryzen series and the Athlon 64 series.


2. Clock Speeds

After picking the brand, you need to look at a CPU’s clock speed, denoted in GHz. You can get a good idea of a processor’s performance by looking at its clock speed. A clock speed around 3.0 GHz is enough to satisfy any user for general use, as long as the CPU is a newer model. On the other hand, a CPU with more than a 4.0 GHz clock speed is better if you need maximum performance to perform heavy tasks.


3. Cores

Cores are just as important as clock speeds. They’re used to split up a CPU’s load so that it can run faster and with better efficiency.

The more cores you have, the better. You have a large range of cores to choose from right now, from 2 cores to 64 cores. CPUs with more cores are usually more expensive. A good compromise between performance and pricing is Eight Core CPUs.

Even if you are tight on your budget, you should at least get a Quad-Core CPU. Sure, a Dual Core one with high clock speeds is powerful on its own, but the performance varies wildly. For consistent performance, Quad-Core CPUs are a must. Having many cores also helps in multitasking.

Even if you don’t prioritise performance, having more cores will still benefit you. You’ll be able to multitask more efficiently, so you can be more productive.


4. Cache

This one is another important factor for buying a CPU. Most people tend to overlook it. Having a high cache amount (represented in MBs) can greatly improve the user experience.

The CPU uses caches to store data. They’re essentially RAMs, except they only store data that the CPU needs immediate access to. All this data isn’t stored in a RAM stick because it’s further away from the CPU, so data transfer speeds are far slower in comparison.

An 8MB cache is a decent choice for smooth overall performance. That’s the amount of cache the processors of high-end gaming laptops and desktops use.

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5. Simultaneous Multithreading (AMD) and Hyper-threading (Intel)

Hyper-threading, also known as Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT), is an incredibly powerful technology. It allows a processor to have more cores than it physically has. You can have the performance of a Quad-Core CPU from a Dual Core one if it has SMT.

The core of a CPU with SMT usually gets divided into multiple virtual cores, allowing it to perform more tasks simultaneously. The OS considers the virtual cores as actual physical ones and runs accordingly.

You can guess if the CPU you’re about to purchase comes with SMT by looking at the number of threads, which is what the virtual cores are called. The threads have to be more than the actual core count.


6. Integrated GPU

Computers can run without discrete graphics cards because of the extra graphics processing unit included in most CPUs. This unit is called the Integrated GPU or iGPU. An iGPU is not as powerful as the latest discrete GPUs, but it can give you enough power for general use.

iGPUs are a huge help to everyday users and workers. For the former, they get to enjoy super smooth HD videos. Meanwhile, graphic designers or video editors have more freedom if their system is equipped with a GPU, be that integrated or discrete. Having a good iGPU is even more important for laptops since you can’t upgrade most of the hardware.

AMD’s processors offer the best integrated graphics. Their Radeon RX Vega 8, for example, can handle a lot of graphical power. It can even run some of the newer games.

Intel is a bit more lacking, but their iGPUs can still play HD videos and even offer some basic graphic power. Although, there is a particular iGPU that offers a lot more power than any of Intel’s other offerings. It’s called Intel Iris Plus. It comes with some of Intel’s more expensive and higher-end processors.


7. Cooling Efficiency

This one is less of a concern in newer CPUs, but you should still look up benchmarks of the ones you want to get and see how they fare in terms of temperature. The cooler your CPU stays, the better your system will run. Reliably low temperatures are especially important for users who tend to do heavier tasks.

Too much heat can damage CPUs, and even if that’s not the case, higher than average temperatures can still run down performance. That’s because CPUs are designed to throttle their performance in such situations for safety.

In fact, that’s one of the reasons you need to get a better cooler for overclocking. Even if your CPU doesn’t burn, not having a good cooler will prevent the overclock from working if there’s a risk of damage caused by high temps.

I’d recommend looking for CPUs with a 30°C-45°C temperature when idle and around 70°C when under heavy load.


8. Socket Compatibility [Desktop Only]

One of the best things about getting desktops is that they’re more easily upgradeable. To get a PC that lasts a long while, you must get a processor that uses the newest CPU socket. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to change your entire motherboard somewhere down the line just to use a new processor.

It refers only to desktops because processors are soldered onto a laptop’s motherboard, so the socket doesn’t matter. Hence, it’s not possible to upgrade laptop CPUs.


9. Overclocking Ability [ Desktop Only]

Overclocking means manually raising the processor’s base clock speed for better performance. It’s a must-have for gamers or for anyone that buys older versions of CPUs to save money. A CPU can generally be overclocked through the BIOS, which is contained on the motherboard. If the BIOS doesn’t support overclocking, you’ll be stuck on the base speed. Don’t underestimate the power of overclocking; it’s one of the best ways to improve performance.

The most important thing you need to consider for overclocking is cooling. Processors, especially older ones, tend to heat more when overclocked, as they’re running with much more power than usual. Hence, it’s important to have a powerful cooling system installed.

There’s a large variety of coolers to choose from, including some that even take advantage of water to provide as much cooling as possible. I’d highly advise against overclocking if you’re a laptop user, though. The cooling system in these devices is far less efficient than their desktop counterparts.

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My Recommendations

I wish you good luck in your search. However, if by any point you end up getting confused about the huge quantity of CPU models out there, I’ll give some general recommendations for certain situations. Below are some good CPUs you can find in both low and higher budgets.

Laptop CPUs

  • For Work And Basic Use: Intel Pentium Gold 4415U, AMD 3020e, Intel Core i3 10110U
  • For Light Video Editing And Playing Small Games: Intel Core i5 10210U, AMD Ryzen 5 3500U, AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
  • For Heavy Gaming, Streaming And High-level Video Editing: Intel Core i7-10510U, AMD Ryzen 7 3700U, AMD Ryzen 7 5700U


Desktop CPUs

  • For Work And Basic Use: Intel Pentium Gold 4415U, AMD Athlon 3000G, Intel Core i3 10100F
  • For Light Video Editing And Playing Small Games: Intel Core i5-10400F, AMD Ryzen 5 3600, AMD Ryzen 5 5600G
  • For Heavy Gaming, Streaming And High-level Video Editing: Intel Core i7-11700K, AMD Ryzen 7 5800X, AMD Ryzen 7 5800
  • For A Server PC: Intel Xeon E-2386G


Last Word

How to choose a CPU? Haven’t I untangled the procedure for you? You’re now equipped with the best information and can now make an excellent pick.

Also, you can get your hands on the best laptops from our review friendly page. We have solid lists of Work Laptops, Gaming Laptops and Student Laptops. All of these laptops come with some of the best processors on the market.

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